Thursday, October 06, 2005

Why do all the psychobloggers seem to be on the right?

Roger Simon paid a nice tribute to Shrinkwrapped and some of us other psychobloggers (no, not "psycho bloggers"), even though it turned out to be based on somewhat of a case of mistaken identity re Shrinkwrapped's semi-outing. I'm very happy to be included in their company, and in Roger's praise.

I have a question, though: why is it that all those bloggers who are therapists, or who were therapists, or who are about to become therapists (or psychologists or psychiatrists or--well, I think you get the picture) seem to be either centrists, or to the right of center?

I can't find any studies on this, but it's pretty clear that the vast majority of people in these professions are of the liberal or left persuasion, Wouldn't one therefore expect that among the crowd of psychobloggers many--if not most--would be writing from a liberal/left perspective? Or, if not "many" or "most," then at least some?

I did a fairly comprehensive search for psychobloggers towards the beginning of my blogging experience, but I found none to the left of center. If I'm correct in my assumption that there are none (and please, if you find any, let me know!), can anyone explain this rather odd fact?

In the absense of knowledge, though, I'm almost never without a theory. So I'll offer one now, for what it's worth. I think we are the ones with the motive to blog. We are faced with a sense of dislocation and puzzlement, and a need to explain how we (and others) have ended up over here instead of over there, when one might have expected the opposite.

I don't think that most of the other psychobloggers are "changers" like myself (I recall, for example, that Dr. Sanity is not). But I, for one, am continually surprised at the odd trajectory my life has taken--and, when surprised, my instinct is to try to learn and to explain.


At 3:22 PM, October 06, 2005, Blogger Dr. Sanity said...

I've always felt like a fish out of water politically with regard to the others in my profession. It has been a real pleasure to meet (in the blogsphere) professionals like you and ShrinkWrapped! I think you are correct in the motivation. I know I often thought a lot about how my own profession often encouraged victimhood and enabled irresponsibility. My area of expe, rtise has always been personality disorders, and for years I wondered at the increasing levels of narcissism in certain segments of our population. Keep up the good work, Neo-neocon! I hope that between all of us, we contribute something of value to the debate in this country. Maybe even some sanity!

At 4:07 PM, October 06, 2005, Blogger Tom Grey said...

My theory includes some Myers-Briggs stuff -- those on the right and blogging are more likely to be NTs rather than NFs.

This is related to blogging needing to include arguments, and non-rational arguments are more quickly ridiculed when written down. What Lefty shrinks say, in getting in touch with their and their patients feelings, might well look pretty silly on screen.

At 4:16 PM, October 06, 2005, Blogger ShrinkWrapped said...

I have another idea to add to what Dr. Sanity and you have suggested. In our work, an important part of the job is to use our rational minds to understand the workings of our patients' irrational minds. If everyone was rational, they wouldn't need us; they would always be able to adequately assess the reality they face and recognize the ideal, most rational, solution.
So much of the left/liberal ideology is based on "feelings" which are wonderful things, but by definition are not based in the rational mind (affects arise from the boundary between the mind and body, not from secondary process, if you will.) A typical liberal in my area, and this includes many therapists, takes his feelings as unquestioned facts. He doesn't need any data to back up the idea that Bush is a fascist and invaded Iraq for oil to avenge his father and lied about it; he just knows this and doesn't even recognize it as an opinion. To question this is the equivalent of questioning whether or not the sky is blue; it just is, and there is no room for dispute.
I have read how you were able to chnage your mind, neo, and I see everyday how hard it is for patients to change their minds. For someone to do it on their is an incredible feat. Freud imagined every analyst would return for re-analysis periodically; that is not usually possible (and who would want to put in so much time, effort, and money when they aren't miserable?), but the effort to perform some self-analysis is crucial, though ususally avoided since it is so difficult.
In my roundabout way, I suppose I am suggesting that most Therapists are no better than anyone else at questioning their own basic assumptions about the world. Additionally, most therapists have either never recognized, or have "forgotten", that for all of us, the effort to remain rational, to use the secondary process, is a thin, easily disrupted, crust over the essentially irrational primary process at the core of our minds.
Especially when people are good with language, as therapists tend to be, they imagine their intellectualizations and elegant rationalizations are the equivalent of rationality.

At 7:28 PM, October 06, 2005, Blogger Chennaul said...

Could it be because liberal psychologists feel their viewpoints are well represented by the MSM and therefore don't feel the need/desire to blog?

Cripes I'm psycho-analysing the analysts!

Waaaaay scary!

At 8:23 PM, October 06, 2005, Blogger N. O'Brain said...

Maybe the "reality based community" isn't?

At 8:51 PM, October 06, 2005, Blogger PatCA said...

I think you're correct. The left joins with their overtly left cohort, while we (at least in humanities/film or in your profession) keep our thoughts to ourselves for self-protection. Blogging is a search for community and an exploration of our fear that we are crazy or wrong.

At 9:59 PM, October 06, 2005, Blogger Huan said...

because the relativism and its underlying nihilsm of the left are basically pathological states of rational beings and engender repeated psychological conflicts with the real world.

At 10:23 PM, October 06, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could it be that only those with center-right political beliefs feel they need the anonymity of weblogs? It says a lot about the people you disagree with that you don't feel safe doing so in public.

As an accountant, I'm luckier in that respect. I have had a series of good-natured disagreements with a Democrat on my current project, but we tend to throw numbers at each other (oil prices, "misery index," election results, GDP growth, Hummer sales, marginal tax rates) instead of hissy fits. I guess you go with what you know.

At 10:57 PM, October 06, 2005, Blogger David Foster said...

I think it's partly that leftists tend to be very concerned with social status, and so do many (not all) of those who choose to pursue traditional, at the intersection of leftism with a field like psychiatry, you get people who are *extremely* concerned with status, and may be afraid to pursue something like blogging until it is verified as socially-acceptable.

At 11:14 PM, October 06, 2005, Blogger neuroconservative said...

Wow -- what a great discussion. I find myself agreeing with all of the points made so far: need for explanations, cognitive style, social status, etc. As we shrinks would say, the behavior appears to be overdetermined.

I think of all the the explanations offered so far, I think I agree with Dr. Sanity the most. It has been great to have found this new community and conversation (even though I have been out of the loop a fair bit this past month).

I have always wondered what it would be like to be surrounded by colleagues with whom I easily share a worldview. Whatever other conflicts they might experience, most liberals/leftists in our profession enjoy that fundamental sense of ease and are probably not even very aware of it. In that sense they are both lucky and unfortunate.

At 1:50 AM, October 07, 2005, Blogger M. Simon said...

My theory is that the left suffers from PTSD (mainly). Embeded fear memories.

Which is why Bill Clinton feels their pain.

Some doctors are actually finding the pain.

A well known secret

At 7:55 AM, October 07, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First things first—Thanks for your views and the blog, I find them interesting, reflective, thoughtful and deep.
As to why there are no left of center psychobloggers, being an INFP engineer, I can’t say for sure but here are some thoughts.
1) I think people on the right/center tend to know they don’t everything. Hence they will think about ideas and beliefs critically. They are secure enough in who they are that they can go outside of themselves to listen to other ideas that may challenge/change their own beliefs. If you are on the left, you already believe you know everything so there is no need to look. If people would just follow your lead, everything would be OK. Therefore you are not looking on the web for discussion or interaction. Therefore that half of the population does not visit/write blogs.
2) The therapist types tend to interact with the real world and real problems. Every interaction with their clients tends to bring them back from an insular bubble we all migrate to when interacting alone. Military people interact with the real world in the same way as your group and I suspect their tendency is more conservative to moderate than your profession. On the other end of the scale are the college academics. This area never has to deal with the real world, they live in their ivory towers and are supported and defended by their insular state and college bureaucracies. They are hot house plants. They live in a bubble surrounded by like minded lemmings who take great delight in shouting down differing points of view. MSM also falls into this category. It would appear to me, the more insular your working environment is from the real world, the more you do not have to face reality and question your views.

At 8:07 AM, October 07, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just curious what you all mean by "the left." Do you, as LGF does with its LLL label, toss in liberals and Leninists alike? Is anyone who does not agree with the drive toward certain social and economic policies since Reagan a "leftist?" Does the drift toward a two-tier society, with its Aregentina-like small upper class, shrinking middle, and growing underclass, not disturb you? How about the widening income gap and decline of "real income" since the 1970s? Is someone worried by these issues and not pleased by our government's responses to them a leftist? Other than the leftists on campus, whose influence is vastly exaggerated by the likes of David Horowitz, where is this "Left?" I mean, in the streets and malls of America.
I'm not trying to pick a fight here. I do undestand why neo-con and others departed from the knee-jerk Anti-Americanism and anti-Israel frenzy so fashionable among some East Coast and West Coast "elites," but where else do
you find it as a serious or substantial force?
Yes, there are nutty left professors. Most students, as soon as they've left college and started a life, forget them as quickly as the date of the Treaty of Locarno.
My sense is a serious threat to thoughtful, humane thinking--from liberals or conservatives--exists, but it comes from the evagelical right.
OK. Fire away.

At 8:38 AM, October 07, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excuse the typos in post #13:


At 9:57 AM, October 07, 2005, Blogger David Foster said...

"Most students, as soon as they've left college and started a life, forget (the nutty left professors) as quickly as the date of the Treaty of Locarno" It's not the substance of what opinions they learn that's of most concern to me; it's the atmosphere of fear and intimidation that exists on many leftist-dominated campuses. If a person learns to always watch what he says, for fear of offending those in authority, those instincts are likely to stay with him for a long, long time.

At 10:06 AM, October 07, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, but I suggest that much, not all, of the pressure to be a good PCer, to fear voicing dissent, comes from their peers, not necessarily lefty profs. Students don't want to offend anyone, so they speak mostly in cliches and slogans. And since most criticism these days "offends," they exchange laundry lists, not ideas. Except, maybe, with a friend or two late at night in their room.

At 10:31 AM, October 07, 2005, Blogger TheRosicrucian said...

Healers necessarily pursue all avenues of redress that can assist humanity at large with problems, and not just on behalf of their own patients. Mayhaps the hallmark of the most compassionate healer is a willingness to engage in other avenues that seek the betterment of all mankind. It should not be surprising then for Healers to enter the fray of politics and economics on behalf of all people. The insights of Healers in these matters are refreshing, succinct and should be given credence by the Public.

At 12:11 PM, October 07, 2005, Blogger neo-neocon said...

To 9:07 AM anonymous:

I definitely make a distinction between the left and liberals, but the distinction is not a sharp one--in my experience, it's a continuum. I have a bunch of posts that refer to this distinction, but off the top of my head I don't remember which ones they are.

The difference, to my way of thinking, is that many liberals tend to be less interested in politics and many leftists more; liberals tend to act on feelings and leftists more on theory; liberals have at least the possibility of hearing another POV (at least, some of them), whereas leftists are much much less likely to do so; and liberals are motivated more by idealism and ideas of sympathy/empathy for the downtrodden, whereas leftists have some of that but it's trumped by their hatred for America and the west.

As for my politics, if you look at this, you'll see I haven't given up all my liberal roots. I just don't see many of the old liberal responses as effective solutions.

As for the influence of the left (and of the segment of liberalism that is not reasonable or open to other points of view), it is alive and well and very, very strong, and not just among elites. I see it everywhere, especially in large coastal cities (which certainly have a significant amount of people in them), not just academia. And most of the people I know ascribe to either leftist or ultra-liberal thought--and they are not freshly out of college, nor are they academics, for the most part. And then there's the MSM, which I spend a great deal of time talking about on this blog. They have less influence than they used to, but their influence is still huge, and they are strongly motivated by liberal (and, to a lesser extent, leftist) thought and bias.

I actually have a series of posts planned--long ones, so it'll be a while--on the influence of leftist journalists such as, for example, Seymour Hersch. He is indeed a leftist as far as I can tell, but he writes for a magazine, the New Yorker, that is firmly in what I would consider the liberal camp. Then there's someone like Michael Moore, a leftist also. His influence is on the downswing right now (thank goodness!), but he certainly influenced a bunch of otherwise-intelligent-seeming people that I know, around the time leading up to the 2004 election.

At 12:47 PM, October 07, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A thorough and thoughtful answer. My caveats:
1.I don't question your feel for or knowledge of East Coast liberalism. But in a city I know well, St. Louis, MO, you'd be hard-pressed to find any "strong" influence of the Left on the lives or thoughts of the vast majority of citizens. They read the liberal Post-Dispatch and shake their heads at the editorials but then turn on Limbaugh in the car and nod in agreement. I don't think St. Louis is an exception; NY, Boston and SF are.
2. It is awfully hard to take seriously anything smelling "left" coming from The New Yorker. The magazine is one big advertisement for the Upper East/West Side life style of chic and conspicuous consumption. as far as Hersh is concerned, was he or was he not right in his reporting? (My answer: both.) Does a certain anti-government stance motivate him? Sure, but that should be a piece of every journalist's equipment, no matter which party is in power. Healthy skepticism toward power.
3. If the Left has such a strong influence (beyond, say Berkeley, Cambridge, NYC et al), how does it manifest itself among most Americans? (The Left could never have influenced current polls had W and his pals not bullshitted about WMDs etc etc )
My point: if the left, such as it is, is firing away even successfully in part, it is because W et al are supplying them with plenty of ammo. If the left gains, blame W. They don't have much of a positive program, so they ARE happy with W as a heaven-sent (well, utopia-sent) target.

At 5:47 PM, October 07, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think the influence of the left is on the young, who make up a sizeable percentage of voters, enough to sway a close election; and, likewise, on many coastal cities, which are important, likewise, in a close election. If you take away New York City, for example, New York State could easily go Republican. Yes, most in those cities are liberals, but liberals are most definitely influenced by the left, IMHO. The left has the effect of skewing the entire American electorate slightly to the--well, the left!

As for Hersch--he was "right" that My Lai happened (material that was essentially given to him, and he promoted and publicized it), and certainly "right" that Abu Ghraib happened. He was wrong about many other (lesser-known) articles and books he's written, and wrong about most of his interpretations of even the things he was right about. And he is a good example of how the left (he is on the left) influences liberals.

I've done a lot of reading about Hersch--just have to organize it into a post one of these days (and probably a multi-parter, at that!). Tires me out just thinking about it :-).

At 11:28 AM, October 08, 2005, Blogger PatCA said...

You can look at election results historically, Anon, and surmise that the power of the left has grown. In 1972 the anti-war, anti-military candidate got 27% of the vote. In 2004 Kerry almost won--a big cumulative change in thinking over 30 years.

Something Shrinkwrapped said caused me to think about the role of feelings. My feelings of grief and dread after 9/11 and the following anthrax scare wore me down. I felt the world as I understood it was ending. My eyes were opened, and I heard the neocons who told us why the last 30 years of policy would have to change if we were to survive. They gave us a world view and a philosophy. I still think today they're right, and the Dems have given us nothing except hysterical cries of Bushitler.

So my feelings led me to where I am now; I feel like the left is stuck.

At 6:45 AM, October 10, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You can look at election results historically, Anon, and surmise that the power of the left has grown. In 1972 the anti-war, anti-military candidate got 27% of the vote. In 2004 Kerry almost won--a big cumulative change in thinking over 30 years."

But that assumes that only the "Left" voted for Kerry, which I don't believe. Remember, kerry's policy wasn't substantially any different than Bush's on Iraq. As I recall in polls, those that call themselves "Liberal" are a marked minority in the country (about 27%). And those that we might consider "Leftists" I think are a far smaller part than this.

At 11:42 AM, October 10, 2005, Blogger PatCA said...

"...kerry's policy wasn't substantially any different than Bush's on Iraq."

I don't agree with that. Even if I did, most sources say that the perception by the electorate was that they were indeed different, so more people voted for Bush's version. (The leftist thought here being defined as what has now devolved into pacificism, anti-US, anti-capitalist.)

At 7:24 PM, October 18, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What exactly is the left or right though? They seem like such meaningless terms in many ways. Take the right for example. It's such a grab bag of often opposing lines of thought. Many on the right (Christian conservatives) are all for government intervention into people's lives (so long as it fits their agenda, otherwise they hypocritically want government out of their lives), yet many want government completely out of people's lives, even if such individuals are strongly religious themselves (libertarians). Clearly neither of these two fits anywhere within the left, and yet do they both fit within the right? I don't think a one-dimensional sliding scale is adequate.

Aside from disagreeing with people who claim the left think they're fundamentally correct, whilst the right are more open-minded and rational (gimme a break here!) I'd agree with most of the rest of what was said, and I do think there's more a motivation due to a sense of frustration and alienation with peers than anything else for this phenomenon.

At 7:26 PM, October 18, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops. I meant a one-dimensional sliding scale is inadequate.

At 9:21 AM, April 07, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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