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A New Psychology: Fearlessness Psychology

This short blog is my simple introducing of the newly coined term in my vocabulary: "fearlessness psychology." For 30 years I have been studying fear and fearlessness. I eventually realized I was shaping a philosophy of fearlessness (now, fearlessness philosophy) [1] but there seemed something still not fully fleshed out in the philosophy which I realize I can better flesh out and make clear for people in psychology--at least, that's what I have recently figured out. But for various reasons (see below), I kept on the side the very close association of my work with Psychology (as a discipline) but also as a potent critical praxis [2]. I didn't trust something about Psychology overall, so I'll share some of why not. 

Before I try to give a definition/meaning for fearlessness psychology, which is something really very complex of which I won't be able to do it justice here because it still is in progress of being so conceptualized [3], there is some background to this conception of such a new psychology that is worth articulating. It will help with understanding its meaning as I am shaping and emerging with it an exciting discovery and potential. 

Psychology: A Love & Hate Relationship

My autobiographical reflections could go on and on about my relationship to Psychology (as a discipline of study and knowledge and practice). I cut my teeth in my growing up on natural history and then biological, behavioral, ecological and environmental sciences. My first careers and love. Psychology only entered very briefly into my early studies in youth because I was interested in people "values" and how they "behaved" in regard to treating Nature and the environment, and environmental problems so poorly. I intuited that I would need to understand human behavior to be a good steward and wildlife professional and environmental activist. I wanted to know how to change human behavior, for the better. But I never really studied it much, until in my Education degree and having to take courses, and having my first wife introduced me to depth psychology in the form of the psychology of Carl Jung, then William James, and on and on I began to study more and more on psychology as questions of human nature, the human condition and human potential really interested me, especially as I switched my career to Education. 

I learned that there are many kinds of psychologies, probably hundreds of varieties by names, like psychoanalysis, like behavioral psychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, educational psychology, abnormal psychology, etc. I pretty much wanted to learn from them all and often still find them interesting to read. My biggest informing "metatheory" (and historical and philosophical perspective) on psychologies and the pattern of their evolution, role and nature in human societies came from reading about various classifications of them and most useful was the work of Ken Wilber (and, others in the transpersonal psychology movement of the 1970s-80s). Wilber and others had this overarching classification that pretty much all psychologies, could be classified, more or less, into four or five major "forces" or waves (movements) of Psychology: (1) psychoanalysis, (2) behaviorism/cognitivism, (3) humanistic-existential, (4) transpersonal. Some have said (5) Integral is the meta-wave and encompasses all the prior waves [4]. My favorite of these psychology forces have been (3) and (4) for many years, but all along I was reading Ken Wilber and eventually I totally got hooked on Integral Psychology (and philosophy) as my fav. and psychoanalysis all along has been growing in appeal and interest. The most popular psychology today is cognitive-behaviorism, the 2nd wave, as it has come to dominate and done so because it has most aligned with "sciences" (e.g., biological-neuro sciences). 

Critical Psychology: A Beginning Critique

Through my studies I found anthropology, sociology, cultural studies and philosophy etc. as having their critiques of "Psychology" and especially because Psychology more aligned itself with the Biomedical Paradigm (i.e., Medicine) and sought to be more and more mainstream and developed a dominance on the knowledges of "psychology" and started to control more and more of W. society (at least) in the last 100+ years. I paid attention to these critiques, and as well followed a good deal of the battles between the various forces (and schools) of psychologies. All I knew is that my fav. psychologies were more on the margins all the time and often weren't even studied in university psychology degree programs nor barely mentioned in the texts. I thought a wide diversity of psychologies was healthy, but that's not how textbooks were written nor how funding for psychological research was distributed. The "power" play and domination of some psychologies over others I found reprehsible and often unethical--a political game that was most unfortunate and still is. 

Then one day I discovered a field (very marginal as well) called "critical psychology" [5] and that was even more radical in challenging how "mainstream" psychology functions and biases the knowledge and practices of how we deal with human beings. Something was very wrong in my education background because I had never heard of this sub-field of critical psychology. I was positively attracted to an 'honest' and 'transparent' psychological approach that was critical of itself and saw its own limitations in terms of methodology and understanding and politics in its uses and ways. Critical psychology was more open that way. Then I found somewhere in all this study the work of James Hillman and archetypal psychology (a branch of transpersonal and spiritual psychologies). And there in Hillman's (1977) book [6] I found a masterful and sound articulation of critique of what Hillman called the whole domain of humanism and humanism's psychologies. I won't be going into his critique but to say in re-reading this book again recently it so inspired me and I realized much of my view of psychology and theorizing of psychology (and practicing psychologizing and therapy) has a lot of resonance with archetypal psychology, integral psychology, liberation psychology and feminist psychology and so on... I have a truly unique combination of psychologies (9-10 of them) and my own interpretations and creative expansions on all those too--and, what comes out of that is that I ought to label my own psychology (synthesis) after all these years of study. So, out came "fearlessness psychology" as my way to focus my own research, practices and writing on psychology but in this new way. Hillman's classic book I've mentioned shows that the very definition of psychology and therapy (for e.g.) really need to be reconstructed and aligned more with our ancient history as a W. civilization (at least)--and, again, that's a larger story I won't go into here. 

Fearlessness Psychology: Introduced

It will take many articles and a book or two probably in the future to arc out the architecture of this new psychology I am proposing. What is very evident is that it has come from 30 years of specialist study on my part re: fear and fearlessness--and what I started calling fearology and philosophy of fearlessness, etc. 

Fearlessness psychology at a minimum is a psychology that is (ideally) no longer based on the ego-centered (self-centered) view of psychology (i.e., human behavior). It is no longer fear-based because it is no longer ego-centered. And, thus, it ought to be called fearlessness centered [7]. My vision (meaning) for such a fearlessness psychology is that it would both critique all psychologies (including itself)--and, especially critique how "fear-based" they all (mostly) are, and how they have not near understood or been honest about the nature and role of fear in human psychology and even the discipline of Psychology and in the methodology we call "science" which Psychology so relies on more and more for its credibility and power. This fear-based psychology paradigm is what a fearlessness psychology critiques and at the same time also shows there is an alternative, more mature and liberated psychology awaiting for humans to develop and tap into for improving our current human state and crises of all kinds. 

I think that's all of what I want to share about my new psychology here, at this time. I look forward to talking with you all about it. 

End Notes

1. I also realized over the years I was shaping a fearlessness theory (and pedagogy) and I was making many connections of my work with critical theory (and pedagogy)--but that's a much larger story I won't tell here. 

2. Be it notified to all: my real interest is in developing a "critical fearlessness" theory and "critical fearlessness psychology" --that's essential to all my work and the original In Search of Fearlessness Project I co-founded in late 1989. 

3. As of April 2, 2019, I just finished journaling for two hrs. straight and came up with the nuts and bolts of theory, maps and praxis for CFP (critical fearlessness psychology"--and linked this with some of my work on the Life Enhancement Training (program) that I'm beginning to take out into the communities in the city of Calgary.

4. See for e.g., Fisher, R. M. ((2010). The death of Psychology: Integral and Fifth Force psychologies. Technical Paper No. 36. Carbondale, IL: In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute. [available ERIC ED510303 pdf]

5. The first resource book on this was Fox, F., & Prilleltensky, I. (1997). Critical psychology: An introduction. London: Sage.

4. E.g., Hillman, J. (1977). Re-visioning psychology. NY: Harper & Row. 

6. A more complex technical point here is that I actually base my new psychology on a "fearless" standpoint which I have talked about in my work for decades. Fearlessness centered is also called "2nd-tier" consciousness (organization) in Spiral Dynamics integral technology theory and practice (see also Wilber). I won't go into this here. 

7. To fully understand the breadth and depth of what "fearlessness" means to me (and it is always evolving in my thinking), see Fisher, R. M. (2010). The world's fearlessness teachings: A critical integral approach to fear management/education for the 21st century. Lanham, MD: University Press of America. 

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