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  • Writer's pictureJanika Byington

Theoretical Soup

Updated: Sep 3, 2022

I didn't learn what I was taught. I learned how to deconstruct a senseless menu of intellectual arrogance.

I finished my psychology degree. That is the most discouraging thing I have ever done. The only way I ever learned anything in any class was by challenging the redundancy of every assignment: "Select a theoretical perspective with which you most identify" or "Apply this knowledge to your future career," etc.

I did not go to college to rewrite psychology as we know it. But every class I took presented a number of problems that I felt compelled to solve. (That compulsion was driven by my intellectual needs.) But that was not the course curriculum. I was just supposed to select a preferred perspective from a jumble of theoretical soup and justify why it was better than others. I hated that.

Classical science is not about picking “perspectives.” If a theory is less than effective, it must be revised or discarded. What I learned in college is that there is a void in psychology. We have not yet integrated a century of theory and research. I want to change that.

College curriculum is correct to offer information about each of the perspectives, since none of them can be fully dismissed or verified (except Freud—we can throw away everything he said).

It felt like such a waste of time to rehash every school of thought in every course for its potential applications and shortcomings, without cohesion or resolution. So I worked for resolution, rather than wait on someone else to teach me.

But surely, I can't be the only person to think of this, right? I mean, my name is Janika. My mom made it up, but it turns out to be a fairly well-known name in Croatia. There is really no such thing as original or unique, right?

Other Attempts at Theoretical Integration

A little academic inquiry shows an awareness of the need to develop an integrative theory (Mascolo, Besseches, & El-Hashem 2015) as well as specific social applications (Wullenkord & Hamann 2021) and clinical applications (Tretter & Loffler-Stastka 2018), while others revert to esoteric philosophy to justify multiple perspectives as the sum of the whole (Koslov, 2009—my least favorite). My favorite was Tretter and Loffler-Stastka because it comes from the Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science. It was my exposure to General Systems Theory (Bertalanffy 1969) that sparked my passion for integrative theory when I was obsessed with cosmology and quantum theory in the late 1990's. All of the articles touch on elements I address, but they don't seem to get down to the causal simplicity of a blog post of one of my undergraduate papers (Skembo, 2011).

I'm Just a Girl in the World

So what makes this average person with an average life think that she has any right, authority, or ability to do what others have been struggling to do for centuries?

I could write another whole book to answer, but I will just give two simple reasons.

Why Not Me?

  1. In the Information Age, a century past the birth of "modern psychology," I have access to more information than those who started the journey. I mean, everyone who takes psych 101 knows more than Freud did--unless they believe him. Like those before me, I stand on the shoulders of giants.

  2. My fierce desire to make sense of the world could not be satisfied until I found explanations that could be applied in every discipline and aspect of life. I feel satisfied with my solution, but now I have a new desire to empirically (physical need) and socially (emotional need) validate my solution by teaching it to others (purpose/ spiritual need).

I could be wrong. But I will never be as wrong as Freud.


Mascolo, M. F., Basseches, M., & El-Hashem, A. (2015). What Would an Integrative Constructivist Psychology Look Like? Studies in Meaning, 5, 246–299.

Kozlov, V.V. (2009) Integrative Psychology: The return to the subject of psychology. Psychology in Russia, volume 2. DOI: 10.11621/pir.2009.0012

Skembo, J.L. (8 Mar 2011) The whole brain: satisfying integrated networks of human need. Brain Food by Janika

Tretter, F., Loffler-Stastka, H. (19 Sep 2018) Steps toward an integrative clinical systems psychology. Frontiers in Psychology

Wullenkord, M.C., Hamann, K.R.S. (26 Apr 2021) We need to change: integrating psychological perspectives into the multilevel perspective on social-ecological transformations. Frontiers in Psychology

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