Psychobabble worst offenders

PsyBlog has collected the responses to its request for the most annoying psychobabble and you can now vote for your favourite worst offender.

The list reminds me of how many terms, particularly from psychoanalysis, have become part of the language, probably without people realising it.

Being ‘in denial’, being ‘anal’, being ‘defensive’, feeling ‘split’ over a decision, ‘projecting’ your fears, ‘repressing’ a thought, having a big ‘ego’, increasing ‘libido’ and feeling ‘castrated’ were all terms created or popularised by Freud and his followers.

Sadly for jargon haters, today’s psychobabble is tomorrow’s everyday language.

As the late psychologist Julian Jaynes pointed out, the Ancient Greek epic the Iliad makes no reference to a concept of the self or any mental states anywhere in the text.

Much of our everyday language of the mind is a relatively new cultural invention, suggesting that language is just another form of technology.

Hopefully though, some of the more annoying linguistic technologies will fall into disuse fairly soon, although I have to say, I have a fondness for some of the more arcane terms.

‘Enthusiastical’, meaning a form of religiously induced madness, is charmingly Dickensian, and ‘alienist’ – the old word for psychiatrist – has a completely different spin now we tend to think of little green men when we hear the word.

Link to PsyBlog psychobabble vote.

One thought on “Psychobabble worst offenders”

  1. For personal experience, I’d say the day that Freudan terms become commonplace arrived a long time ago.
    I remember hearing a lot of these terms thrown around in high school by fellow students (5 yrs ago for me), and this was at a low-end rural school. It has only gotten more common (maybe worse) in college, again at a rural location.

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