2.. Coherent - It must be chronological, structured and causal.
3.. Consistent - Self-consistent (its subplots cannot contradict one another or go against the grain of the main plot) and consistent with the observed phenomena (both those related to the protagonist and those pertaining to the rest of the universe).
4.. Logically compatible - It must not violate the laws of logic both internally (the plot must abide by some internally imposed logic) and externally (the Aristotelian logic which is applicable to the observable world).
5.. Insightful (diagnostic) - It must inspire in the client a sense of awe and astonishment which is the result of seeing something familiar in a new light or the result of seeing a pattern emerging out of a big body of data. The insights must constitute the inevitable conclusion of the logic, the language, and of the unfolding of the plot.
6.. Aesthetic - The plot must be both plausible and "right", beautiful, not cumbersome, not awkward, not discontinuous, smooth, parsimonious, simple, and so on.
7.. Parsimonious - The plot must employ the minimum numbers of assumptions and entities in order to satisfy all the above conditions.
8.. Explanatory - The plot must explain the behavior of other characters in the plot, the hero's decisions and behavior, why events developed the way they did.
9.. Predictive (prognostic) - The plot must possess the ability to predict future events, the future behavior of the hero and of other meaningful figures and the inner emotional and cognitive dynamics.
10.. Therapeutic - With the power to induce change, encourage functionality, make the patient happier and more content with himself (ego-syntony), with others, and with his circumstances.
11.. Imposing - The plot must be regarded by the client as the preferable organizing principle of his life's events and a torch to guide him in the dark (vade mecum).
12.. Elastic - The plot must possess the intrinsic abilities to self organize, reorganize, give room to emerging order, accommodate new data comfortably, and react flexibly to attacks from within and from without.
In all these respects, a psychological plot is a theory in disguise. Scientific theories satisfy most of the above conditions as well. But this apparent identity is flawed. The important elements of testability, verifiability, refutability, falsifiability, and repeatability - are all largely missing from psychological theories and plots. No experiment could be designed to test the statements within the plot, to establish their truth-value and, thus, to convert them to theorems or hypotheses in a theory.
There are four reasons to account for this inability to test and prove (or falsify) psychological theories:
1.. Ethical - Experiments would have to be conducted, involving the patient and others. To achieve the necessary result, the subjects will have to be ignorant of the reasons for the experiments and their aims. Sometimes even the very performance of an experiment will have to remain a secret (double blind experiments). Some experiments may involve unpleasant or even traumatic experiences. This is ethically unacceptable.
2.. The Psychological Uncertainty Principle - The initial state of a human subject in an experiment is usually fully established. But both treatment and experimentation influence the subject and render this knowledge irrelevant. The very processes of measurement and observation influence the human subject and transform him or her - as do life's circumstances and vicissitudes.
3.. Uniqueness - Psychological experiments are, therefore, bound to be unique, unrepeatable, cannot be replicated elsewhere and at other times even when they are conducted with the SAME subjects. This is because the subjects are never the same due to the aforementioned psychological uncertainty principle. Repeating the experiments with other subjects adversely affects the scientific value of the results.
4.. The undergeneration of testable hypotheses - Psychology does not generate a sufficient number of hypotheses, which can be subjected to scientific testing. This has to do with the fabulous (=storytelling) nature of psychology. In a way, psychology has affinity with some private languages. It is a form of art and, as such, is self-sufficient and self-contained. If structural, internal constraints are met - a statement is deemed true even if it does not satisfy external scientific requirements.
So, what are psychological theories and plots good for? They are the instruments used in the procedures which induce peace of mind (even happiness) in the client. This is done with the help of a few embedded mechanisms:
1.. The Organizing Principle - Psychological plots offer the client an organizing principle, a sense of order, meaningfulness, and justice, an inexorable drive toward well defined (though, perhaps, hidden) goals, the feeling of being part of a whole. They strive to answer the "why's" and "how's" of life. They are dialogic. The client asks: "why am I (suffering from a syndrome) and how (can I successfully tackle it)". Then, the plot is spun: "you are like this not because the world is whimsically cruel but because your parents mistreated you when you were very young, or because a person important to you died, or was taken away from you when you were still impressionable, or because you were sexually abused and so on". The client is becalmed by the very fact that there is an explanation to that which until now monstrously taunted and haunted him, that he is not the plaything of vicious Gods, that there is a culprit (focusing his diffuse anger). His belief in the existence of order and justice and their administration by some supreme, transcendental principle is restored. This sense of "law and order" is further enhanced when the plot yields predictions which come true (either because they are self-fulfilling or because some real, underlying "law" has been discovered).
2.. The Integrative Principle - The client is offered, through the plot, access to the innermost, hitherto inaccessible, recesses of his mind. He feels that he is being reintegrated, that "things fall into place". In psychodynamic terms, the energy is released to do productive and positive work, rather than to induce distorted and destructive forces.
3.. The Purgatory Principle - In most cases, the client feels sinful, debased, inhuman, decrepit, corrupting, guilty, punishable, hateful, alienated, strange, mocked and so on. The plot offers him absolution. The client's suffering expurgates, cleanses, absolves, and atones for his sins and handicaps. A feeling of hard won achievement accompanies a successful plot. The client sheds layers of functional, adaptive stratagems rendered dysfunctional and maladaptive. This is inordinately painful. The client feels dangerously naked, precariously exposed. He then assimilates the plot offered to him, thus enjoying the benefits emanating from the previous two principles and only then does he develop new mechanisms of coping. Therapy is a mental crucifixion and resurrection and atonement for the patient's sins. It is a religious experience. Psychological theories and plots are in the role of the scriptures from which solace and consolation can be always gleaned.
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