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The Psychology of the Liberation of Ignacio Martín-Baró

The Psychology of the Liberation of Ignacio Martín-Baró

January 22, 2021

Psychology aspires to be a science and, as such, should be based on objective data. However, it is also true that in order to reach relevant conclusions on certain topics, it is necessary to take into account the interpretations and subjective points of view of the people who make up the collectives studied. For example, if you work with aborigines of the Amazon, it is necessary to connect authentically with these cultures so different from the Western one, much more accustomed to the rigors of the scientific method.

The Spanish psychologist Ignacio Martín-Baró he believed that under that apparent objectivity of psychology most concerned with obtaining generalizable results for the entire human species there is an inability to recognize the problems of cultures other than one's own.

From this idea, he developed a project that is known as Psychology of Liberation . Let's see what it consists of; but entities, a brief review of the biography of this researcher to contextualize.

  • Related article: "What is Social Psychology?"

Who was Ignacio Martín-Baró?

Martín-Baró was born in Valladolid in 1942 and after entering as a novice in the Society of Jesus, he left for Central America to complete his formation in the religious institution there. Around 1961 he was sent to the Catholic University of Quito to study Humanities and, later, to the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá.

Once he was appointed priest in 1966, went to live in El Salvador and obtained there his degree in Psychology in 1975 through the Central American University (UCA), after which he received his doctorate in Social Psychology at the University of Chicago.

On his return to the UCA, where he began working in a psychology department. His criticisms open against the government of the country they placed it in the objective of the paramilitary forces directed by the dominant political class, who murdered him in 1989 along with several other people.

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What is the Psychology of Liberation?

Ignacio Martín-Baró denied that psychology is a science destined to know timeless and universal behavior patterns, shared by all the human species. Instead, he pointed out that the mission of this field of knowledge is understand the way in which context and individuals influence each other .

However, the context is not simply a space shared by several individuals at the same time, since in that case we would all live in the same context. For this psychologist, the context also includes the historical moment in which one lives, as well as the culture to which one belongs at a given moment. Conceived Psychology as a discipline close to History.

And what is the use of knowing the historical process that has generated the cultural contexts in which we live? Among other things, according to Martín-Baró, to know how to recognize the "traumas" of each society. Knowing the specific context in which each social group lives makes it easier to know Distinctive problems of oppressed collectives, such as peoples with indigenous origins whose lands have been conquered or nomadic societies without the possibility of owning or inheriting lands.

Against reductionism

In short, the Psychology of Liberation states that to cover all the problems of human beings we must look beyond the universal evils that individually affect people , like schizophrenia or bipolarity, and we must also examine the social environment in which we live, with its symbols, rituals, customs, etc.

In this way, both Ignacio Martín-Baró and the followers of his ideas reject reductionism, a philosophical current applied to psychology is based on the belief that someone's behavior can be understood by analyzing only that person or, even better, the cells and the DNA of your organism (biological determinism).

Therefore, it is necessary to stop investigating aspects of human behavior in artificial contexts belonging to rich countries and to address the problem where it occurs. In this way the need to address social problems can be met and not individual, as for example the conflicts and stress environments created by the confrontation between nationalisms.

The trauma in society

Normally, the trauma in psychology is understood as an emotional trace charged with sensations and deeply painful ideas for the person, since they refer to experiences lived in the past by herself and that caused a lot of discomfort or acute stress.

However, for Martín-Baró and the Psychology of Liberation, trauma can also be a collective phenomenon, something whose cause is not an experience lived individually but collectively and inherited through the generations. In fact, Martín-Baró points out, conventional psychology is often used to nurture these collective traumas discreetly for propaganda purposes; it seeks to channel that pain towards goals that suit an elite.

Thus, for the Psychology of Liberation, knowing the frequent mental problems in an area speaks to us about the history of that region and, therefore, points in the direction of a source of the conflict that must be approached from a psychosocial perspective, not acting on individuals

Liberation Psychology and Social Change: An Introduction to Ignacio Martín-Baró (January 2021).

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