In my own home I have several collections – blue and white china, interesting bits of wood on an outside wall, silver on a shelf, mirrors – to name a few. I am very tidy and things are classified and in their proper places, and I find this classifying and grouping very satisfying. However as a psychologist I have a great resistance to the kind of classifying that is required for diagnosis. I’m not entirely sure why tidy groupings and collections in my home are so satisfying to me, while I resist the tidy groupings associated with psychology, like personality types and diagnostic criteria.

The blue and white china collection

The blue and white china collection

Some of the mirror collection

Some of the mirror collection

The collection of little boxes

The collection of little boxes


I suppose that it may be something to do with the purposes of the classifying. In my home the purpose of my groupings and collections is to give pleasure and delight my senses. In psychology the purposes of classifying are supposedly to help in providing appropriate treatment. I know that in some cases this is true and that even naming a condition can be helpful to someone who is distressed. But I think that the tidying up and classifying of people can also be used to exercise power in ways that puff up the psychologist and take away the client’s power. We often make this worse by talking a fancy jargonized language. Even if we speak plain English to our clients, the language that we speak in our supervision groups or the language that we write in our publications is often difficult to translate, and I think the purpose of it all is to convince ourselves of how important and clever we are.

There is an idea that great minds and geniuses surround themselves with clutter and untidiness. Certainly I know some very clever people who have been extremely scruffy. But I also know some very clever people who are very neat and tidy. I don’t think that there is any correlation. I do find it hard to understand why a genius can waste huge amounts of time looking for car keys when it’s so easy to simply have a place for keys. The thing is that some people like to have order and classification in their living spaces while this is not important to others. Some people are good at classifying and neatness in their minds, while others fly off in all directions. I don’t think it much matters except if we use any of these classifications in ways to assert power.

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