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Rizal's Background in Psychology

Rizal was introduced to the field of psychology when he was studying for his bachillerato or high
school diploma at the Ateneo de Manila in the 1870s. The subject, however, was taught only as a
part of philosophy. Later, as a freshman medical student at the Universidad de Santo Tomas and,
later, at the Universidad Central de Madrid, he learned more about ailments that affect the mind.
Even then, however, psychology/psychiat ry was not offered as a distinct branch of medicine, but
it was incorporated into medical books. Therefore, concepts relevant to insanity -- its causes,
effects, and recommended therapy -- were studied and discussed.
Rizal's medical training also exposed him to the European understanding of mental illness and its
cure. His travels in France and Germany gave him the opportunity to observe new trends in the
treatment of the disease. In addition, he must have read books on human behavior by two noted
19th century French doctors, Jean-Marie Charcot (1825-1893) and Joseph Breuer (1842-1925).
Charcot, a psychiatrist, was a recognized authority on mental disorders while Breuer was an
advocate of the practice of mesmerism in the treatment of mental illness. Sigmund Freud's
(1856-1939) association with the two doctors helped him develop his now famous
psychoanalytic theories and treatment.
All told, Rizal's academic background, personal experiences and exposure to various social
milieus gave him first-hand knowledge of the probable causes and effects of human behavior.
Moreover, he was a keen observer of people and their idiosyncrasies, a gift palpable in his works.
Rizal's contribution to psychology and psychiatry is both diagnostic and prognostic. His
portrayal of colonial Filipinos has both historical and psychological bases. Hispanic influences
diluted the Filipino's indigenous oriental culture, thereby changing his person and later, his
society. Much of these changes, unfortunately, had given rise to conflicting values. What are
Sisa, Pilosopong Tasyo, and Doa Victorina if not the products of Hispano-oriental cultural
cross-breeding? You can see in them the mingling or warring positive or negative traits, both
indigenous and Hispanic.
Rizal's Sisa, Pilosopong Tasyo and Doa Victorina as symbols of the stagnation and deterioration
of Filipino values will remain in our cultural mainstream until we retool our society into
something more akin to the purer pre-colonial society.

Although Rizal was not formally trained as a psychologist, his portrayal of Filipino behavioral
patterns and his analysis of their effects of the individual and society show that he had a firm
grasp of the psychology of the human mind and the psychology of human nature.

Paular, Regino P. (2007, June 29). Rizal and Psychology [Blog post]. Retrieved from