Thinking About Becoming A Psychology Student?
Brandon Heal is a psychology graduate from Colorado Technical University, an enthusiastic writer, experienced traveler and the founder of Derivative Psychology. He is currently working as an ESL instructor in Tokyo, but blogs and reaches out to psychologists at various institutions to explore new theories and applications within the field. Brandon will return to Portland, Oregon in the Spring of 2015 to pursue his M.S. degree in psychology and further refine his own work.
"For it is the function of consciousness not only to recognize and assimilate the external world through the gateway of the senses, but to translate into visible reality the world within us." (Carl Jung)
Every once in a while, we find ourselves in a situation that's a little stranger than what we're used to. Without a good bearing on where we are or what to do next, we meander along, waiting for something to happen. It's not that we don't want to be adventurous or discover anything new, but rather, we're not confident transitioning between the conscious and unconscious thought processes. The latter just so happens to be a lot more capable of guiding us through those unknowns then most of us realize.
Reason and logic both have their place and we are in no way trying to lessen the validity of either, only bring attention to the gears of a subtler thought process that begins to turn when we are forced with confronting the unknown. It is rare that we acknowledge such function because they happen to be far less obvious than the ticker tape of conscious thought you experience while reading this sentence. For many, entering into a new situation can spark a primal sense of anxiety. Reason encourages us to stop, turn around and make our way back to more familiar ground because sticking to what we already know is comforting.
Logic is in our mental toolbox to help anticipate the future and keep us out of harm's way, but too often do we let it steer us away from the unfamiliar because we associate the strange with the dangers it might hide. That's a completely normal process and I wouldn't think someone the lesser for relying on sensual data, but for our blatant willingness to avoid the unknown, we deny the unconscious halve of our own reality. Right now, even the bold among us rarely embrace possibility, courage and freedom in favor of strategy, manipulation and control. We've been conditioned to think that way.
By refusing to operate outside the confines of our own routines, we neglect exploration and in it's absence are left with the question of what could have happened if only we hadn't been so wary of the unknown.
The ability to successfully navigate chaos is generally left to those who've already emerged from it with lessons learned and story to tell, the rest of us listening intently, picking apart characteristics of the adventurer and reconstructing them to weave together some sort of pattern from their tale.
But for every story we hear, doesn't it always feel like that special quality that separates the adventurer from the rest of us is never really pinned down? Why not? We can study the past and prepare for the future all we want but at the end of the day, the reason some people seem to consistently and successfully defy logic seems to always remain just out of reach.
Oftentimes when we anticipate something new, like a vacation to a foreign country, we try to plan preemptively, picking and choosing where to go and what to see before we've even left our comfort zone. It's natural to do so, we're just extending our ability to plan ahead into an unknown area. Once we arrive, we do our best to follow that itinerary. Rarely do we throw out our map and try to find our way around alone, but it's in these moments that we stumble into the lesser known areas where strangers, to their own detriment, seldom venture.
it seems to be the case that, even when we spend money to relax, we tend to weave a social safety net so that we don't feel completely at the whim of the unknown. We depend on our taxi drivers, the hotel concierge, friends and family for support. Exploration is never a solitary journey of self-discovery, it's congregating with other tourists around a well-known point. We run down a list of locations we want to stand in front of and do our best to get there. If, however, we miss our mark, the journey seems marred in some way as we tend to define a place less by it's effect on us and more by our ability to awkwardly tread from landmark to landmark.
Fortunately, our unconscious mind is able to sit back and enjoy the complete picture, the smells, sounds and tastes of a new environment. Cognizant of the world around us, the will of the unconscious tends to be a lot more bold than we are and would rather follow the smell of bread than see the Tower of Pisa. Only the lesser known corners of academia acknowledge any real strategies to utilizing the unconscious and the almost mythical, but very real, concept of intuition is largely regarded as an anecdotal uncertainty. We rely on visual data and to a fault, cast almost everything else aside.
Ever since psychologists like Pierre Janet and Carl Jung attempted to stake out the edges where consciousness and the unconscious mingle, the entire field has made great progress and while there is still much to speculate on, we believe that there is a more wholesome perspective from which we should aspire to reach. The difficulty within this book will most assuredly lie in its author's ability to translate its message clearly, but I hope that, at least temporarily, you can suspend your disbelief. I'll begin with a short story and save the explain for what I believe is going on later.
Recently, I went on a day trip to a place where I neither knew the language or the culture, a benefit of spending a few years abroad. I knew it was a rare opportunity and like those who are willing to loosen their grip, left myself open to experience and to the whim of whatever came about in the surrounding area.
Deciding that would head to a part of the city more suited to pedestrians, I explored the labyrinthine corridors that wove between the short stacks of buildings. I noticed that being in an area devoted to a particular culture only proffered a variation on the same dish and most of the establishments hosted tired businessmen grabbing a quick bite before they went home for the evening. It just so happened to be Friday night and I had hoped to find a small area where I could sit down, have a beer and just be.
As I passed each restaurant, I looked through the steamy glass to see a couple of waiters and a small handful of patrons eating with their heads down. On the street were groups of young people about my age getting ready to go somewhere more exciting, but I wanted none of that tonight. My assumption that there would be restaurants open past 10:00 on a Friday night was proven wrong as the staff of restaurants began flipping around small boards hanging in the window to the side that read 'CLOSED' and cutting entryway lights as the last of their customers exited. I checked my watch and knew that it would only be a few minutes before my choices dwindled significantly.
I had a feeling that there would be something different if only I kept going, but as the frequency of closed shops began to rise, I was worried that I would be forced to find a fast food restaurant somewhere for a quick bite to eat. As I passed smaller alleyways connecting the larger thoroughfares on either side, I would sometimes turn and make my way down between the rows of wooden stalls that I imagined served a variety of hand-held food during the day.
Peering down a particular alley as I passed it, I saw a small sign near the ground with an owl on it. Now, like a lot of us, I have kid's admiration for birds, but an especial affinity for owls, with small statues of them around the house, on shirts and whatnot. Anyways, I decided to deviate from my path and turn to follow the image. Most of you know stories like this, people seeing signs and following them to some greater goal. What I intended to do was see if there was something at the end of this makeshift path and solidify a belief that there is a psychological mechanism that gives these images meaning.
As I made my way up to the restaurant next to the owl, I noticed that the restaurant was indeed closed but nonetheless, I felt encouraged so I continued onward. I reached a T-intersection near the end and after looking both ways, chose the path to the left. Now, my birthday is on the 16th of August (16/8) and I have an intense curiosity for the Golden Ratio (1.618) and the 1,680(yen) price on a sign to my left instantly popped out at me like the owl had a few moments prior.
Just as before, I could see the staff inside the restaurants I passed cleaning tables and wiping down the counters. There were no customers and I didn't want to force a meal at a place where people were just about to leave for the night so I kept walking.
There was another T-intersection and I went to the right this time. Most of the neon-lights had been turned off but if I took another left, I would end up back where I was. The alley was long, empty and veered off to the right, ending at a busy street that surrounded the small network of alleys I had been exploring. I turned onto the sidewalk and almost immediately happened upon an narrow set of stairs with a small sign that read "5:00p.m. - 3:00a.m." There was a throng of people near the bottom of the stairs blocking the entrance, laughing drunkenly and checking their phones. I took that as having its own meaning and didn't feel comfortable pushing through them so I gave myself an ultimatum as I made my way to the nearest crosswalk. If the light to cross turned green before they had cleared the stairs, I would head back towards my hotel and stop by a fast food restaurant along the way.
Fortunately, they stepped away a few seconds before the green light and chirping beckoned pedestrians across one of Tokyo's busy intersections and while I still had doubts about what I might find, I made my way up the creaking stairs.
I opened the heavy door and stepped into a small space with a bar, teppen-grill, three customers and behind the counter, an employee smiling and waving me in. I sheepishly sat down at the bar and set my bag and camera on the stool next to me. After ordering a beer, the bartender happened to ask me in perfect English where I was from. When I mentioned that I was from America, we struck up a conversation and he asked if he could invite over another customer who spoke English as well. The food was incredible and the company so delightful that I ended up staying for almost four hours talking to another about different cultures, sticking with goals, overcoming fear and being okay with not knowing how things are going to turn out.
Now, I'm in no way implying causation and I'm aware that I was statistically bound to find somewhere to eat, but the way in which things ended seemed so much more rewarding than if I had just settled on any of the other restaurants I had turned down. I felt like I worked to find the restaurant (which I learned later was called Showtime). Things seem more rewarding when we quit trying to fight for what we expect and let ourselves just go with the flow. Our unconscious recognizes symbols that are personal to us and we can choose to see angels or we can keep our heads down and keep our heads down.
Whether it's an instantaneous flash of insight that comes to us out of nowhere, symbols are the tools of the unconscious and decoding their role in our own mind isn't so much a chore as it is a discovery. The more subtle aspects of our psyche operate on a lower level of consciousness and communication between the two usually takes the form of images, symbols, emotion and intuition. Their is much literature on how the unconscious mind deals with fear and most of it addresses a need to communicate before the unconscious breaks into consciousness by way of anxiety and stress. What we are neglecting to acknowledge is one of the primary function of the unconscious, to communicate to the cognitive mind what the participant should do to satiate their 'spirit'.
Fear, hesitance, anxiety and depression are not things to be taken lightly, but medication and complacent therapy unknowingly attempt to put the brakes on a train that has already left the station. I am not referring to extreme cases where individuals need help dealing with severe chemical imbalances or trauma related issues, but merely, the day to day worries and frustrations that guide most of us away from a life well-lived and into a cycle of doubt and fear that we trick ourselves into thinking is the life we want. Control never works when we are trying to understand the psychological flow, it compartmentalizes emotion and blocks a natural part of humanity.
Anyways, the unconscious can be a strange structure and figuring out what information is raised to our consciousness can be next to impossible if we don't listen, but there is a way to line up our thoughts in a way that unclutters the lines of preemptive communication from that deeper mind. In our lives, we use symbols. I told you I happened to enjoy owls and particular numbers and I'd bet that most you have little tokens and patterns that mean something to you. We put them on our desk and hang them from our keychains, they are acceptable to society so long as we don't follow them. The mind tends to auto-fill an as-of-yet unrecognized need to symbolize the external world and we end up with an affinity for certain objects and images. Unfortunately, humans have capitalized off of this need for thousands of years, creating complex structures like the Zodiac and the Chinese calender as a means to, wait for it, communicate with a deeper form of consciousness. Consider the idea that your brain already contains a means to communicate between the upper and lower minds but we rarely give a second thought to the idea that we should be deciphering the messages that are passed along. Except dreams, dreams are acceptable to think about.
Pierre Janet, considered one of the three founding fathers of psychology, described the subconscious [unconscious] mind as a powerful awareness underlying our waking thought process. Considered a storehouse of unused memory and information, the subconscious is often attributed with experiences like intuition, subliminal messages and trances. It's purpose as a memory bank prevents us from experiencing an information overload and while it is unclear how much information our brain can process at any given moment (and anyone with an answer should be considered suspect), estimates would put the amount of information needed for cognizant function at a fraction of what the brain actually takes in.
Carl Jung defined intuition as "perception via the unconscious" and by using sense-perception as a catalyst, the unconscious brings forth ideas, images, possibilities and ways out of a blocked situation by a process that is mostly unknown. With practice, anybody can train their cognitive, wakeful state to tap into a compendium of solutions by getting it to 'ping' the system when the unconscious wants us to notice something, but we need to be primed to receive it.
I realize that I'm asking you to look for your own signs and symbols in the world around you, but you don't even know where to start. Trying to observe everything results in an information overload, but like anything, the key is to practice with small decisions first. Don't expect to be at the right place at the right time for a better job opportunity unless you're ready for the responsibilities that come with it, but if you're looking at a sketchbook and you feel a sudden desire to draw, make some time, pick up a pencil and get to it. Be okay with confusion and only practice culling meaning from larger, more consequential choices when you feel like you can interpret the small signals first.
Think about an area you are relaxed in, a library or a park, Try to explore the area without thinking too much. Only observe what jumps out at you, an old man feeding a small gathering of pigeons at his feet or two dogs chasing a Frisbee. Be patient, nothing needs to show, but when it does and you know what is is you're seeing, nothing will be the same. What's important to remember is that keeping a clear mind leaves the door open for the unconscious to start sending things through and when you've got a path hard-coded in the unconscious, things will reveal themselves whether you're paying attention or not.
The process, in it's entirety, is akin to hearing your name in a loud room. Your mind catches it within the static noise and routes it up to your consciousness automatically. Trust yourself.
Explore, delve into the details of whatever situation strikes you as odd and try to associate a feeling you notice welling up in yourself. Let your unconscious mind tell you what kind of thoughts and feelings you, in turn, should pay attention to. It sees even what you aren't directly looking at, relax. Be cognizant of the situation but open to anything. Imagine that little voice inside looking for patterns to show you and don't forget to be patient, it will.
Beyond letting the experience wash over you, you've freed up the conscious and unconscious minds to communicate with each other more directly. Instead of letting yourself be overcome with distractions, you've become more aware of what is going on around you and the people who make up all of those little corners of life that we so often neglect to recognize.
Most of us can only hope to widen our sense of perspective and become someone who is attentive and reactive. Our unconscious mind has room to speak and if we are patient, we'll not only start to feel more instinctual and aware of the mind's other functions, but we'll come to realize how good living in the moment can be. Life will always have surprises in store for us and no amount of planning can prevent the possibility that the ideas and strategies we hobble together will be trumped by ill-fated luck in a single day. It makes no use trusting in the past or the future, it is this very moment that matters. Even psychics and believers in fate tend to look both ways when crossing the street.
Information, Intuition and Intelligence
Our lives are long and full of ups and downs, but it's how we react to those situations that determines whether or not our experience as a whole will be considered an incredible one. I've known intelligent people who were successful in their own right but the way in which they led their lives and treated others was something short of inspiring.
Rational people are always going to tell you that something is illogical but I promise you this, dear reader, believing in the irrational isn't something that hinders intelligence, capability or wisdom and an appreciation for evolution and astronomy hasn't shaken my utilization of the irrational in the slightest. It's disheartening to hear dedicated scholars and ardent dreamers argue with each other about their life choices when clearly we were meant to appreciate the virtues of both. When people can avoid falling head over heels for one side or the other, they might find that both 'houses' compliment each other quite well.
The big philosophical questions in life usually don't give us concrete answers, but really, should we expect them to? If we tried to understand why the brain ponders a question before there is even evidence of an answer, we could journey into topics like They're phantoms created by the psyche to keep our minds innovative and relevant. Maybe instead of listening to the philosophical declarations of others, we might be better off pursuing our own scientific passions and creating an unconscious myth tailored to our own personality.
Learning and innovation take imagination. So, where does one train their imagination? From within their noodle. I believe that the mind uses imagination to transition between the layers and incorporates the highly individualistic symbols associated with it as a means to communicate concepts between the conscious and unconscious.
Have you ever been so focused on a task that you begin to be conscious of the process itself? Where you become relaxed enough with creating that it feels like the act itself fuels the effort we put in? When we concentrate for extended periods of time, the world outside the task becomes dull and we begin to operate on a level where inspiration and diligence just meet. Time flies and we've either added to our product greatly or honed our skill as much. Then, in quick descent, we lose our concentration. Hours have passed and our backs are sore and our eyes begin to haze over. We look at the clock and tilt the last few splashes of cold coffee into our mouth before finding a stopping place. We wake up from a waking dream and try to orientate ourselves into a logical system.
We know that the brain is able to process an astounding amount of information, with only a fraction of a percent of input devoted to conscious thought, like managing to stand and think about how hot your cup of coffee is. In our brain, the thalamus filters out sensory information between what to store for later and what to bring your attention to. Visual data is the most complex form of information received and has a dedicated filter in the occipital lobe. It's not a stretch to imagine that a small portion of the information we bring in from either structure is compiled for future use.
What we're doing is trying to squeeze a little more data out of the environment by strengthening that line of communication and internalize the idea that our minds might need to recall external information we might normally have missed. We are applying the pressure the western world so famously puts on rational thought and applying it to the unconscious. Make it a point to stress less and daydream more. Intelligence can be thought of as how quickly you pick up on things and oftentimes, listening to your gut and going with what feels right is the most rewarding decision you can make. Your brain knows what it's doing and imagination and emotion are imperative as means to work out problems that logic alone can't always manipulate.
So try new things when you can, enjoy wrapping up this entry with your copy of the most complicated structure in the universe, quietly reading this paragraph right along with you, taking notes and remembering things that your conscious mind will lose in about two minutes. Take stock in the fact that your unconscious is right there, quietly working alongside you.
Within the field of psychology, one is able to alter the life of the individual with nothing more than understanding, commitment and a little communication. A lot of psychiatrists would write prescriptions because of chemistry's grounding in science, but here's the rub: to rely solely on the chemical processes that modify our behavior, we must also subscribe to the fundamentalism of behavioral psychology, which puts humans solely in a "survival by chemical reaction" cage. On the other hand, casting out medical advice and following the rabbit down the hole leads to people rubbing healing stones over painful lumps instead of getting tested for skin cancer. Both are a bit ludicrous.
Psychology, in the eyes of most medical institutions, is the definition of a pseudoscience, one of our most important books is called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) and there is a new iteration every year or so. New mental health concerns are added consistently and the entire field seems to be one of guesses, chance and hoping that an individual can be convinced that they belong within a certain category. We are on the tail end of a pharmaceutical craze, medicating everyone from adults to senior citizens for the slightest mental strain. I can only think that the willingness of both sides to suppress a condition only exacerbates the problem.
Psychology is attempting to be included in the scientific community but because that community has become so demanding of tangible evidence, our field has become one where a psychiatrist is offering up new prescriptions and only stops experimenting with new cocktails at the request of the patient. They feel successful and we buy their medication. It's no wonder the system worked as long as it did -for the most part, everybody's been walking away with what they want.
Unfortunately, this is not psychology, it's bio-pharmacology. This is what happens when we expect to fit within a medical frame a subject that both is an observable part of the sciences (behavioral psychology and mental illness), but also contains a quality that transcends the methods used to define it (imagination and intuition). Proper psychology is supposed to be a replacement for the group indoctrination of yore. Chemistry is valuable for correcting specific neural issues, but stretching them into areas where just listening to a person might have helped can later result in mental instability and an overall increase in psychological strain.
Unfortunately, talking to a patient doesn't necessitate grant money, so we continue to drum up ways in which we can apply neuron-inhibitors to patients and jot down the results. I in no way mean to cast doubt on the psychologists out there who tinker in the mind a little more carefully, only bring attention to the consumerist's extreme that has presently taken hold.
It is both the responsibility of the patient and the professional to at first, agree to put medication on the back-burner. We should work together to try and untie the psychological knots that life will naturally confuse us with. We've become comfortable as a society and thus, lost some of our psychological wherewithal. We need to remember that the comforts within our home should not translate to apathy of the mind, on the contrary, we should do more with the extra time that we have to imagine, create and dream. Write a short story, sculpt a chunk of clay. Inject meaning into everything around you. Don't be afraid to rediscover what we've lost in the last two centuries in the name of scientific progress.
So, a problem has presented itself within psychology and it could be considered one of trying to fit in with the traditional ideologies of modern academia. Ours is a field where acknowledging the individual patterns that constitute a single human is less important than administering medication with the finesse of a shotgun. And rightly so, we are forced to operate outside the scientific context until the modern belief understands the role that the very playful imagination plays in the realm of neurology.
Until the inner workings are accepted in the scientific community, the responsibility is yours alone to acknowledge what makes your mind unique, what guides your imagination and how you can use it to improve the lives of those who support you. Make an effort to silence the static that finds its way in. Try to enjoy what's around you and trust your creative side to make things even better, it's there for a reason and needs exercise. Empirical evidence is fun but the imagination is power and just because it's not as real to me as it is to you doesn't mean I wouldn't be completely fascinated by anything you worked hard to create and attribute to you greater depth as a human being for trying.
Embracing activities that keep the mind in a goal-oriented, albeit relaxed, state and then applying that kind of peaceful, purely reactive thinking to a tangible discipline that we have difficulty with has been a well known strategy for centuries.
Pair things up, instruments and mathematics, astronomy and computer programming, anything. The cognitive processes will attempt to use the lessons learned in one and apply them to the other, often times with surprising results. I like to think that Isaac Newton practiced alchemy while simultaneously inventing calculus and Nikola Tesla believed he communicated with extra-terrestrials simply because their minds found some use out juggling multiple extremes. I'm not even recommending an in-depth consideration of the occult or paranormal, just an intimate concept to keep things fresh.
Society tends to convince us that we should sway to one ideal or another and because of that, we've begun ignoring those things that don't line up with any one truth. A lot of great people have expressed their opinions on harboring multiple beliefs and how using one to interpret another has improved their mental acuity as a whole. I'm sure I'll have to expand on this at a later date and wholly intend to do so, but for know, I only hope you don't limit yourself to any one thing just because most do.
We're all a bit bigger than what we see on the outside, but we're also taught to strive to fit in. So, we become uncomfortable when things get personal and apprehensive when we should be courageous. Find a group of people you like to be around, share your ideas with others and cherish those who are comfortable enough to share them with you.
In the end, at this point, never just take a psychologist's word as more than a recommendation. We are, and until we have evidence that outweighs our statistics, nothing more than experimenting whether we know it or not and it is you who will either help us to create strategies to overcoming struggles or lie back and let us administer whatever we feel is an appropriate tool to reprogram you.
There are certain characteristics to which we all seem to measure ourselves against when considering what it means to be happy. Money and influence are huge factors, whether one is a subscriber or not, but are these really the traits of a successful person? Are we comparing a life or a lifestyle? I think we can all agree that we must learn to measure ourselves against something greater, something that the wealthy cannot buy and the powerful cannot steal.
There are few things more formidable in this world than a person who fiercely believes in who they are and what they do. When comparing how they relate to and communicate with others, there is a palpable difference in their bearing, assurance and internally, their perception.
You, reading this post, act as an intermediary between your mind and the outside world. Everyone that you've ever known is experiencing the same effect of looking through a smudged window into the outside world and doing their best to describe what they see to one another. The difference in each of our descriptions could be thought of as perception. Each one of us has smudges, tints, bubbles and discolorations in the pane of glass that separates our collection of thoughts, memories from the external environment.
While it can be understood that reporting what is directly outside might take on a different hue, perception may also be responsible for altering our memories as we recall them. During the course of an average day, we tend to interact and overcome by bringing our ideas to the attention of others. Most of what we do involves a give and take. Your responsibility is to introduce new ideas and keep those in communication with you on their toes. We're getting to a time where, finally, knowledge and common sense are prized over authority and manipulation and the 'old boy' groups, when found, are ostracized. What we need to realize is that at the end of the day, when we find ourselves among old minds, it's up to you to bring it home.
Do what you can to widen your perspective. Study something outside your comfort zone. Dozens of schools offer free courses across the internet and you can study them whenever you find the time. Take advantage of the information and use the opportunity to give yourself an edge. Use it to your advantage. Fight, win and show us all that nothing is beyond you. Put it on your resume and talk about what you love to do passionately. Do it for your family, do it for your friends and most importantly, do it for yourself.
As a child, my family tended to move to a different part of the country every few years and a large part of my identity included mimicking wildly different cultures. Values, beliefs and ideas change between Oregon, Montana, South Carolina, Texas and Japan and it would be an understatement to say that each has a unique approach to life. For most of us, what begins as an exercise in fitting in becomes an appreciation for the qualities within us that remain the same. In other words, we grow up.
Whenever we find ourselves in a new place, one of the first things our egos tend to do is suppress those qualities that make us unique in favor of padding ourselves with the surrounding material. Unfortunately, many have never had their idea of reality challenged and their sense of self is repeatedly reinforced by the same dogmas. I may be susceptible to the kind of cultural identity dependance that hypnotizes many of us to trade in our individual strengths for those of the group. Carl Jung's "The Undiscovered Self" is short but poignant look at confusion between identity and our social networks.
We should all practice identifying what makes us different from those closest to us and try to keep at bay those things that make us the same. Your identity isn't a collection of documents and it most certainly isn't your physical body, but then, how should we define it? Is it our reputation and how we see ourselves among others or does it have more to do with how others see us?
We believe that over time, we internalize all of the above and begin to lay the foundation of a free-standing identity. We are forged by powerful memories in our youth and pulled through the present by ideas regarding the future, whether they are those of another or our own. When an identity is considered independent of its surroundings, the tone and context can change by its mere presence. This is especially true when an identity is associated with authority and fear. Unless we are somehow equipped to deal with what we don't understand, we usually coalesce to form a group mindset.
After moving to another part of the country, I did my best to blend in with the natives but found that no matter what, I would always be a relic from where I came from. In the South, I was a Northerner and in the West, I was from the East. In Japan, I am an American and would surprise no one by wearing a cowboy hat and gripping a 36oz. soft drink.
After a long string of unsatisfactory attempts to bridge the gap between where I had come from and the culture of the local majority, I reconsidered my approach and began to embrace those things that were uniquely me. By identifying and embracing those qualities, I found that one can bypass cultural difference, rise above petty judgment and connect with the beliefs common to all of mankind. Respect that everyone is under duress and you'll begin to recognize the hero underneath their refined exterior, struggling to find a way.
The psychological conglomerate that is belief in oneself, having a healthy respect for the fundamental humanness of those around us and recognizing the drive to understand more can be revealed in at least two ways:
1. When we recognize those values as underlying forces within our own mind, we begin to see them in others. We can encourage.
2. By identifying with those who represent our idea of humanity, we begin can pursue the cultivation of the qualities we share. We unify.
By maneuvering through the social 'sidelines', we begin to cross paths with people in the process of dictating their own paths. All around us are artists, athletes, writers, musicians, mathletes and journalists, all working to define themselves amongst the whole of their peers. As we watch them fail forward, we begin to question whether or not we are at a crossroad where we either challenge ourselves to find our own roost or subjugate ourselves to fight for a place among our peers.
It seems to be that our dreams rarely give up on us. Instead, we give up on what we believe we can do and rather than listening to that voice that tells us that we're off track, we silence it because we feel a better fit within our societal groups when we do. There is something to be earned in the esteem of many and therein lies the destination of most. In our spheres of influence, there are things that you are better at than your friends, but it is the decision to follow those talents that separates you from the rest.
Unfortunately, when we spend time with our closest friends, we are prone to being content. Instead of recognizing the responsibility talent has to serve others, we shift desirable traits to those that are profitable. We feel included and assume that our identity had something to do with it instead of considering that are ideology had somehow been surreptitiously consolidated by the values of our local networks, to include expectation, role and religion. band us together rather than highlight that which separates us from those we consider the closest. We'd rather fit in than stand out and when we're allowed to run with such an ideology unopposed, we tend to radicalize ourselves into an almost mythical symbol of cultural identity. It's too important to your well being to avoid playing off of your differences. If you are not annoying your friends by your passion to achieve something, you're not working hard enough.
So start small, go out and buy a small paperback on a subject you're interested in learning. Keep it on you. Read about guitars, ants, rock-climbing, whatever, but talk about it with other people. Give your identity a voice and a form and it will coax your ego and your attention into following.
Symbolism in Psychology
Coming up with ways in which to describe symbolic thinking and programming the unconscious seemed like an insurmountable task when the ideas first started bubbling up to the surface. Once they solidified, I assumed the responsibility of conveying the message to those around me, but there's no real recipe to this and I feel like I've ground the topic into dust trying to assemble some kind of structure (the results of which are sketchy), so I'm just going to let it unfold naturally.
The unconscious can be thought of as the behavioral 'guidance system' of consciousness, but we don't seem to know the depth or efficacy to which the unconscious can be factored in. One of the more impressive processes that we are largely unaware of in our day to day is an 'unconscious goal pursuit' system that, once primed, can orientate behavior to seek out actions and lead us the fulfillment of any particular endeavor. This system can arise in one of two ways.
1. There tends to be no limit to goal setting, we are usually quite capable moving from one to the other and whether we complete it or not, it seems to lose relevancy so long as we are willing to move past it. Obviously, this should be thought of as an internally generated.
2. We can be primed by others towards conforming behavior and speech without realizing it (major religions and political parties here). Unlike our first example, priming is usually carried out by others in a way that encourages loyalty, obedience and indirect goal-setting.
Our brains tend to store vast amounts of information within our unconscious, to include implicit memory, which let's us tie our shoes without thinking out each step. Implicit memory has a funny way of eluding the effects of alcohol and can even raise a flag when something doesn't "feel" right. This latter point is the one that linked up unconscious with the amount of data we are storing and originally encouraged me to push the envelope a little further. And this is where it gets good.
Intuition is acknowledged but not really recognized as an extension of the conscious mind. It seems to be an amalgamate of raw data from the unconscious mind being bundled and tossed up for our consideration. Here's our theory; we believe that if we could 'program' a pathway between our unconscious and consciousness, beyond good feelings and energy waves, our brain could extrapolate information and deliver it to us in a way that we've only imagined in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novels (that's Sherlock Holmes people).
I feel like we have a vast amount of useless knowledge at our disposal but our ability to organize the information is lacking. Spatial memory is our brain's go-to form of storage and the unconscious also deals heavily in images, designs and patterns, linking something perceptually common but perpetually random (think nature) with willful introspection to communicate with our day to day cognitive processes.
When we practice observation and reflecting on what those symbolic observations mean to us, we give our consciousness a huge shortcut to operate with and only then do we actively reach down into the dark and connect the two halves of our mind, one of which that is far more in tune than the highly volatile ego that we have come to depend on.
As I go about my day, I try and take note of any instances when I am daydreaming or merely disengaged from the world around me. I have the most success while traveling to work. Instead of letting consciousness distract me with what I need to do that day, I like to take note of my environment, the buildings I pass, other people, anything I can. Every so often, I will interpret a situation as odd or strange (accompanied by a pressure or warmth in my chest) and I will immediately turn my attention inward.
Instead of planning out how my day will unfold, I tend to lean back and let it pull me along, only adjusting things when I feel a nudge pushing me in another direction. Those 'nudges' can come in any form and I'm sure I miss a lot of them, but the line is open to so that when I do feel that my unconscious is manipulating my perceptions, I ask my self a few questions
Example: I watched a low flying crow chase a skulking fox across the road on my way to a meeting. What did I feel? Caution, specifically that I shouldn't jump into a territory that I wanted to be in, but maybe didn't belong yet. I hadn't thought about it before but I adjusted my approach and I got what I wanted without stepping on a senior coworker's toes.
Sometimes, I feel like I'm not seeing anything for days or weeks but if I stop and really think about my situation, I find a calm below. Maybe I just need to be a little more appreciative? I've become more creative, more confident and more content since beginning my journey and I still try to switch it up every now and then. I've changed those trigger symbols before, usually after a change has taken place externally (moving, new job) and I even named our little corner of the internet Derivative Psychology to reflect just that kind of change. That what we plug into the calculation (symbol) changes the solution (perception) and can be used to overcome challenges or adjust our trajectory (goals).
There is a belief that many spiritual organizations practice, but is held at arms length in psychology. The idea is that by consciously asking for an answer, we form conscious goals that our unconscious can pick out and work on. We just need to keep in mind that any feedback to our request will be answered by the unconscious, thus emotional or symbolic. Have faith in your mind, it's the most compelling collection of matter in existence. The unconscious is too often neglected and we wait until issues bubble to the surface to take action. We sit in fear, confusion and depression until something or someone comes along to give us directions, but more often than not, we are woken to the drums of another individual and end up following someone who isn't so sure themselves.
There's something to be said for the well prepared imagination. Allowing our mind to be subjected to our own mythology in order to utilize psycho-somatic properties well known in medical literature is something that feels a little dishonest, like we're cheating the system by brushing over or reinterpreting painful memories instead of confronting them.
That being said, I meant just that when we decided on a name for our little branch of Psychology. What you put into the system changes the output, whether it is done by reaching into the past and editing the context or anticipating future events and plugging in the appropriate virtues. We're taking the whole of psychology and turning towards active and dynamic roles that we need to engage in instead of fortifying long-standing beliefs in psychology that we are ultimately, victims of our surroundings.
Ultimately, we aim to put the power of psychology back into the hands of the people. It's going to take some elbow grease and certainly a little fine-tuning as we go, but we've learned first hand that the quality of life is a whole lot of what you make it out to be. One of the most important things we can do to live a life more fully is to create meaning for ourselves instead of letting others define where our values and priorities should be. This pertains to pursuing personal goals and chasing down your own dreams.
Practice seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary and planting value and purpose in the people, places and projects that have none. You'll find yourself in the middle of a world that encourages creative impulse and sprouts opportunity in no time. And it should, you put it there.
So make your next trip to the grocery store an adventure, watch people, imagine stories to fill in the gaps of what you might see as odd and maybe most importantly, try to incorporate passion, virtues and all the wonderful little quirks that make them exceptional in their own worlds. Give them good and you'll start to see them in yourself.
By filling in the blanks of others, you'll be training your brain to auto-reflect and gauge the quality of your own thoughts, making it easier for you to separate the harmful spam ("I'm not as rich as...") from the good stuff ("I enjoy the sound of rain") in your own life. We need to moderate our thoughts before we can control them. Once we do that, we can use them to anticipate the future rather than merely react to the present.
There's a lot of talk about attempting to bridge the gap between the fields of psychology and physics and even CERN has even brought on a few psychologists to advise them on situations that arise when the line between observer and the observed needs to be determined. A derivative is the instantaneous rate of change of a function with respect to one of its variable. So why am I talking about math and how does it apply to psychology? Well, people are rarely in absolutely thoughtless states and we would be doing ourselves a disservice if we continued to let psychiatrists count beans against us and find a suitable prescription to gloss over the dynamic mind. Psychology has been moving adding to the behavioral concepts of Skinner and Freud ever since we recognized that mechanical processes to not apply to all the realms of thought. Understanding and participation in this system is a process of growth.
While much of the academic community is aware of the situation, those of us without a PhD usually don't. It is the belief of this team that we are approaching another great leap in understanding, a boom that blows open the doors of how we humans understand our place in the world. We are at a point where we have two significantly developed theories and we are trying to figure out how to combine them.
Much like making a new dish out of two existing recipes, there's a lot of experimenting and wild theories involved. There's been plenty of research (almost a decade) and we're well on our way to presenting psychology in a way that, like our bodies, can be strengthened with appropriate exercise.
Right now, specialists charge a lot of money to help people return to a sense of normal but rarely mention how to maintain a well trained psyche. Pain, dependency and trauma are serious issues in the mind but we are 50 years behind in how we deal with them because most of our sharpest minds have been caught in the projects that draw money or are academically brushed over. Physics has been funded, regulated and developed to the point where it is today because the field gave us technological applications and weapons. We understand the world, but not how we see it. It is becoming painfully obvious that we need to build the other half of the bridge if we expect to go much further.
Psychology should be able to help us navigate the whole of our mind, not just our emotions. We should know how to exploit our individual psychological weaknesses and abilities to avoid those things that distract us, help us think laterally, deeply, ten steps ahead, and with the kind of precision we've developed in physics. Either way, as of right now, we don't and that's okay. It just means that now is the time for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work.
We all know a little bit about the mind and it shouldn't cost a small fortune to really talk to someone, nor be so desperate and confused that we agree to pay up. Think about this, if we could effectively communicate with those who we spend our time with the most, psychologists would be a far less technical breed. But we encourage them to diagnose us. We're so desperate for someone to get to know us on a deeper level that we're okay with our uniqueness being labeled a mental illness. We want them to call us something, to give us a name in a world that's too busy to care. We want them to find something in us that is special, even if it's a problem.
Do yourself and somebody else a favor, strike up a conversation with a stranger every once in a while. Be kind. Make their struggles heard and share your own. Learn how to ask questions that mean something to others. Learn to read people between the lines. Be a part of society that is comfortable patting others on the back and taking the time to tell them the truth. You're a person, I'm a person and even on bad days, we're all looking for someone who's willing to listen. I don't know how this picture applies exactly as I've strayed from my intended message, but it's not too bad on it's own and as people, neither are we.
 Maoris, R., Ivan off, J., 2005. Capacity Limits of Information Processing in the Brain. Retrieved From: http://www.psy.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/marois/Publications/Marois_Ivanoff-2005.pdf
 A. Bargh and Ezequiel Morsella, 2008. The Unconscious Mind. From: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2440575/
 Reddy Nagireddy, 2011. Evolutionary Epistemology of Donald T. Campbell. From: http://www.academia.edu/2072925/Evolutionary_Epistemology_of_Donald_T_Campbell_full_thesis_
 Russell Dewey, 2013. Implicit vs. Explicit memory. From: http://www.intropsych.com/ch06_memory/implicit_vs_explicit_memory.html
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