We all indeed have unique brains… ha, see what I did there?
Now before I delve further into the topic of psychology: let me tell you something about myself: the main reason that I started this site to begin with was to try and face a part of myself that until recently I had tried to deny, and as a result of constantly trying to suppress said part of myself, I had a nervous breakdown about five years ago and it took me three months to straighten myself out. I’ve learned since then that by suppressing that part, I was exhausting myself mentally and since the breakdown, I’ve been trying to incorporate that part of myself back into my consciousness and be more willing to come forward and therefore have a greater acceptance of myself.
I was born hypoxic: apparently, according to my mum, I was blue from lack of oxygen due to the duration of the labour and without the miracles of modern paediatric medicine, both my mum and I would have perished from this ordeal. This strongly affected me growing up in that I hit developmental targets later than that of those of my age group and that there were certain behaviours that had to get retrained throughout my childhood and adolescence. Despite the fact that I’ve gotten to the point now where (as a young woman) my behavioural patterns are indistinguishable to everyone else in a crowded room, it still affects me even to this day and it will ultimately affect me for the rest of my life and as a result I have to take a maintenance dose of medication on a daily basis. During the course of the last few years I’ve been more self-accepting as an adult, but there are still days where certain negative thoughts swirl in my head and make me wish that I was different and that as myself, I am ‘abnormal’ and ‘unworthy’. As part of the journey toward healing, I use multiple methods to try and tackle my inner demons, which I will summarize below. You yourself may or may not be familiar with them, depending on what you’ve gone through.
So, what exactly is psychology, anyway?
Psychology is defined as the study of the mind and it covers the way we behave and the way we mentally interpret situations that life throws at us. Unlike anatomy and the other sciences relating to the brain, it is considered by some as a pseudo-science or even as evil (see Egomania: Cult Leaders) because of a lack of empirical (physical) evidence, but it is still fascinating regardless (in my humble opinion) as it is a common thread which ties us all together.
Every one of us is born with a unique identity and our experiences throughout life, whether good or bad, shape how we turn out. Throughout infancy and early primary school, children are literally like sponges and what may seem like someone giving a friendly jab as an adult would be interpreted literally by the child, often with unfortunate consequences later on. At that stage of life, our internal dialogue is being developed, and the ability to interpret abstract thought, body language, spoken language and vocal tone is also undergoing change. As we get older, the things which influence us change: our parents become less of an influence and our peers and the media come in to take their place. These messages that we receive from the outside world help to rewrite our inner dialogue.
What factors influence our way of thinking?
The way we think as adults is derived from six different factors:
- Life experiences
- What we are taught to believe
- Our choices
- What society expects from us based on our gender and age
- Love (self love, familial and romantic love)
- Automatic negative thoughts
Despite the fact that we are are aware of many things that happen on the conscious level, when we dig into the layers beneath, there may be many surprises lurking due to what we were exposed to as children and what your family life was like. What makes the mind tick has been researched since ancient times and over the centuries, several theories have cropped up. However, parts of what make up who we are remain a mystery even to this day and some questions have commonly popped up which are yet to be answered. Some of these questions have triggered much heated debate over the years, with some people attributing the answers toward a higher power of some kind whereas others align with a more scientific approach.
What kind of questions?
Such questions include the following:
- How much of our personality is dictated by nature and how much by nurture?
- What must a person and their brain go through in order to make people capable of committing horrific crimes against their fellow human being? Are people born evil or do life circumstances make them that way?
- What makes some people able to survive many trials in life with their conscience intact and others slip into insanity?
- Why do some people throughout life suffer from anxiety and panic attacks from certain triggers and others get through life relatively calmly?
- What tips someone over the edge from being concerned about their bodily image to developing a full-blown eating disorder?
- What makes some people succumb to the influence of a powerful force of personality i.e. a cult leader and others immune from them?
- Why do some people develop suicidal tendencies and others not even consider the possibility?
- What makes some people have special talents in certain fields such as art and music?
- How does addictive behaviour develop and why are some individuals better able to control it than others?
- How does hypoxia at birth (lack of oxygen) influence the way the brain develops over the course of a lifetime?
- What has helped us separate from other animals with our capacity to show compassion and empathy for our fellow human being?
- When is it appropriate to take medicine in order to support yourself in order to regain your mental health and when it is more reasonable to fall back on other methods?
What methods are used by psychologists and psychiatrists?
There have been many pioneers of psychology over the centuries and their ideas have developed into psychological approaches which tackle a different aspect of human behaviour. In this section, I will be tackling the different psychological approaches one by one with emphasis on the people that created them and the key concepts behind these approaches. They include the following:
- Behavioural therapy, with emphasis on Skinner and Bandura
- CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), with emphasis on Beck, Meichenbaum and Ellis
- Humanistic therapies, with emphasis on Maslow and Rogers
- Jungian psychology, with emphasis on Jung
- Positive psychology, with emphasis on deShazer, Berg and Seligman
- Psychodynamic theories, with emphasis on Freud and Erikson
- Sub-personality theory, with emphasis on Perls and Stone
- Transactional analysis
Regardless of the theories, there is one constant that binds all humans: throughout our lives, our psychology can change massively depending on what life decides to throw at us. For some of us, this may result in soul-searching in order to determine why we react the way we do, for others, they may reach out to others in order to begin the healing process, and unfortunately, some may never address their issues and lash out in other ways.
What is the difference between psychology and psychiatry?
Psychology and psychiatry are basically the same; however, they are practiced by different individuals. Psychology is practiced by both counselors and psychologists: they tend to have a bachelors’ in psychology or another relevant degree or diploma, whereas psychiatrists are practicing MDs (medical doctors) that have chosen to specialize in the study of the mind. The latter is also capable of administering medication to patients, whereas psychologists are not authorized to do so.