What Is The Reality of Psychology?
Psychology since its inception has come a long way. From surgical operations to conducting behavioural experiments on animals and humans alike, psychologists/psychiatrists have done it all. In recent times, the significance on mental health is increasing rapidly. There is constantly in place some debates on mental health issues and along similar lines, varied attitudes and opinions are also cropping up. With every case of suicide, we see psychiatrists, psychologists having mental health discussions. During the lockdown, there was increased awareness through events surrounding mental health. Clearly, we get an idea of people knowing a lot and their eagerness to contribute to the field albeit directly or indirectly. It is important to understand the extent to which this ‘knowing’ is being exhibited by the people and to clear some much needed confusions associated with this field. Let’s get ready for confrontation and some myth bursting!!!
1. Mind Reading and X-Ray Machine: Psychology is the study of human behavior. In our everyday life, we as either students of psychology or psychologists new to the field have encountered questions such as “ You study psychology?? Tell me what I am thinking right now??” or “tell me what I am feeling right now?”. In other words, psychology as a word is often associated with mind reading in spite of knowing the fact that it deals with human behavior. Psychologists are thought of being an X-Ray Machine! Our eyes scanning them, their words, their mannerisms, personality etc. Very recently, I visited one of my relatives house to ask about the well-being of my old age family members. While we were immersed in catching up on each other’s life, he suddenly asked me “Tell me this. I hope you are not analyzing me right now, are you? Taking note of what I am saying or my actions etc?….For a moment I got scared!! Ha, Ha, Ha….” saying this he started laughing consciously. I had to assure him on my intentions of keeping personal and professional life separate, a couple of times. Ever since I started studying psychology, I keep on encountering such questions from time to time. People around acquire a sudden consciousness such that they become nervous of being revealed too much in others’ eyes. It is important here to take note of the fact that one cannot completely understand a person in a matter of 30 minutes or 1 hour. It is only through back to back sessions (professionally done) or meetings that one can start knowing the other person better and better. Psychology is not mind reading; rather it is an attempt at understanding human behavior across various situations. Such an understanding becomes crucial for understanding human nature and also perhaps grasping the limits of human beings.
2. Misleading Terminology: In our everyday use of language, we use many terms pertaining to our mental and physical state of well-being. We might be happy, sad, joyful, angry, ashamed, exhausted, frustrated and the list continues. With the increasing awareness of mental health in recent years, it has been observed that people knowingly or unknowingly engage in using such terms which refers to serious mental health issues but when probed further, emerges as common issues faced in everyday life. The idea here is not to suggest the ignorance of everyday issues; rather it is to encourage a more careful use of language such that it proves to be not misleading. It is highly significant for us to be aware of our thoughts, opinions and issues bothering on an everyday basis but it is also important to use words which might not confuse the other person in thinking it as a severe issue. For instance, a most common misinterpretation is in thinking sad as being depressed. Sad is a common emotion we all experience at some point of time in our day to day life. We feel sad for things not going in our favor, when someone scolds us etc. But depression is a more serious clinical term used for those situations in life when a certain loss is internalized and parts of the self, start being considered as bad. There is a sense of associating and internalizing every negative situation with oneself (believing that it happened because of them) which is absent in sadness. In similar ways, shock is often misinterpreted as trauma.
3. Curious case of Personalities and Disorders: It has been increasingly observed that certain personality types of human beings get often misinterpreted as major disorders. It is important to understand that this is not true and that having a personality is quite different from having a particular disorder requiring professional intervention. Every human being is unique in their own way. Depending on various factors such as family environment, social and personal lives; our personalities shape up as we grow and to misunderstand someone’s personality for a disorder is misleading. For instance, a person who does not socialize much, likes to be and is happy in his own company cannot be said to be depressed. It is just how they are and how their personality is shaped. In the same way, suppose the same person is seen all excited, joyful, high on energy with close friends and family members; he cannot be misunderstood as being manic and eventually be tagged with severe mental issues such as Bipolar Disorder. Likewise, a person who is very particular about cleanliness and hygiene cannot be labeled with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It is always beneficial to remember the fact that it is only when a particular aspect of one’s life starts affecting the productivity levels(causing disruptions in social, professional and other areas of life) of that particular person; we initiate a discussion on the possibilities of it being a disorder. Caution is also maintained on the visible ‘symptoms’ being different and unusual from one’s personality structure for it to be considered a disorder. We must therefore be highly cautious and aware of how we describe people around and not use terms blindly which might actually harm someone’s mental health.
Psychology in its popularity across the world is often misunderstood for what it truly believes. In the quest to foreground the fact that mental health is equal to physical health and that mental health issues need to be addressed properly and with equal importance should be taken by people seriously. Lack of proper communication between the people concerned might lead to harm unintentionally. Therefore the language of psychology when put to use in the everyday lingo needs to be done with utmost responsibility and awareness. Keeping the recent events in mind, it has also become necessary that we for once, erase all the myths and attempt to focus on mental HEALTH rather than just a discussion on mental health ISSUES.