Wake Up, Mr West.

How might Eastern psychotherapists handle the issue of diagnosing psychological problems differently from their Western counterparts? What are some potential advantages/disadvantages of each approach to diagnosis?

Western psychology looks at changed states of consciousness as an affliction that needs to be fixed. This avenue of psychology lives in a constant state of reactiveness. People seek help due to a perceived fault in themselves. For example, the idea that hallucinations are “wrong” is only because of a social construct that was created in our Western environment. It seems that a lot of what is right and wrong is not bred of moral ideologies, but of what is currently socially acceptable. Much like fashion, personality traits of the time seem to be #ontrend with any outliers being a serious faux pas.

The Eastern views of the consciousness focus on acceptance and learning to channel that reality effectively for the individual. Here, it is commonly acceptable to practice meditation, or yoga for the individuals own enlightenment and better state of being, throughout their whole life, seeking to alter the state of consciousness. This is a lifestyle, this is proactively seeking a healthier state of body and mind.

In regards to what is better or worse is really dependant on the point of view of the person considering that opinion. On one hand, ignorance is bliss. How do you know if there are different levels of consciousness and being if you don’t know about it? If you consider yourself happy in your day to day life, why seek to change it without a reason? On the other hand, seeking enlightenment is the only way to live. Is there a disadvantage to either the Easter or Western method of diagnosis? It depends on who you ask, and what you want the answer to be.

S.

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Does Life Happen Because of we Want it to, or it was Bound to?

When you make a decision, conscious or not, how do you make it? Do you think about all the possible angles, outcomes and consequences of that decision? Do you go with your gut? Do you feel backed into a corner and there are no options, just the one route you can take? What about not just you as an individual, what about a whole state, or country? How are decisions made in a larger scope there? Do they lead us down the path already laid down at our feet or a we just as likely and free to choose the path less travelled? There are a lot of questions about free will and whether it exists, and it is exclusive to humans among any species on the planet. To define free will, we may consider “the subjective feeling of an agent either at that moment of decision or in retrospect that the decision is free, and that one might have chosen to decide differently” (Runes, 1962). To believe in free will is to believe that human beings have the power to be creators of their own futures, and to reject the idea that our actions are predetermined by external conditions or fate. The counter argument is that our lives are already determined by the actions gone before, and whatever choices we make moving forward is not actually a choice at all, but rather the only possible outcome (Bargh & Chartrand, 1999).  As one science fiction writer beautiful portrays, determinism is that “all of this has happened before and all of this will happen again” (Glen A. Larson, 2004)

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Consider the symbols that appear recurring throughout human history. Very often, there are strong similarities that cannot be thought of as coincidental between cultures separated by vast distances of time and land. The mandala, the symbol of the self, has been recreated over history showing different forms but all having the same meaning. The ancient people of Egypt projected many of their personality traits into a world of gods, enabling them to identify parts of themselves in these deities, and look for guidance from them. The Northmen of the 17th Century, Vikings, also had a hall of deities, who they believed were once human and have reached eternal life in Valhalla through a life of sacrifice and victory. They looked onto these beings to deliver them and guide their ways, interpreting meaning from the movement of the sea and the seasons of the earth.

 

Religion is a strong way to project your own thoughts and feelings and find answers. Nowadays however, religion is being shunned for a nihilistic view. Instead of adorning their lives with holy epitaphs, people are adoring their bodies with symbols that have a unique meaning to them. Tattoo their flesh to identify their own self and individuality amongst the crowd. Was there any other outcome but this? Will there be any other future but the one already unfolding?

 

Many theories have been advanced over the years to determine why humans act the way they do. It is one of the cornerstone curiosities of psychology – seeking to understand human thought, emotions and behaviors. Free will vs Determinism. Both have a huge amount of support for them, so is either one of them “right”? or do they work together to allow humans to conduct their lives?

 

To progress understanding of human behavior, theories needed to have more stringent requirements to evaluate the efficacy and empiricism of the theory. They need to be testable. the forefront of learning as a social concept was A Bandura (1969) who proposed his social learning as a theory through which the observer acquires a mainly symbolic representation of the modelled behavior. Developments in learning theory for causal analysis shifted from the hypothesized sense of inner determinates to a broader yet detailed examination of the external environment. The theory was updated to reflect how the environment, both socially and physically, shaped human behavior and action. We can learn from observation, this means instead of having to experience all the uniqueness of life ourselves to know the outcome, we are able to build large, integrated units of behavior simply by watching another example. It means that humans can save themselves a lot of time and tedious trial and error by simply observing an action and outcome. Also, with the development of cognitive ability, this also enables us to think on future actions. The wealth of knowledge gained by experience and observation can be applied mentally to problem solving, we can solve problems symbolically, without having to physically act out each possible scenario to see the consequence. When a course of action has been mentally proposed, we have the insight to adjust our behavior to support the desired outcome (Albert Bandura & Walters, 1977).

 

This social learning theory was developed and applied recently by Nemon (2015), who examined the relationship on parent’s scheduling to their child’s effectiveness in completing their homework. What was found that parents who have poor time management skills is reflected directly in their children’s time management ability. Improvements suggested in this study were to simply change the modeled behavior of the primary source (Nemon, 2015). There have also been further studies into the relationships between parents and peers to children and adolescent behavior that offer more support to this theory, readily identifying the modeled behavior is learnt purely through observation (Norman & Ford, 2015; Schaefer, Vito, Marcum, Higgins, & Ricketts, 2015). These more recent studies take the theory of social learning and apply it outside of a laboratory, in real world examples. The outcomes support the theory, giving it strength, and the solutions to improve the situation also are in line with the same theory. Primarily, social learning theory support the idea of determinism in the sense that our actions are so because of constructs we have learned in the past. There is only one possible outcome due to the circumstance we have intrinsically become accustomed to. To break away from the pre-determined outcome would be to display the notion of free will – which has not been supported in these studies.

 

Social learning is also supported and supports the theory of behaviorism as it equates learning to the behavior that can be observed an measured. Skinner (1953) proposed that all actions are determined, and not free, as behavioral theorist look to past or present environments to explain behavior.

 

There are still many prevailing philosophies that strive to recognize the internal human nature of “will” giving the power to override environmental causalities (Van Inwagen, 1983). If this is true, it would suggest the ability to make predictions and control behavior to be impossible. However, there is boundless support for behavior predicting and manipulation (Pavlov & Anrep, 2003; Skinner, 1953; Watson, 1913). As one of the main proponents of behaviorism, Skinner strongly supports a deterministic human nature. “We regard the common man as the product of his environment, yet we reserve the right to give personal credit to great men for their achievements” (Skinner, 1953). Riedel, Heiby, and Kopetskie (2001) have recently adapted behaviorism theories to apply to bipolar patients to investigate the effects of conditioning and understanding behavior, building the application of these theories to transition from theories into practical treatment and therapy processes.

 

A challenging argument to those theories lies in this humanistic approach to psychology. It was first introduced by Maslow and Lewis (1987) as an emphasis to study the whole person. The humanistic approach considers a person’s behavior through the eyes of the person, as well as the observer, which in this case in unique to the theories discussed previously. This enables the observed to consider all angles that has led a person to come to a decision. The basis for humanistic psychology is existential assumption that people have free will, and are capable of exercising that freedom at any time (McLeod, 2015). For humanistic psychologists, it is argued that objective reality is less important than how a person perceives and understand their world as their subjective reality (McLeod, 2015). It relates all events and experiences not just for what they are but the emotional and psychological impact it has on the person themselves. This approach allows us to have a much more holistic view of an individual and their experience in this world, as nothing but our own unique experiences shape the person we become. Rogers (1995) has found profound understanding in simply listening and hearing what a person has to say about their experiences. As a person strives for self-actualization, being heard and having their peers understand the plight gives strength and positive reinforcement to continue forwards (Frankel, Sommerbeck, & Rachlin, 2010).

 

The limitation of this theory of self-actualization is very limited in the sense that it cannot be generalized to a larger population as every person is unique, and no two experiences are the same. This in turn means the theory has no empirical strength, and would take a lifetime to complete. It also has a strong bias to a person’s ideal self, where they actions may be justified by their own ego. The arguments for social learning and behaviorism are easily hypothesized and transferrable to real-life studies with proven results. Based on previous research and evidence to support, the argument for free will is in stark contrast to that of  A Bandura (1969) and Skinner (1953).

 

Whilst there is support for both arguments to the human condition, it is difficult to surpass the alignment of determinism. It’s a nihilistic view, but you don’t really have a choice. Based on your environment and upbringing, everything you’re exposed to has an influence on your personality, traits that you pick up, your behavior in certain situations. No decision could ever be “free” of yourself, unless you had someone else make a decision for you, blind of all your influencing factors.

 

 

S.

13 Reasons

Hey all.

I just finished watching 13 Reasons Why. It took me less than a week. (golly, being unemployed, I have a lot  of time on my hands). But, like most of you probably, I was hooked. Line and sinker. I had to know how it ended. Unlike most of you, probably, it reminded me too much of my own high-school experience.

Now that there’s a spotlight on it, let’s talk about bullying. That’s what this TV show was about, for the most part, wasn’t it? How bullying effects people in ways that you can’t even imagine? How the littlest things from everyone pile up on that one person? How your throw-away comments can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back? Yes. You don’t know what is going on in someones life, so YES, how you treat that person today is their last straw. And YES, it is your fault, in part.

I was bullied throughout high-school. Not just for a few months, and then focus shifted to someone else. For the whole 4 years of it. Every. Damn. Day. It wasn’t just by one person, it was by everyone I knew. If i didn’t know you, it’s because you never said or did anything to me or about me. If i didn’t know you, it’s because you didn’t hurt me. You were one of the good ones. I didn’t know any of the good ones.

The only friends I had were the ones who sought shelter during the lunch breaks, away from the rest of their tormentors. We seemed to find each others hiding places. This is the only reason we were friends. We didn’t have anything in common except the shared hiding places. I don’t mind admitting that. We weren’t really there for each other, but we were there together.

Life was hell. Part of my life will always be hell. There are scars that you don’t see. Fractures in my brain that ache. Memories that don’t fade, that are dredged up if I feel alone. I don’t know how to love myself. I am not a confident person because I was taught that I wasn’t important, or pretty, or intelligent; what do I have to be confident about? I don’t believe any compliments that people give me, nice things that you have to say. I have a pit in my soul that these good things go, and I sometimes think that pit will never close. That’s what bullying did to me.

That part of my life is over now though. I got through it when I really thought I couldn’t. I’m working really hard on those things now; love, confidence, compliments, how to close that black pit in my soul. So far so good. Like my parents always told me, high-school will be over before you know it, and I’ll have my whole life ahead of me. It’s just really shitting timing that your most integral psychological developmental stage happens at the same time all the really bullshit stuff you’re not equipped to handle comes at you. AMIRIGHT?

Thankfully, my own experience has given me something those horrible kids didn’t have: Compassion. All those bad things have made me the person I am today. It’s why I’m studying to be a psychologist. When people ask me “why that?”, it’s really difficult to answer with “I was bullied as a kid, so now I want to help people who are hurt, because there was no-one to help me”. For as much as I grew up to hate people, I really just want to understand them, I want to learn about them, I want to help them be better people. Maybe I just want to know why those kids did that to me.

 

S.