Freestyle Friday: Myth- A degree in Psychology means that I understand people. Fact- It means that I think too much for my own sanity’s sake…


There are roughly 7 billion people in the world currently, 313,914,040 of them (give or take some 2013 births and deaths) live here in the United States. That is a lot of people. People that all have different drives, separate pasts, and their own unique variety of needs, likes, and wants. Everybody has something that makes them tick. Where is comes from, how it presents, and where it leads them is all invariably different than the person standing next to them in a crowded subway.

You could have two siblings with identical past experiences that lead them to extraordinarily different outcomes. Therapists can spend years upon years evaluating a single individual and barely scratch the surface of what the driving forces are behind a single action and how the balances were tipped to get there is such an individualized response that there will never be a hard and fast way to determine how to correct said behavior.

Psychology has evolved throughout the years in such ways that it is almost comical to think that the ways in which we handle and treat mental illness and disorders now is the “correct” way to do so. Tell that to the doctors 50 years ago that were using ice baths and lobotomies as a means to treat mental illness. How correct and valid were the practices of the time at that time? 100%? 90%? What we now consider to be a laughable course of action in behavior modification were once considered the standard of care.

What will the people 50 years from now consider of our current techniques and practices? Will we be looked upon as misguided and farfetched as the theories that came before us?

My degree is only 7 years old. In 7 years the diagnostic criteria and methods of therapy have evolved in ways that would make parts of my education obsolete. Which brings about the question of the relevance of having a degree and it’s ability to make one capable of treating and evaluating patients.

Because as much as I am educated and legitimately fascinated with people as a whole…I will never, ever make the claim that I understand people.

I could spend hours analyzing and attempting to explain (even if only to myself) why it is that I do what I do. What is my driving force; why I am who I am. I don’t have the time, mental faculties, or capabilities to do this for every other individual that I meet. It would be an exhausting and futile display of crazy on my part (that I have attempted and met with little success in the past). Why do you think therapists make exorbitant amounts of money and retire in lavish summer homes overlooking grand landscapes? Because “figuring people out” is a tricky and uncertain business that one has to be willing to not only undertake but do effectively while maintaining their personal sanity.

Let’s take a step back and think about that for a moment. Think of someone close to you, perhaps a spouse. Think of the amount of time you actually spend wondering why it is that they do what they do. And you know them. You know their childhood, their secrets, and their faults. But still the everyday occurrences in their personality can be downright confusing at times.

This is why that I could never claim to understand people. I know more bullet points that some, perhaps, but people as a whole still manage to confound as much as they captivate me. In fact, I could honestly state -fully aware of the tremendous amounts of irony in the following statement- that the degree really just set me on a path of useless over analyztion that will plague me for the rest of my days on this planet as opposed to a higher level of understanding.

Allow me to explain further…most people, when they meet a person that has a strange or non-coinciding personality type from themselves, simply allow that person to filter back into the universe. They give them no more thought and allow that person to rent no more space in their minds. While I, being a person that is entranced with the inner workings of the human condition, would allow said person into my life solely for the purpose of being able to see into their world and hopefully find the cause of ill behaviors.

This always lead to some type of dramatic end yet I couldn’t seem to help myself. The world was my case study.

Psychologists learn to listen and absorb and read between the lines. I wish I never learned how to do such a thing. It’s exhausting. Having a simple friendship or even a argument with my husband can become grounds for wild analyzations of projection, justification, or some other type of irrelevant classification of the perspective. I’m legitimately lucky the man is still married to me. Even I annoy me sometimes.

As I grow older, I have come to terms with the fact that understanding people is a futile practice (unless it is done for hire). The “why” is inconsequential when it comes to actions. Living with the ability to see the actions without a cause isn’t something that I am able to do, but I have learned that knowing the “why” doesn’t make the action any less harmful. It doesn’t excuse the behavior in any way. People will blindly be who they are until the end of time. Yet me sitting around, trying to crack their code one person at a time, wasted years of my existence that I will never get back.

So, no, I do not understand people. At all. And I am trying my hardest to be okay with that fact.

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Musings Psychology Uncategorized


Amber Perea View All →

I'm just living minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day.

18 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I appreciate your attempt to be modest and humble about the limits of your psychological knowledge. After much study of the subject and over 20 years as a consumer (with Bipolar), I also believe there is almost so much we can know.

    And, I absolutely adore the cartoon of Pavlov’s dog. I posted it on my site some time ago and I think I’m still laughing.

    • Why, thank you. I tend to be annoying self aware (psych rears it’s ugly head once again) and I know that what I know isn’t enough to “fix” a person’s problems. I look forward to more advancements in brain mapping personally, don’t you?

      The cartoon had me rolling! So hilarious. πŸ™‚

  2. I totally relate (big surprise) I just saw the title and knew I would love this post. I tend to let those I understand the least bother me the most! Why can’t I just say to myself “they are too different than me. I will never understand.” No. Instead I am letting my brain be consumed by trying to figure them out. I think I would do this anyway. Psych degree or not. πŸ™‚

  3. I took psychology too. I went in fofrCreative Writing but all you young whipper snappers who register on-line should know there was a day that getting into a course you wanted meant going to stand in line 10 hours before registration. I found the concept so silly I did not do it so no surprise the course was full. I thought well psych will be useful and never did finish a creative writing course.

    I disagree about it’s utility though. It is pretty useless for landing you a job if that’s all you have but I use some parts of it all the time. When I did respite care all those development and behavioural classes were useful. One of the most useful of all was actually sports psychology as we learned many concrete things that work as well on 4 year olds as elite athletes.

    Even now working in gaming I use it a lot. I use positive reinforcement of behaviours that are positive to the game in a kids game I work on. It works. We had a huge issue that we were getting no where with half a year ago but the young players will be ever so helpful for a little praise and a few virtual goodies.

    While along the way I hoped it would give me some insight on normal people (sorry understanding their brains to their very neuron and neurotrasnmitter did not help for some reason) it has also helped me instantly spot when some professional is so full of nitrogenous waste they may have bought their own degree or fell on their head repeatedly since then. This latter thing I think you may find useful as life unfolds.

    Never been to tempted to full out diagnose people since you do need a PhD for that but it doesn’t hurt to be able to spot a diagnosis inconsistent with the very rules of the DSM and ICD-10.

    • You work in gaming? That’s amazing!

      And I am sure that the degree has many useful qualities for many people, though for me it’s become more of a burden, personally. I was always an “over thinker” to begin with so it’s made my interactions with people that much more complicated. Even us neurotypical people have issues with that!

      The truth is, I am sure that I am the minority in my beliefs, but maybe I will feel less so with more life and experience under my belt. πŸ™‚

      • Was a bit of an accident. Worked out well though as I could do it while I did respite and when I screwed up my first great opportunity in it, I started volunteering with another company who now that respite isn’t a possibly thankfully had an actual job for me that I can do from here (or anywhere with a bit of preparation) which knowing I face more surgeries and so on is a relief. The autism is a bit of an advantage in one aspect of the work even.

  4. Well if you think of it one of the more useful things they taught us was how little they know about the brain. That’s a good thing to keep in mind when you sit with someone who is very absolute about your own or someone you loves capabilities and so on.

  5. Reblogged this on Healing From Complex Trauma & PTSD/CPTSD and commented:
    This is something I am aware of without even having a psychology degree.
    I know a fair bit about psychology – from studying it since childhood and then through education through counselling and research.
    I now cannot turn that off and feel like I am constantly analysing.
    I watch TV programs like The Big Bang Theory and consider all their various mental health problems and look for all their behaviours.
    I think about the behaviours of others a lot, constantly seeing cognitive distortions and unhealthy thinking and various unhealthy narcissistic traits.
    I’ve always thought too much – I had to – to survive and look after myself, amongst very unhealthy people and within abusive relationships.
    I’ve already said in counselling – that I don’t know how to turn that constant vigilance off.
    But, at least I have put it to good use – turning it from fear based vigilance/hypervigilance, to psychology and human study – with empathy added into the mix and a heart to use it to help others.
    It helps me understand myself, the many people in my life who have hurt me, and society and people In general.
    It is healing for me, and I want to use it wisely – but I see it can be something that once learned – is hard to not consider all the time.
    A psychology nerd, I am now.
    But, my entire life has been a deep level of interpreting human dysfunction.
    It has and will continue to be….my life.

  6. This rings true for me. I’m a psychology student, wanting to become a counselling psychology. I enjoy reading up on what’s new and being discovered. However, you’re right in saying that it constantly evolves. It seems almost impossible to keep up because if I take the time to read older things, then I feel like I’ll miss something new.
    Knowing that makes it seem a bit scary to study, just because I know by the time I graduate, things could possibly be very different in how we study things, with what methods are being used…I don’t want to find myself outdated already.
    I want to understand people because while I find myself to have a high level of empathy (this being agreed upon by others), I still won’t know everything. I’m coming to terms with that as well.
    Last, the analyzing-dear goodness. Sometimes I feel like learning what I do has resulted in me becoming a bit paranoid!

    Lovely post, thank you for writing it! Glad to see I’m not the only one who feels these things πŸ™‚

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