Shrink, therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist – they’re all people who study psychology, the science of the mind. And they are also all people who know a little bit about how to think in a certain way so as to be calmer, more rational, and objective about daily frustrations and pitfalls. This isn’t to say, of course, that psychologists never have problems or deep-founded issues, be they interpersonal or psychological.
In fact, a common half-true stereotype about psychology students is that they enter the field so they can skimp out on therapy bills and self-diagnose their disorders (not commenting on the validity of this claim).
Truisms aside, how can we, studying business, programming, math, art, or anything else really, benefit from these people’s ways of thinking without needing to go through years of reading obscure 19th-century Swiss thinkers?
Well, the first step might be contained in that very joke about the students…
Ask For Help!
Just like how bottling up emotions, fears, and doubts in ourselves is obviously harmful to us, it’s the same for psychologists – after all, they are people too.
However, one might think that if you help people with trauma and understand their subconscious for a living, you’d be able to just do that to yourself for free, right?
It is exactly because psychologists know where the objective and subjective meet that they are aware one cannot judge oneself objectively, no matter how well-read or rational.
Subsequently, even therapists have their own therapists.
It might sound silly at first, but this very recognition of when you need to seek the qualities of an outside source and when you can handle things yourself is a simple yet massively powerful piece of knowledge.
Another important mention is that psychologists don’t judge.
Notice we use the term “unproductive” and “maladaptive” when describing harmful behavior or concepts, rather than “wrong,” “stupid,” or “bad.”
This is another small way in which it can help to view things in our own minds.
It may seem like semantics, but when we judge and subconsciously label ideas, acts or people, we assign moral blame or low status and the worst is when we do it to ourselves.
For example, you’ve probably heard a friend or even yourself say things like, “why’d I do that? I’m such an idiot. I’ll never learn”.
When you think this way, the problem becomes clouded in unnecessary expectations and subsequently much harder to solve than if pictured like emotional arithmetic, for lack of a better word.
It’s not that psychologists are emotionless robots, but that empathy, a.k.a putting yourselves in someone else’s shoes, is actually not useful when you need to look at things “from above” and see beyond the pain or anger.
Patience Is Key
Another great lesson from therapy, one that can be learned by being either the patient or the therapist, is that patience is golden.
This isn’t some idealistic mantra or anything like that too. It’s a very practical piece of advice.
Part of the reason a lot of people think psychology is “a scam” that leeches a patient’s cash for years of just sitting around talking or that we have an overprescription crisis, is that people expect fast results.
This mainly comes from the mistaken comparison with medicine, where a stitch or operation can be done in a matter of hours.
Or, in another way, from the lack of understanding that if, say, a patient has had a history of abuse spanning years, you can’t disentangle these thoughts and trauma in a matter of weeks.
The next time you’re feeling stuck or like you can’t seem to get your head around a problem, try being more objective, less judgemental, and last but not least, patient!
By understanding how people think and what motivates them, you can start making small changes in your own life that can have a big impact down the road.
Applying this may take some practice, but it will be worth it when you finally crack the code to your biggest challenge.
How do you plan on using psychology to help solve your problems?