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Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

Marcel Proust, Ladies and Gentlemen

A best friend – she’s about to start getting her counseling degree in marriage and family therapy – and I were recently discussing relationships gone wrong. We concluded that people often exist to you in the way you experienced them, even if that’s not truly the person they are.

She just read this quote in Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way and found it highly relevant to our conversation:

We pack the physical outline of the creature we see with all the ideas we already formed about him, and in the complete picture of him which we compose in our minds, those ideas have certainly the principal place. In the end, they come to fill out so completely the curve of his cheeks, to follow so exactly the line of his nose, they blend so harmoniously in the sound of his voice that these seem to be no more than a transparent envelope, so that each time we see the face or hear the voice, it is our own ideas of him which we recognize and to which we listen…In this way we are able to pack a person full of the attributes we so desire- we fall in love with our own creation.

I think that we do this subconsciously.  Deep down, we know what we want, and we fill certain people with those ideas, even if we can’t always put it into words what those ideas are.

Here is another good, quick read about how subconscious forces play a role in our relationships (and the decay of them.) In the article, Srinivasan Pillay writes:

A recent study in the journal Psychological Science has shown that the earliest signs of “relationship decay” may be entirely outside of our conscious awareness. We may either be unaware, unable or even unwilling to report these feelings when they first begin to manifest.

The study also found that if your subconscious reaction to your partner was positive, then you were likely to stay together, whereas if it was negative, you were likely to break up. The interesting finding here is that staying together or breaking up had little to do with conscious reports of how the relationship was going. The subconscious reactions were more powerful in determining whether you stay with someone or leave than reporting that you felt satisfied with the relationship, or even acknowledging being engaged in a hostile conflict.

Pretty interesting stuff for us psych nerds to think about with regards to past and present relationships. Keep checking out the “Living” tab of Huffington Post for interesting applications of psychological science to everyday life. There’s a great social networking aspect (with recent upgrades) to the site too! Happy over-analyzing and sharing!

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I first became acquainted with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) during my junior year of college in an abnormal psych class. As part of our curriculum, we read Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. This novel, written in the first-person perspective of a 15-year-old boy with Asperger syndrome, really struck a chord with me. I became fascinated by individuals and families affected by ASD. Perhaps it was because I prided myself on my superior communication skills and love of loving, and couldn’t imagine living with ASD.  Perhaps it was because I was a psychology major, and ASD was beginning to appear in the headlines of news and the plots of books and movies rather frequently (1 in 100 children in the U.S. are affected.) Regardless of my reason, I began to “follow” autism. I haven’t made a career out of this interest, although I sometimes think my dream job is in the communications department of an organization that raises awareness for ASD. Instead, I simply find it very easy to become engrossed in an Aspergian’s memoir (John Robison’s Look Me in the Eye) or the blog of a parent with an autistic child.

If you’re not very familiar with ASD, the Autism” Wikipedia page as well as the Autism Society of America and Autism Speaks’ home pages provide basic information about diagnostic criteria and psychological profiles. From there, I recommend diving into blogs. Reading non-fiction really is the best way to learn. While there are a finite number of memoirs to purchase on Amazon.com, individuals touched by autism are posting on personal blogs every single day! Sites like The Autism Hub provide links to blogs about autism from autistic people, family members, and students/professionals. Left Brain/Right Brain is another well-known autism blog focused on news, science, and opinion related to ASD. You should follow @autismspeaks on Twitter for more blog recommendations and relevant news. But awareness groups like Autism Speaks aren’t only maintaining a presence on social networking sites like Faceboook and Twitter- they have created their own! Autism Speaks’ autism social networking site provides a venue, complete with blog lists and forums members of the autism community to share insights, opinions and information. Autism Blogger is another social networking site that allows people who have been affected by autism to share their stories, provide support and to help others. Many of these bloggers respond to autism’s portrayal by the media, which links you to more autism-related content (particularly YouTube videos).

Estée Klar’s blog, To Get To The Other Side, is one of my favorites to follow.  Estée is the founder and executive director of The Autism Acceptance Project and is the mother of a young autistic son named Adam. Her blog, formerly known as The Joy of Autism, has been given numerous awards, as well as listed in the top 10 autism blogs as well as the top 100 health blogs. In order to support and enrich the autistic community,  Estée discusses how we must view autism as a way of being and a natural form of human difference. I found this recent post of hers especially interestingfor its condemnation of Autism Speak’s marketing  that “exploits people’s pain for capital gain: make autism desperate enough and we can raise money to cure it.”

Before blogging existed, books on autism were rather scarce. But, as you will see when you visit some of the autism social networking sites and blog lists linked above, there is certainly a demand for insights, opinion, and information surrounding autism, but this demand was previously hard to recognize because it fell into  The Long Tail .  “Unfiltered by economic scarcity” (The Long Tail, p.53), the supportive voices of the autistic community are now heard through blogging.

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Two things that you should know about me: I am a big lover of learning, and I absolutely HATE change. Two things I’ve figured out since graduating from W&L last June: life after college gives you lots of opportunities to learn about yourself, and life after college presents you with lots of major changes. Sounds like I have a real love/hate relationship with my new grown-up life, right? Sometimes. But I’ve been able to come to better terms with my new life since a close friend introduced me to a popular, intuitive learning model that sheds light on why learning requires change.  The Conscious Competence Ladder may seem slightly obvious after you read it, but hindsight is always 20/20.

According to the Conscious Competence Ladder explanation, consciousness is the first step towards learning a new skill. To gain knowledge, you need to be conscious of what you do and do not know, or what your ability level is with regards to the task at hand. The idea is that as you grow proficient in a new area, you move from “unconscious incompetence” to “conscious incompetence” and then to “conscious competence”, finally reaching “unconscious competence.” 

The life changes that I SO hate typically occur between unconscious incompetence and conscious incompetence. During unconscious incompetence, you are blissfully ignorant because you are unaware of your lack of knowledge and skills in the subject in question. Often, it takes a major life change to make you recognize your incompetence in an area. Other times, a life change actually forces you to gain knowledge in a new area. Either way, when you move to conscious incompetence as a result of this change, you go through an uncomfortable, chaotic period. Your confidence drops as you realize that your ability is limited. You may wish that the life change had never occurred and that you were still blissfully ignorant. But if you stick out this uncomfortable time, you WILL learn the skills you need to succeed. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed during conscious incompetence, but everyone must go through this period to learn new things. Embrace the chaos, and try to recognize where you are on the ladder during the process!

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