I love living in a world where different is normal. Each of us is an interesting combination of raw materials and experiences. This was what made my experiences as a therapist both interesting and challenging. With each client there was a new combination of factors. Working in an university environment meant my clients came in with needs ranging from time management tips to overcoming mental illness. There was no place for pat answers anywhere in that spectrum. There is no One Right Way to organize your time, overcome Depression, or anything else.
The biggest thing that has held me back from publishing my thoughts is the concern that people would see PhD and take something I write as some universal truth. Not because I think I hold some especially compelling authority, but because we humans tend to prefer simplicity. Our brains automatically look for overarching patterns that we can apply to as many situations as possible. Look back on the histories of religion, science and philosophy (and Facebook), and you will see people seeking universal truths. You will see the Great Thinkers battling to prove their concept was the One universal truth.
Things are changing and I’m glad to be a professional in psychology at this time. More and more of my colleagues are working against the basic nature of their brains. We are taking the patterns that the Great Thinkers in our field observed, assessing them critically to find their best elements, and integrating them to create more comprehensive ideas about how people work.
Unfortunately there is a lucrative market for simple truths. The Self-Help genre is full of books, articles and blogs touting simple fixes for complex concerns. Just like the writings of the Great Thinkers of history, there are useful elements in many of them. Sometimes the right person finds the right book that addresses the right underlying problem in a framework the person can use. Maybe that person would never have sought help otherwise. However, there are a lot of books, articles and blog posts, and many people don’t have the necessary knowledge to be critical consumers of this multi-billion dollar industry.
Touting simple solutions can cause harm. It could be small: wasting $20 on a time management book when the problem is you overcommit so much you would have to alter our physical universe to add two hours to every day to get everything done. (Or challenge whatever is keeping you from saying “No” on occasion.) It could be large: developing assumptions of hopelessness and helplessness, or feelings of shame after repeated failures to “change your life with these 4 simple steps.”
So, no pat answers from me. Each person who reads this blog will bring different raw materials, experiences and concerns. What would help one, wouldn’t help another. Instead, I will do my best to take useful knowledge from the field I love, and write about it in an useable, informed and balanced way... Guaranteed.