From Dichotomies to Continuums

The title may illicit interests of people with a philosophical/physicist bend of mind, and while I take my principles from there, I’m actually talking about something much more commonplace. People.

We were taught intelligence testing during this first semester of Clinical Psych course. And we were repeatedly cautioned : IQ is just a number, a snapshot of the person, do not think that you know the person entirely just by knowing their I.Q. Why? I.Q falls on the bell curve, a continuum, although it has most people around the centre, but there are people towards the other two ends too – subnormal and supernormal intelligence – NORMAL is decided by what MOST people are. But its not as if normal is good and anything else is bad.

But we do think in those ways. We think in dichotomies. I SHOULD get the best. Or, I am a TOTAL loser. Or, He is completely EVIL. A brilliant new therapy we are learning, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, talks about how such rigid, dichotomous thinking leads to stress, depression, and then the less garden variety type things like OCDs, panic, anxiety and so on. At some level, we know these dichotomies are not real. We could be telling ourselves, “Oh, I do good so I would prefer getting good in return, but since I can’t control everything, I may not get good each time, but that’s ok, I’m not a bad person if that happens’.

So many years of gloating about ourselves, pages and pages written, as proof of our versatality, and yet we can’t think in continuums. Why?

1. It’s shorter to think in dichotomies (I’m stupid) than (I’m a worthy person but seemed to have made a mistake in this situation)

2. It’s simple. this is just an extension of the above, but dichotomies create water-tight compartments, where it is easier to place people. Imagine if you had to meet each new person with a blank mind and did not have categories like ‘indian’ ‘woman’ ‘single’ which have their own stereotypes attached. It would be a lot of work! And we are inherently lazy (or cost-efficient, for a better world)

3. It’s the better option during emergency situations. If you broke your arm, its much easier to make instant noodles, rather than some grand, drawn out lamp chops recipe. But her its ok because a broken arm is not a permanent situation (hopefully). But what would happen if you were to eat instant noodles all the time? Not gastronomical fitness, or delight, definitely. Similarly, it is easier to resort to dichotomies when we are too sad or distressed, and we can’t think clearly. But these situations can keep happening over and over. So we have to train our mind to think in continuums so much, that tha becomes the basic, first, primary response.

Are dichotomies only about adjectives? No, they’re about all yes-no categories. Talented-nottalented, smart-dumb, thin-fat, love-hate, single-committed, and even male-female. There are many in-betweens among each of these. There have to be! Because we are humans, and so goddamn versatile. We could not agree on facts, to save our lives, how can we agree on something so subjective as traits?

So let’s try to not only accept the differences, but the degree of differences.

Let’s go from dichotomies to continuums.



From the heart (read: mind) of a Psychology student.

Yeah, I was asserting in the title, that be it a lament, like the one which you will endure in the text below, or spurts of joy, all originate from the mind, and not the heart. It just pumps blood, and being the Shahrukh Khan of the body, by being at the right place at the right time, has stolen the show. Anyway, so what’s on my mind right now ? Lot’s of stuff apparently  and it falls into categories too – reflection, angst, frustration, and maybe, insight.

Although, please do not think that when I bang my toe against pieces of furniture (which happens rather often) I yell, ‘Oh damn you, Mistaken Visual Perception!’ No. I just say ‘Damn’. Or, ‘Hey Ram‘ if I’m feeling theatrical. So I’m approaching the last year of my Bachelors and will definitely continue studying psychology in my Masters, and so, as usual, I reflect. And then I have the dumb idea that with so much reflection, I might find employment as a mirror if Psychology fails me. But then I realize that I’d make a bad mirror because being stuck on a wall would turn my usual straightforward-ness into acid sarcasm that wouldn’t procure the best reply when asked, ‘Who is the prettiest of them all?’

So I leave the ideas of alternate employment and wonder about the pros and cons of being a Psy student. First of all, I would offer an affectionate smack to the teachers who went all ‘Psychology is about people, and people are everywhere, so imagine how awesome it would be to study it!!’ First of all, even sanitation is about people, and people are everywhere etc. Secondly, they did not tell that understanding people would not automatically be accompanied by acceptance. And so, although I could not blame someone for something (maybe it’s his genes, maybe its his environment – the Psy version of Maybelline), I wanted to blame them so bad, because, well, people do act rather abashedly stupid at times. And now, you can’t even call them stupid! Great! Because now you Know, with a capital K. Or, N, rather.

So now I understand people a little better, which leads to all the more impatience. Thus, when a girl in Aerobics class complains she didn’t stop eating the pastries until it was just too much because she didn’t realize when she got full, I want to say to her, ‘No, I’m sure your hypothalamus told you to stop when you were full, but you have issues when it comes to pleasure seeking sensations and you happen to find it in food!’, but of course, I don’t. I just give a sympathetic nod indicating that an indulgence once in a while is fine, after all, our Aerobics instructor’s income depends on it.

Then there are those people who get all starry eyed when you tell them you’re studying Psychology, and ask you if you could read their mind. You want to tell them that there’s nothing to read if they are asking such dumb questions, but you just say ‘I think, right now you’re curious about psychology and want to use it to get some unresolved questions answered’, and they gape at you like you pulled a rabbit out of your hat. You shake your head as if you’ve lost all hope and just let it go.

Then, there are some really questionable things within Psychology itself. One example is experimentation on animals, surely, unconditional positive regard just went flying out the window?

Secondly, the almost annoying interference that border on fanatic righteousness of what constitutes in being human. I’ll illustrate with this disorder we studied in Abnormal Psy, called schizotypal personality disorder. A person having it is cold and keeps to himself, but, isn’t antisocial, and does not harm others.If he is happy in being away from human contact, and he isn’t killing people, what the fuzzy flipflop is your problem? It looks to me that YOU are the one who has an OCD of diagnozing and simply can’t leave people alone. And what is the justification? That as a human, emotions are a primary, basic deciding factor, and if a person has an absence of those, why, he has a disorder, of course. Interestingly, homosexuality was a disorder once upon a time too, till they all had an AHA moment, where apparently, who you get coital with doesn’t matter as long as it’s human, consensual and adult. Happy realization!

And then,  there’s the frustration where you know what’s wrong but beyond the explanation, you have little. Like, we know that The Bystander Effect occurs, wherein, during an attack situation, everyone feels someone else will help the victim, but no one does. Now that I know this, maybe i will rush to help, but what of other situations where I’m not? Can you publish about the by-stander effect and make sure that people act in a less awestruck and more pro-active manner? It’s a rosy picture, but I don’t think that will happen.

The frustration isn’t just pertaining to others, but to oneself too. When you catch yourself thinking Dark Broody Thoughts, and the Psy Self tells you that worry is useless and so on, you just want to give the Psy Self a hard kick on its behind. Can’t you even brood in peace, you wonder?

But since I’m in a good mood right now, I’ll end this on a positive note, by saying that Psy has made me wiser, maybe acceptance is something I should learn from somewhere else. Over and out, before the Psy Self takes over and tries to convert me into a Willing Learner or some such crap.

Lost and Confused Signpost

Crockery Conversations – 3. The Finale.

If anyone were to look at the proceedings of the Manor, they’d assume that everything was fine. The lazy, slow ways of life were going on in circular fashion, and the humans were acting their redundant selves. Only, outsiders can’t hear the very alive crockery.
The crockery of the house was in numb shock. They lived each day in doubt, waiting for news. The possibility that perhaps only in this Manor did the crockery talk, and all their kind elsewhere was blatantly and helplessly mute, was something they could not digest.
That is when Alexander, an old english bowl, broke. He had gone fragile as the years passed by. As his body lay there in shards till a human would come see it, he let out a peculiar purple liquid. The rest of the crockery had not noticed anyone’s dying so keenly. Besides, the crockery were very carefully added, and anything hardly ever broke.
It seemed like a safe time to go investigate, with no humans around. Couple of the young, mystery fan jars got down carefully and prodded the pieces around, and tried to find out something about the liquid, that was soon disappearing.
They wondered whether the Manor and its inmates were enchanted, or it was simply old Alexander’s last body fluid‘s that they were handling.
The wise ones decided that the only way to get to the bottom of this was by method of elimination. They concluded that there were two possibilities – either only they could talk, or that other crockery all around the world did talk but maybe in a different language.
They lived in a state of anxiety, wanting to confirm either of the possibilities, when at last, the yearly cleaning days came. All the crockery and other stuff in each room of the manor would be bought down, and cleaned. This was an opportunity to ask the old ones in the far off rooms, if they had any idea of what was the source of their linguistic abilities.
Among the stuff in the attic they found a carved scripture, which was also a show piece. Since it was not part of the crockery, none ever interacted with it. They didn’t even know if it spoke like they did. But now they were desperate and needed information. They prodded the circular, plate-like object. It seemed to be in a deep sleep.
When it was finally roused, he spoke in a deep, wheezing voice, and coughed every few minutes.
He said that he had been made by one of the oldest crockery makers, and that everything was enchanted earlier, not because the makers wanted it to be, but because the pureness of their hearts flowed in to their crafts through their hands. These days, there was mass production by machines, and the maker’s hearts, empty and bothered by the concerns of a plastic life. Thus, the enchantments were fading. The manor at the crockery was lucky, that so many of the enchanted ones were together in the same place. He knew of houses where only one piece of crockery could talk, and no one to understand it. Driven to desperation, the piece of crockery would finally be too lonely, and break itself with an intentional fall.
With a deep sigh he ended his narrative, saying that this was the reason why he preferred to sleep. It took him to better times.