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Mental Health

The understanding of self and ego may help you transcend personal cares and embark upon the hero's journey. Learn via selected videos encapsulating a wealth of human experience.

Psychotherapy

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how people relate to one another and to their environments. Beyond this, psychologists seek to understand and explain thoughts, emotions, feelings, and behavior. Psychologists often gather information and evaluate behavior through controlled laboratory experiments, psychoanalysis, or psychotherapy. They also may administer personality, performance, aptitude, or intelligence tests.

Seeking out patterns of behavior, or relationships between events, professional psychologists may utilize this information when testing theories in their research or when treating patients. Alternatively, social work programs help families change by emphasizing their concern, care and interest. Family Therapy is a form of psychotherapy where clients can work with one or more counselors. This method is a popular format for support groups, where family members can learn from each other. By comparison, Jungian therapy focuses on the collective unconscious, dream archetypes, and symbolic representation.

The Id, Ego, and Super Ego

The unconscious id contains our most primitive drives or urges, and is present from birth. It directs impulses for hunger, thirst, and sex. Freud believed that the id operates on what he called the 'pleasure principle,' in which the id seeks immediate gratification. Through social interactions with parents and others in a child’s environment, the ego and super-ego develop to help control the id. The super-ego develops as a child interacts with others, learning the social rules for right and wrong. It strives for perfection and judges our behavior, leading to feelings of pride or feelings of guilt. In contrast to the instinctual id and the rule-based super-ego, the ego is the rational part of our personality. It’s what Freud considered to be the self, and it is the part of our personality that is seen by others. Its job is to balance the demands of the id and superego in the context of reality; thus, it operates on what Freud called the 'reality principle.'

The id and superego are in constant conflict, because the id wants instant gratification regardless of the consequences, but the super-ego tells us that we must behave in socially acceptable ways. Thus, the ego’s job is to find the middle ground. It helps satisfy the id’s desires in a rational way that will not lead us to feelings of guilt. According to Freud, a person who has a strong ego, which can balance the demands of the id and the superego, has a healthy personality. Freud maintained that imbalances in the system can lead to neurosis, anxiety disorders, or unhealthy behaviors.

For example, a person who is dominated by their id might be narcissistic and impulsive. A person with a dominant super-ego might be controlled by feelings of guilt and deny themselves pleasures; conversely, if the superego is weak or absent, a person might become a psychopath. An overly dominant super-ego might be seen in an over-controlled individual whose rational grasp on reality is so strong that they are unaware of their emotional needs, or, in a neurotic who is overly defensive. Freud believed that feelings of anxiety result from the ego’s inability to mediate the conflict between the id and superego. When this happens, Freud believed that the ego seeks to restore balance through various protective measures known as defense mechanisms.

Personality Coping Strategies

Defense mechanisms are unconscious protective behaviors that work to reduce anxiety. There are several different types of defense mechanisms. For instance, in repression, anxiety-causing memories from consciousness are blocked. As an analogy, let’s say your car is making a strange noise, but because you do not have the money to get it fixed, you just turn up the radio so that you no longer hear the strange noise. Eventually you forget about it. Similarly, in the human psyche, if a memory is too overwhelming to deal with, it might be repressed and thus removed from conscious awareness. This repressed memory might cause symptoms in other areas.

Another defense mechanism is reaction formation, in which someone expresses feelings, thoughts, and behaviors opposite to their inclinations. In regression, an individual acts much younger than their age. For example, a four-year-old child who resents the arrival of a newborn sibling may act like a baby and revert to drinking out of a bottle. In projection, a person refuses to acknowledge her own unconscious feelings and instead sees those feelings in someone else. Other defense mechanisms include rationalization, displacement, and sublimation.

Psychological Counseling

Brief Therapy places emphasis on a specific problem and direct intervention. In brief therapy as outlined by Milton Erickson, the therapist treats clinical and subjective conditions faster by precise observation, and temporary suspension of disbelief in the patient to consider new perspectives. Rather than a prolonged analysis of historical causes, the primary approach of brief therapy is to help the client to view the present from a more holistic context and to utilize more functional understandings, not necessarily at a conscious level. By becoming more versatile in the present, successful clients will undergo spontaneous changes. Brief therapy is highly strategic, exploratory, and solution-based rather than problem-oriented.

Behavioral Therapy focuses on learning's role in developing both normal and abnormal behaviors. Ivan Pavlov made important contributions to behavior therapy by discovering classical conditioning, or associative learning. Desensitizing is classical conditioning in action. A therapist might help a client with a phobia through repeated exposure to whatever it is that causes anxiety. Operant conditioning relies on rewards and punishments to shape people's behavior.

Humanistic Therapy emphasizes people's capacity to make rational choices and develop to their maximum potential. Concern and respect for others are also important themes. Client-centered therapy rejects the idea of therapists as authorities on their clients' inner experiences. Instead, therapists help clients change by emphasizing their concern, care and interest. Gestalt therapy emphasizes what it calls "organismic holism," the importance of being aware of the here and now and accepting responsibility for yourself. Existential therapy focuses on free will, self-determination and the search for meaning.

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Anger Management

If you find yourself getting into frequent arguments over nothing, you may need to work on your anger-management skills. Big fights often happen over something small, like dishes left unwashed, piling up in the sink, but there's usually a bigger issue burning beneath the blow-up. Before your emotions take control, ask yourself, "What am I really angry about?" Identifying the real source of frustration will help you communicate your feelings, and work towards a resolution. Once you're able to recognize early warning signs, and anticipate your trigger-points, you can take action. First of all, take a deep breath, and better still, take several more deep breaths. Deep, slow breathing helps counter rising tension levels. Slowly count to ten. Then take a final deep breath again, before going back to your argument with a calmer mind.

It's okay to be upset at someone, but if you don't fight fair, the relationship will quickly break down. Make the relationship your priority, not winning the argument. Be respectful of your partner's viewpoint. Rather than looking to the past and assigning blame, focus on what you can do in the present to solve the problem. Conflicts can be draining, so consider whether the issue is really worth all that time and energy you're putting in. Be willing to forgive, and realize that resolving conflict is pretty much impossible if you're simply unwilling or unable to forgive. If that's the case, know when to let something go, and agree to disagree. It takes two people to keep an argument going, and while you can't control anger directly, you sure can control how you respond to it. Set clear boundaries about what you will and will not tolerate, and stick to your limits.

Signs of Depression

clinical psychologyGet up off the couch or your bed, and get outdoors. I don't want to hear excuses, just follow the instructions. Fresh air and exercise can't be discounted. Depression varies from person to person, but there are some common signs and symptoms. It's important to remember that these symptoms can be part of life's normal lows. But the more symptoms you have, the stronger they are, and the longer they've lasted, the more likely it is that you're dealing with depression. Rates of depression in women are twice as high as they are in men. As for signs and symptoms, women are more likely than men to experience pronounced feelings of guilt, sleep excessively, overeat, and gain weight.

Get plenty of sleep. Lack of sleep has been shown to have a direct link to hunger, overeating, and weight gain. Exhaustion also impairs your judgment, which can lead to poor food choices. Aim for around 8 hours of quality sleep a night. Get plenty of exercise. Exercise is a dieter's best friend. It not only burns calories, but can actually improve your resting metabolism. No time for a long workout? Research shows that three 10-minute spurts of exercise per day are just as good as one 30-minute workout. Drink more water. You can easily reduce your daily calorie intake by replacing soda, alcohol, or coffee with water. Thirst can also be confused with hunger, so by drinking water, you may avoid consuming extra calories, plus it will help you break down food more easily.

The Hero's Journey, Path of Enlightenment.

Given available energy, and the sight to recognize that some paths have more merit or application than others, just choosing the hero's journey is rare. More often are people saddled with inferior awareness, leading only to seek material comforts, well beyond that level actually required for support, thus wasting the scant time available in a body. Somehow, you can't speak the truth directly, neither will they hear, nor understand, for having looked upon the face of God, they would die. Thus, resorting to allegory and myth, the speaker gently loosens their bindings.

Mystics may use information drawn from the Tree of Life, which depicts interactive elements of the psyche as well as the archetypal forces of the universe. This is a 'ladder of consciousness,' which each aspirant may climb toward higher mystical states. The physical basis of experience is symbolized by the bottom of the ladder, and has to do with safety and sensory impressions. From there, we move into the realm of feelings, intuition, and ideas, ultimately progressing to states of deep meditation or semiconscious day-dreaming. The goal is to contact the 'still, small voice within,' as it has been reported in many spiritual texts that 'no man shall look directly upon the face of the Lord and yet remain alive.'


Ego Development & Trance States

Let's not get so involved with the world of sensual perception, materialism and making money, as to forget our search for meaning, creativity and love. First as children, and then later on again as parents, we have a busy schedule. There's not much spare time in a day to work on your inner self or search for meaning, after you throw in 8 - 10 hours of work, commuting, and just collapsing in front of the TV at night to unwind.

Writing in the field of human potential, John Gowan's major works are Trance, Art, and Creativity (1975), and Operations of Increasing Order (1980). Gowan's work led him to the notion of a developmental order within states of consciousness. Disruption of this order can lead to mental illness or lesser cases of emotional inhibition. Gowan used Piaget to define the rational development of the mind, and Erikson to chart emotional development. He notes that most adults become emotionally arrested at the level of vocational fulfillment, financial success, and a stable marriage.

Self-initiation through the inner guide may lead to conscious and unconscious integration. The person learns how to handle issues of identity, love and intimacy, and finally death. However, pushing on our boundaries, we run the risk of losing our sense of identity. This is why true creativity is always associated with the genuine danger of self-destruction. By closing the gap between unconscious emotions and rational understanding of behavioral patterns, psychotherapy may facilitate healing of mental and emotional disturbances. This is 'The Hero's Journey' into conscious transformation, the age-old spiritual quest.

This is a symbolic journey from the ordinary sensory consciousness of physical life toward the psychic capacities encountered in the trance state. A type of trance is achieved in therapy, and native rituals, by interrupting ordinary awareness and creating a discontinuity, wherein the ego is temporarily overwhelmed or simply ignored. Prayer and near-death experiences may help to point the way, but it is up to the individual to tread the path. One harvests not only a knowledge of Self, but also first-hand experience in the imaginary realms, the vision of the soul if you will. We can finally put it all together as an integrated, whole person, enjoying new insights, personal freedom, and enhanced creativity.

Romantic Love & Relationships

Men in love show more activity in the visual part of the brain, while women in love show more activity in the part of the brain that governs memory. Biological scientists speculate that men have to size up a woman visually to see how well she may bear babies, while women have to observe and remember aspects of man's behavior to determine if he would be an adequate provider. Men and women are biologically wired to express love in different ways. Women often feel loved when talking face to face with their partner, while men often feel closer to their partners when they work, play, or talk side by side. In an experiment, strangers of the opposite sex were together for 90 minutes where they talked about intimate details of their lives, and stared into each other's eyes. Many felt a deep attraction for each other, and two couples married within six months. The longer and more deliberate a courtship, the better the prospects for a long marriage. On the other hand, people who have intense romances are more likely to divorce after a few years.

Romantic love typically lasts just over one calendar year, perhaps because the brain cannot maintain a state of romantic bliss. As romantic love dwindles, a more stable love sets in. To remain in love for a lifetime, therapists advise couples to listen actively, ask questions about feelings, and stay physically fit. Men are more likely to be flexible in their romantic choices, but when they want to marry and have kids, they become pickier about basic qualities.

If a man meets a woman in a dangerous situation, such as on a trembling bridge, he is more likely to fall in love with her than if he met her in a normal setting, such as in an office. Girls are more likely to fall in love if they are looking for adventure, craving to leave home, are lonely, displaced in a foreign country, or passing into a new stage of life. Women around the world are more likely to fall in love with partners with ambition, education, wealth, respect, status, and a sense of humor. Women also prefer distinctive cheekbones and a strong jawbone, which are linked to testosterone levels.

Psychology Reading List

You can buy most of these books at your local used bookstore, or on Alibris or Amazon online. Learning the material may enrich your personality, as well as broaden your ability to judge character in others.

Robert Cialdini Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Milton Erickson My Voice Will Go With You by Sidney Rosen

Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence at Work

Carl Jung Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious

Gail Sheehy Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life

Anthony Robbins Awaken The Giant Within

Dale Carnegie How to Win Friends and Influence People

GI Gurdjieff Meetings With Remarkable Men

Aldous Huxley The Doors of Perception

J Krishnamurti Think On These Things (1964)

Daniel C Matt The Essential Kabbalah

Idries Shah The Way of the Sufi

Shunryu Suzuki Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

Teresa of Avila Interior Castle

Joseph Campbell The Power of Myth

Carol Pearson The Hero Within


Jobs in Psychology

Individuals with a bachelor's degree in psychology can find career opportunities working in the social services sector, or in private practice as a therapist. Many psychology graduates find work in the field of mental health. Careers in this area include psychiatric technicians, and mental health technicians. In most cases, these individuals work directly under the supervision of a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist.


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