Building Awareness of Self-Awareness

Full Sword in scabbard

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I spoke in my last post about comfort zones, strengths, and growth from within areas that we are already relatively comfortable.  It was a pretty straightforward account of how knowing what are strengths are can help us to build on and expand those strengths into new areas.  The problem, of course, is that this viewpoint presupposes that you actually do know what your strengths are.


There are a few issues worth considering here.  I suppose the first would be a consideration of what a strength actually is.  Some people would distinguish between a strength and a personality characteristic, for example.  In such a scenario, the former may be something more of a skill that can in some quasi-quantifiable way be improved over time (i.e. writing, planning, organizing), while the latter might be more of a stable, enduring quality or trait that is in some sense automatic (i.e. charisma, quick thinking, adaptability). Continue reading

Ask Your Riding’s Candidates About Psychological Services


We’ve got an election coming up here in Canada, and the fine folks at the Canadian Psychological Association have put together a website on advocating for psychology during the campaigning.  Check it out!

They have a section on the site that lists questions you could ask the candidates in your riding about psychological services.  I’ve borrowed and listed them below:

  1. Does your party platform contain anything related to the psychological health of Canadians?
  2. Do you support parity between resources made available for treatment of psychological and physical health problems?
  3. Do you support the specific inclusion of initiatives related to psychological health and addictions for 2014 when the federal-provincial health accord comes up for renewal?
  4. What will your party do to improve access to psychological services in Canada and in this riding, particularly for middle and low income Canadians?  Less than one-third of persons with mental health problems receive needed services. Psychologists are the country’s largest, regulated group of health professionals who specialize in mental health. With cuts to the budgets to publicly funded service in hospitals and schools, psychologists increasingly work in private practice. Though psychologists in private practice are successfully self-employed, their services are not accessible to many Canadians who need them. They are not accessible because too many Canadians do not have the financial means or extended health insurance to pay for them.
  5. There are significant recruitment and retention issues in government and other sectors when it comes to psychologists (e.g. Department of National Defense, Veterans Affairs, Correctional Services Canada). What will your party do to ensure an adequate supply of Canada’s mental health human resource meets the needs of Canadian who fall under the Federal Governments constitutional authority?
  6. What will your party do to support individuals, families, the workplace and communities when it comes to psychological health and disorders?

Not sure who the candidates in your riding are?  Find out at the Elections Canada website.

Weighting on the World to Change

What’s the point? Seriously, if no one is going to read this… okay, if 3 people are going to read this then why bother? Do I really care about having the teeniest, tiniest impact on 3 people? And to bother taking time out of my oh-so-busy schedule to sit down, think up a brilliant idea for this space, set aside those precious hours it takes to finely craft a piece of literature that will, in essence do nothing to forward the development of human kind? I mean seriously, what do I hope to gain out of doing this?

Wow, that’s a big statement – forward the development of human kind. To be perfectly honest, can anything really forwardly develop that? Did computers? Now, instead of writing a letter or calling someone to hear their voice, we send off a quick “hey, thought you might like this” email with a link on it. Or if we’re really lucky, we get an e-card (remember those? I think I got 3 of them). We don’t have to leave our seats to get cutting edge entertainment or education that was once limited to those only capable of travel.  So has the computer furthered our development as a species? People are still Nazi’s – and I’m not just singling out Nazi’s because I’m Jewish – but knowing more about their neighbour hasn’t really helped them change or develop.

That’s pretty much the largest impact anything’s had on my generation.  If the computer couldn’t do it, how am I supposed to? Continue reading

The Measure of a Man

Iwan Pietrowicz Pawlow's bust in front of Mosc...

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I am sitting in a class called behavioural assessment. The professor expounds. They want me to believe that I am the sum of the vectors around me. They want me to believe that I am the result of conditions, conditioning. They want me to be my behavior, and nothing more. This to me, is an unacceptable condition. We are not just Pavlovian dogs that drool at meat, we are more than just apes with a big craniums. I sense that at the root of it lies the struggle for culture, for something deeper.

We struggle to deal with the responsibility of developing our talents. Believing that we have it, because others won’t until you do. Getting past the point where you feel like it’s a car that sometimes won’t start. Trying to accept the fear that comes with setting goals. Trying to struggle to deal with limitations, to deal with the patience that it takes to sculpt the rawness of intent into form and substance. To wake up from your dreams and try to make them real, and not to feel them slip through your fingers. To give birth to your potential, to nurture it and feed it. To cut your fingernails and take out the trash in between it all. To get off the couch of your own mind and put paper to pen, either literally, metaphorically. To understand what the meta is for. Continue reading

Changing menus: Getting your drink on

As a psychologist in training, I have the unique pleasure of trying to figure out, on a regular basis, exactly what I do for a living.  When I stopped to really think about it, I think it isn’t quite entirely my fault that I still don’t know.

No, seriously. Stop laughing.

The best reason I have for blaming someone else for my sustained confusion is that the questions that psychology asks are so profound, so broad, that it would be like identifying as a ‘democrat’ or a ‘republican’. Everyone understand it’s just a bit more complicated than that, but uses those terms out of convenience.

A more developed reason is that, rapidly approaching, if not already in effect, is an era in which the question “what kind of psychologist are you”, is pretty much as natural as “what type of medical doctor are you?” I’m sure that back in the day, a doctor was the man that took care of your illness, whatever it was, and really did the best he could with the leeches and the damp towel cloth, or whatever level of understanding and technology he had. But, as time progressed, and the wealth and technology available increased, we got to a point where we have pediatricians, anesthesiologists, neurologists and dermatologists.

And when I thought more about why I didn’t know exactly what the hell I did for a living, something else occurred to me.

‘Psychology’ is dead. Now before you get upset or accuse me of being sensationalist, just gimme  a minute to ‘splain.

Originally conceived as a branch within philosophy, as the study of the mind, ‘psychology’ come so far, and gone in so many directions, that any attempt to define it is doomed to failure. Anyone that’s suffered through an introductory psychology course knows this well. It’s like the blind men who try to describe the elephant as they use their hands to feel the part closest to them. To one, it’s a like wall, to another, like a pillar, and to another still, like a rope.

Back in the day, when there was just one giant land mass, things were simpler. But as we all know, over time, things broke off,
separated and developed their own unique climates, plants and animals. Hawaii lucked out, and Greenland just had to deal with it.

The tricksy (yes, it is a word because I want to use it as one, like psychology) part of it is, time, in a rate of movement sense of the word, is speeding up. One of the key reasons for this is rapidly enhanced communication methods like the internet. Another is the fact that we can use tools which help us make better tools, which speeds up the movement of those giant moving plates that we give different names and borders to as time passes and wars are won and lost. We do to knowledge what we do to land. We fight over it, but in different ways.

With knowledge, as with tectonic plates, there’s a lot of pressure that’s been building, in different places, in different issues, as a result of this speeding up of time. And as always when plates and worlds collide, there’s a lot of damage, but in the end, what emerges is a new vista, a place of elevated height where we can see further than we’ve ever before. If we’re lucky, maybe, just maybe, we can catch that it’s not flat, but it curves, ever so slightly. Instead of on the shoulders of giants, we find ourselves on the edges of plates, and by extension, paradigms.

So, if all this take of the ground moving gives you motion sickness, don’t stress. This is good news. I promise, and everything.

In a concrete way, this means that we can carve out a critical role in preventative care as people that teach others how to take care of their bodies, and the behavior that’s so intimately connected with them. It means that we can more deeply understand and explain to others how thoughts are wrapped in language, and fired through cannons of genetics set off by environmental fuses.  It means that with positive psychology we can measure the upper limits of human mind and spirit, and train people how to reach them before we send them out to face the challenges on behalf of others.

I live in Florida at the moment, and I see the flux, I sense the sublimated chaos oozing from everywhere around me.  Even people in my own building are foreclosing on a regular basis. Chaos is a part of growth, and true change means destruction before reconstruction, and dissolution before recrystalization.

It’s been said that the best way to predict the future is to write it. As a field of thought in flux, fledgling, the synthesis of so many other things synthesized before it, a great many things are now possible. Millennia old thoughts like mindfulness are being recast as therapies that help those previously thought to be forever on the cusp of self-harm. Enigmas are giving way to sharper ways of expressing truths that were always known, but never fully articulated.

Old wine in new bottles? Maybe.
Old wine in red bull? Intense! (see health psychologist)
Open bar? Sweet.

I’m not saying it will be easy, but it is being done, and will continue to be done, with or without your two cents.

Terrifying? Possibly. Exciting? Most definitely. Your choice? Always.