I teach two college classes every semester. My students are typically bright, curious, and motivated. In a weekly assignment associated with the course materials, I have them provide an analysis and critique of the assigned readings. They are brilliant at this. They seem to be well trained, by their home universities, in the criticism and deconstruction of other peoples’ works.
Often times the critiques are the predictable and uninspired: Freud was misogynistic and only relied on case studies. The researchers relied too heavily on college students as subjects. While these appraisals are valid, I worry that modern day students are being taught more about what not to believe than what to believe in. More personally, I have misgivings that I contribute to an academic culture that glorifies tearing down at all costs, with little to no emphasis on creation and inspiration. At the risk of politicizing this blog post, there are some people who will admit that they elected the US president simply because he promised to destroy existing systems. I think this is attitude is corrosive to society.
How does this relate to clinical psychology, you ask? For one, I think that the deconstruction that academics teach, on a micro level, is all too often turned inward on oneself. Other- criticism becomes self-criticism and self-criticism can morph into anxiety and depression. We have become a culture of doubters and naysayers with lessened capacity to dream and believe.
As an example or societal pessimism, we mock parents who teach their children that they are ‘special’ It is not possible for all children to be special, realists and scientists argue. Not everyone deserves a reward for playing soccer. Some of the kids truly were better than others. However, in the context of one’s close relationships, is genuinely not possible to be special, unique and extraordinary? I think so.
Finally, therapeutic psychology is about hope– a term that is exceedingly optimistic. Hope is the belief that things will get better. I believe part of my job is to peddle hope. I have seen people with your particular problem get better. A good amount of research has been done about the contribution of hope to therapy outcomes. Hope has even been implicated by researchers as one of the three factors that make most psychotherapies equally effective.
In sum, I hope we are all special to at least one person in the world, and I hope that we spend equal times standing up for our beliefs, as we do poking holes in other peoples’ beliefs.