psychology notes.

This site was originally created in 2009 as a virtual repository for all of the various psychology and therapy-related things (quotes, articles, videos, music, pictures) I came across both online and in my work as a psychotherapist. It has morphed into something slightly different in the past four years, and is now perhaps slightly more outward facing, but is still at heart a place for me to collect and share things related to the life of the mind.

Disclaimer: Posting something to this site does not mean that I necessarily agree with or endorse the opinions being expressed therein. All text on this site is informational and for educational purposes only. This site is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental health or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified mental health provider with any questions regarding a medical condition or mental health issue. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this site.

And please, be kind to one another.

One of the most profound and universal realizations of later childhood, a realization that probably is never totally integrated, is the discovery that one’s parents are not necessarily representative of the human species, that one has grown up in an idiosyncratically structured family with its own peculiarities and dramas.
Stephen A. Mitchell, Relational Concepts in Psychoanalysis

"If you have a conversation with Ellie, her creators say, she will be able to suss out symptoms of anxiety, depression, and—of particular interest to DARPA—PTSD. The avatar can also, they say, help to prepare soldiers before they’ve gone to the battlefield. ”You want to train people on non-verbal behaviors,” Morency puts it; so, for example, soldiers can be attuned to subtle facial cues from people they might encounter in a theater of war. 

Morency and his team have been demonstrating Ellie and her fellow virtual-psychologists in Los Angeles, to people curious about what it’s like to be analyzed by an avatar. So far, more than 500 people have talked to her. And—here’s the surprising thing—they seem to enjoy the experience. The set time for each demo was initially 15 minutes; Morency says people kept extending their time with Ellie, however—up to 30 minutes. That’s because, Morency figures, “they don’t feel judged” by her.

And that’s in turn because, as he puts it:

"Ellie is an interviewer, but she is there as a computer. She doesn’t have judgment directly. So people love talking to her…. they’re more themselves. They’re really expressing and showing something that usually if you know that people are around you—or as an interviewer—they think, ‘Oh, I’m going to be careful.’ But with Ellie, they’re more themselves."

Morency compares the appeal, actually, to that of pets. “People, after talking to Ellie, they feel better,” he points out. “Some people talk to their dogs; even though the dogs don’t understand it… I think there’s a little bit of that effect—just talking with someone makes you feel better.” 

Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
Helen Keller

"Reading a lot about the science of human behavior can make you cynical, sometimes deservedly so, but cynical nonetheless…The world is not always fair. The bad are not always punished and the good do not always prevail.

But there are plenty of reasons, scientifically tested, to have hope and be positive about the future…”

Both hope and despair are self-fulfilling prophecies.


Here’s How Technology Is Ruining Your Sleep

Business Insider | April 2014 

RSA Shorts: Dr Brené Brown, “The Power of Empathy”

The audio of this RSA short is of Dr Brené Brown who spoke at the RSA on The Power of Vulnerability. She talks about the difference between sympathy and empathy and argues that to be truly empathetic you have to be vulnerable by connecting with someone’s pain in yourself.

Animated and directed by Katy Davis.

139 plays
I Feel Your Pain: All About Empathy (The Leonard Lopate Show, 4/18/14)

Psychologist Paul Bloom and Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams, explain empathy’s role in human psychology, behavior, and relationships—and they look at some of the downsides of empathy.

"On a cold winter’s day, a group of porcupines huddled together to stay warm and keep from freezing. But soon they felt one another’s quills and moved apart. When the need for warmth brought them closer together again, their quills again forced them apart. They were driven back and forth at the mercy of their discomforts until they found the distance from one another that provided both a maximum of warmth and a minimum of pain. In human beings, the emptiness and monotony of the isolated self produces a need for society. This brings people together, but their many offensive qualities and intolerable faults drive them apart again. The optimum distance that they finally find that permits them to coexist is embodied in politeness and good manners. Because of this distance between us, we can only partially satisfy our need for warmth, but at the same time, we are spared the stab of one another’s quills.”

Arthur Schopenhauer

(See also: Elizabeth Gilbert on Schopenhauer’s dilemma and “having that critical little space, in which to be a little bit self-contained—to create your own warmth, your own sense of your own humanity—so that you could be close without being stabbed. The path to that is as close a secret to happiness as anything I’ve ever learned.”)