The Psych Files #2- On Whether or Not I Analyze People

Every psych student hears “are you analyzing me?” about a hundred times on a slow day. When I was first starting out, and even up until semi-recently, I saw it as pretty cool that people thought I could gather so much from very little interaction. However, as of late, I’ve noticed it doesn’t do much good for my social relationships at all.

It seems like every time I’m not perfectly pleased with something someone says to me, my rebuttal is dismissed as an “analysis.” My dad did it to me the other day- he said something disrespectful, I called him out on it, and he said he didn’t need my “psychoanalysis.” Even if I haven’t said anything, people sometimes get uncomfortable around me because they think I can see into their soul or something. As it turns out, when they ask if I’m “analyzing them,” they’re not potentially impressed by my skills- they’re just worried that I’m judging them.

Here’s the cold, hard truth: Sometimes, I honestly am using some of my therapy skills in order to have better social interactions. Some things that I’ve learned in my classes are really useful when it comes to generally making people feel heard or understood. However, I am very rarely using any of my skills to tease apart your words and learn your weaknesses so I can exploit them. Mostly because thEY DON’T TEACH US THAT.

Allow me to repeat:

THAT’S NOT A THING.

In all reality, this problem is bigger-picture. It’s not about me reassuring acquaintances that I’m not judging them from up on some high horse of emotional stability. I for sure don’t have one of those. It’s a matter of people generally thinking that therapists have magic powers. In my experience, many who don’t have a psych background believe that we are supposed to be able to pull your deep-seated problems out of our asses after a conversation or two and turn them into insight and wisdom which will solve everything. This is not the case. You are the expert on your own life, and we can only work with what we are given.

This fundamental mistake is what causes the misconception that therapy doesn’t work. Taking the step to actually get to a therapist’s office is a major, often difficult step, so once people do it, they’d like to think the hard part is over. That’s very understandable, but unfortunately not the case. The hard part is making the lifestyle changes that are necessary in order to see changes in the issues that you went in for. Going to therapy, sharing your stories and feelings, making the insights– those are all important and often very hard to do, but in order to see real change in how you feel, you must make the changes in your life, and there’s no way around that.

Well, there is one, and that’s medication. The reason that meds are so popular is because they help you skip the hardest step. However, we all know the most common problem with depression and anxiety pills- they make you foggy. An even more troubling perspective is that we can’t very clearly know the long term effects of medication on people because most of them haven’t been around long enough for us to do long-term studies and make sure we’re correct in saying they’re safe. For some 30+ years, people thought lobotomies were a safe way to combat mental illness, but eventually we learned that sticking ice picks into people’s eyes was actually pretty traumatizing and unhelpful. Who’s to say that in 30 more years, anti-psychotic medications won’t sound just as silly?

In the end, what I’m saying is that psychologists do not have magical healing powers, and if you want the closest thing they’ve got, you might have to suffer some consequences. All magic comes with a price, as Rumpelstiltskin would say. Also, you can rest assured that when you’re talking to a therapist or a psych student, they are not judging you any more harshly than anyone else. Sadly, the truth is that if you’re worried something you’re saying warrants harsh judgment, take a look at yourself before you blame the psychologist in the room.

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