Recently, there has been increased attention regarding the awareness and remedying of mental health issues in the field of psychology. While this attention is undeniably positive and productive for our society, it is often forgotten that psychology can function at a more basic level in the life of an individual. Psychology is defined by the American Psychological Association (APA) as being “the science of behavior, cognition, and emotion,” and can thereby serve as a valuable tool for individuals seeking understanding and stability in themselves and their interpersonal relationships.
My interest in psychology began soon after discovering the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in high school, which is a self-administered “personality test” that evaluates the way the individual perceives the world and makes decisions. It then gives that individual a combination of four letters, representative of adjectives, based on their answers (I’m an ENFP, for those who care). The reason I felt so passionately about this assessment is because it—albeit inefficiently—answered a question that I am constantly asking myself, and that I’m sure many of you have asked yourselves as well: How do I understand the actions of myself and others in a given situation?
I would look to the MBTI in times of social confusion, and it would soothe me because it offered me an answer (even if it may have not been the most accurate one).
I mention the origins of my fascination with psychology because I know how frustrating it can be to not understand why someone is acting indifferent towards you, or why you feel anxious each time you visit a professor during office hours. I was wrong to assume that a self-assessment that places individuals into boxes could help me properly understand my perception of and relation to the people who surround me. However, the longing I felt for social clarity—which I assume others have felt as well—still stands, and I believe that I have begun to satisfy it by taking courses in psychology at Kenyon.
Through Kenyon’s psychology department, I have learned about concepts that allow me to designate my intuitive thoughts and feelings, so that when I come to a conclusion I can explain to myself and others how I have done so instead of only being able to muster “because it felt right.” The Social Psychology (PSYC 325.00) class that I am currently taking has taught me about the in-depth machinations of racism and perceived social hierarchy, the various dynamics between siblings (depending on birth order) and how we, as humans, generally perceive the self in a positive manner. I still have much to learn about the field, but I have already noticed a positive impact on the way I view myself and associate myself with others due to what I have learned.
Understanding the actions of myself and others in a social situation cannot be achieved simply by learning more about psychology, but doing so helps me discover which smaller questions I should ask.
Psychology has taught me how to know when something is not my fault (and when it is), how to recognize when I am equipped to help a struggling individual (and when I am not) and how to more positively go about my daily interactions with other people. Psychology has helped me build a life that is better for me and the people I care about, as well as inspired me to constantly strive towards becoming the person I want to be when the time comes for me to graduate, which is really what a liberal arts education is all about.