Crazy is the new normal…and other lessons I learned in Psychology

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There are a few memories from university that stand out for me:

  • That time I walked in late to my History of Psychology class and knocked over a girl’s coffee.
  • That night in a mind-numbing Sensation/Perception class where I contemplated switching to Journalism.
  • The Neurobiology quizzes that required us to choose the wrong answerAside from the fact that it forced your brain to think in a counter-intuitive way, ALL the answers seemed wrong – or right.
  • That time my friend and I were practicing for an important presentation on the results of a study we conducted, and she got our names mixed up.

Some of my younger cousins (and random students I meet at the hairdresser) who are now starting their psychology program have asked me for tips on what to expect and how to cope. So here goes:

  • You WILL think that you have at least half a dozen mental disorders you learn about in Abnormal Psych. Here were mine: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Binge Eating Disorder, Dysthymia, and Hypochondriasis. 
  • You WILL start to analyze people and pretend to stroke an invisible beard as you sum up what you think their dream of riding a unicorn through their former high school with their neighbor’s wife means. 
  • You WILL end most sentences with, “And how does that make you feel?” 
  • A cigar won’t be just a cigar anymore, no matter what Freud says. 
  • Reverse psychology doesn’t always work. Remember, kids will take everything you say literally (“Fine. I don’t care if you dump that bowl of Cheerios all over the floor.”) 
  • There is no such thing as “normal.” Most people fall somewhere in the middle on the “abnormal-normal” continuum (for lack of a better word). That means that yes, your family is dysfunctional, and no, probably not more dysfunctional than other people’s families. 
  • When people ask you what you’re studying in university and you tell them it’s psychology, they will have one of two reactions: They’ll either smirk and say something along the lines of, “So does that mean you’re analyzing me right now?” or they’ll suddenly fall silent because they think you can draw out their deep, dark secrets through some form of hypnosis that only psychology students know. 
  • People WILL ask you to analyze them…or their dreams…or their mother….or mother-in-law…or significant other…or boss… 
  • You WILL get asked existential questions from non-psychology people that you won’t be able to answer, but that they will want you to provide a brief, all-encompassing answer for: “Why is there so much evil in the world?” 
  • To Freud, most things you see symbolize either the male genitalia, or sex, or both. 
  • You WILL notice lots of people make Freudian slips, which is actually kind of fun. 
  • You WILL learn a lot about human behavior, which will help you empathize with others.

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Insightfully yours,

Queen D

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