“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
So the semester is officially over. There will be no more caffeine and will-power fueled discussions when I would sort of rather be snuggled on my sofa watching Grey’s Anatomy. I have no idea where the last three months of my life have gone but I know I learned a lot more and a lot less than I expected. I did not learn the names of more than 3 names in psychology, I did not learn dates and achievements, but I did learn a lot about the world. From within the four walls of LMX219 I have questioned some of my most fundamental assumptions, coming up with a lot more questions than answers, and really only apparently learning that certainty is complete and total bullshit. A thought that should serve me well in life in general.
We’ve tackled some pretty big questions, and as Claude so cogently pointed out – few of us posed questions, most sought answers. For me this only resulted in more questions. But let’s look at the Big Questions Directory:
- What is psychology?
- What is science?
- Is Psychology a science?
- What are the flaws with science?
- Do we ever know anything?
I was going to source back to the answers to these, but I realized that these were evolving answers, like knowledge in general, as time passed I evolved the answers got into finer detail, brought up the things that really bugged me, like emotions, multiple times. You want my answers? My thoughts still in development? Start here.
What’s really funny for me is that from all the talk of magic and thinly veiled, perhaps unknowing references, the most significant and valuable lesson I learned from this course is that life really is Harry Potter.
No seriously, hear me out.
- Science was often discussed as magic, don’t believe me – ask Google.
- Way back, we were told to go home and sit in front of our toilets – why? Because he wanted us to go into the Chamber of Secrets. Or gain access to the Ministry of Magic (I didn’t know the toilets fed into D’Orio and Marion, I thought Marion only had the gateway to the Shire.) Really, which is all a giant metaphor for our access to knowledge and awareness – he wanted us to reveal the dirty, messy truth of life
- There was talk of divination
- Science does a lot of stuff that no one knows how – they just do it.
- The scientists hide away in their secret labs – kind of like Hogwarts no?
- Herbology = botany, potions=chemistry, charms = physics; best of all – History and Systems = Defense Against the Dark Arts, complete with a Claude-Lupin parallel.
- My cross-cultural prof and forensic psych profs both brought up Harry Potter completely unprovoked – cross-cultural pointed out how strange it would be if he walked in in the robes like they wear in Harry Potter.
- There are certain behaviours that are often classed as unforgiveable – just like the unforgiveable curses – for example, we don’t like psychopaths, because they try to control us (ahem, Imperio!) and am I the only one who classed Voldemort as a psychopath?! We’re also not such big fans of murderers or people who knowingly make people suffer pain. When thinking of the big unforgiveables in society, really those are the big universals
Look at the four houses – they are based on core personality traits and diagnostic categories – Slytherin for example are quite obviously the psychopaths, Ravenclaws are extremely smart (IQ), Griffindor are the highly loyal and brave, and then there’s Hufflepuff, which I could probably label too but really function as comic relief, they are the opposite of Ravenclaw
- Notice how Harry’s mother’s love provided a shield against evil, not saying science is evil, just that traditional magic (science) could not account for the old magic (love and emotions) much in the way that I have argued that the area that science cannot explain is love and emotions.
I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.
While I intend to continue on with this exploration and questioning, both from my notes as well as from readings of material that provoke more question, I feel like I should at this point go over some closing thoughts for the course. Because let’s face it, from here I have no idea what I am doing or how I’m going to do it. I am however working on pieces on emotions and on what the brain does, so check back in the coming weeks!
A general discrepancy between what science should be and what it is was present in most of the course, and now that I am reflecting back on the course, that was the ultimate point.
The difference between what is and what should be – the failed expectations.
See science is lovely, in theory, it works out perfectly, it is a very powerful system if it works but the problem is that it essentially relies on assumptions. Like I talked about – it measures a few singularities and then leaps to the general. Which is somewhat logical – the classic “If Socrates is a man and all men are mortal then Socrates is mortal.” But the problem is that we don’t really know anything, we just pretend to.
Then life gets in an muddles everything.
Science tries to eliminate emotions, to eliminate humanity to a degree because it mutates what is potentially an all powerful system into a believable, but vulnerable, system – it creates flaws that dent its utility. Just like us. What surprises me is how science tries to deny its flaws. It expects to be rational, it labels emotions, the essence of humanity, as irrational or problematic for some other reason. Essentially, it seems to me that scientists attempt to pathologize humanity in an attempt to deify itself – to perfect our exploration and development of knowledge. Accepting that we cannot be completely unbiased, that emotions colour everything (perhaps the source of the colour associations with emotions? Just a thought), then you have to accept that our expectations are baseless and we are helpless to find reality and truth.
But see the thing is that just because we might be wrong, doesn’t mean we cannot be right. It just means that you should not be too convinced that you have found a truth unless you are prepared that you may have found nothing more than a stepping stone, a false truth.
We become frustrated in life when what we expected to happen fails. We want to believe we are as powerful as our thoughts. We come equipped with all this big beautiful brain power, we have the capacity to understand limitless possibilities, imagine things that don’t exist yet. But I was watching Grey’s Anatomy last night and an interesting thought came up
“We’ll try again, and we’ll going to fail again, because that’s what progress looks like.”
“Progress looks like a dead sheep?”
“No, progress looks like a bunch of failures.”
Word. Thanks Grey’s. And my parents told me TV rots your brain. Pft.
This course has allowed me to question everything I know, even the things I didn’t know I didn’t know. This has not weakened my faith in psychology, one course could not do that. It has given me an appreciation for the issues and complexities and has taught me that this is the tragedy of human life. We come equipped with the power to learn anything, but we are limited by time, our existing knowledge, and the currently available explanations.
We talked about science versus art versus … something else? And I realized that science, because it believes in its methods, when it fails blames the technology, when it can’t find an answer it’s because the technology, the tools, have not developed enough to meet the ideas of the scientist’s mind. Art doesn’t really fail per say, except perhaps in trying to convey the message, except, art is almost more about what you do see than what you were supposed to see. Art does not have an expectations necessarily, it is developed over time, and what comes out of it, appreciated by the artist, if they really hate it, it’s their fault, or maybe just a lack of inspiration, a lack of a light inside themselves. Then there’s the grey areas like psychology. I hate to call it an art, because I think in society’s mind that makes it less legitimate, but it’s not always as cold and methodical as science, it requires more intuition and humanity than that. See when science fails it blames the technology, but if psychology does the same – it blames the technology, for me that says that all humanity is the same. It denies that it failed not because the technology doesn’t exist but because the same patterns cannot be found because humanity is not a set of carbon atoms (well we are. But not really. At least for me. I am sure the Brain Campers would have something to say about this) – so we’re not going to be identical, patterns are going to be harder to find, expectations more frequently denied. End game? Psychology is a science in it’s methods, but an art in its conclusions and applications.
In understanding expectations versus reality I realized how this explains everything.
Depression becomes a realization that our expectations and reality don’t match.
Schizophrenia, a refusal to accept this.
Anxiety, a fear that because of this we are not the foolproof dieties we want to be. A realization that our brain allows us to imagine beyond our lifetime, but that we have a lifetime.
Science, an attempt to deny this, by rigidly controlling how we make expectations.
Art, the realization and expression of this beauty and pain through some medium – baring our humanity to the world.
Psychology an attempt to figure out what this expectation-reality discrepancy means to us, and attempt to accept it and bring peace to our existence.
We can’t be perfect. Life isn’t perfect. Sometimes things go horribly and painfully wrong. And there is nothing we can do about it. The problem of science is the same problem humanity has faced for years – the problem that we are stuck in this loop of thinking we know and then realizing that we don’t. This is life and the course and this is my realization of the course. The last AHA! Moment of the semester!
I’ve still got a fair amount of material I’m working on, but I’d love to hear from you. Send me your suggestions, let me know what you think.
“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”