10 popular thoughts that I disagree with
As a clinical psychologist --these are some of my favorite popular ideas to which I respond: WRONG WRONG WRONG
Dr. Lynn E. O'Connor
1. Traumatic Memories
"Traumatic memories" are held in the muscles. WRONG.
Traumatic memories --like other memories-- are stored in multiple connected brain structures. The hippocampus (and in the case of traumatic memories, the amygdala) is a particularly important structure in the brain for storing memories. Memories are not static --they change each time we remember something.
2. Recovery from Trauma
To recover from trauma, it is good to reimagine the trauma as if you were there, including remembering and reliving the emotions you felt. WRONG.
This is potentially harmful. Better to remember the experience "like a fly on the wall," allowing yourself to be somewhat emotionally distant.
3. Nature of the Unconscious
The unconscious mind is fundamentally self-centered and anti-social. WRONG.
In fact, the unconscious mind is fundamentally prosocial and altruistic in nature. While we may think —on the level of the conscious mind— we're "bad" or "selfish" or "greedy," —as highly social mammals living in relatively large groups, it is far more adaptive to be unconsciously other-focused or prosocial and altruistic. This allows us to work, play, love, and parent cooperatively.
4. Sexism (in math and science)
Women are not as good as men in mathematics and science. WRONG
Women are just as good as men in math and science. The belief that women are inferior in these areas is a false stereotype. However knowing that many people believe this tends to make women freeze up when asked something related to these areas and consequently, they may not perform as well as they could if there were no cues in the environment, bringing the stereotype to mind. When women underperform in math and/or science, it often is due to "stereotype threat."
5. Traumatic Memories
People tend to repress traumatic memories. WRONG.
In fact, the problem is that people have difficulty forgetting (or not thinking about) memories related to a traumatic experience. They may be unable to remember small details from the experience.
6. Psychotherapists should be neutral.
Psychotherapists should be neutral when interacting with their clients. WRONG.
Psychotherapists who act as if they are —for the most part— neutral in interacting with a client are unlikely to form a good "therapeutic alliance" with the client. I don't want them to be neutral about almost anything when I pour my heart out to someone. I want them to be unequivocally "for me" not "neutral towards me."
7. Both-Side-ism (Or "What about-ism")
The extreme Republicans may do a few things wrong, but what about the terrible things the "other side," i.e., the Democrats, have done? WRONG.
The Maga Republicans (or extreme right Republicans) have been inciting divisions between people, taking away women's and other groups' constitutional rights, promoting a culture of lying, and committing inexcusable crimes. There is nothing the Democrats have done that comes close to the chaos we're seeing promoted by the extreme Republicans;
8. Etiology of Mental Illness
Mental illness is caused by childhood trauma. WRONG
In fact, severe mental illness is caused by a constellation of factors, of which childhood trauma may —in some cases— play, at best, a minor role. A severe mental illness is derived from biological, social, and sometimes psychological factors. For starters, biological factors lie behind most serious mental illnesses. These include genetics —the genes from both mother and father pave the ground for the development of mental illness, making the offspring vulnerable to future illness. Epigenetics —concrete things in the prenatal and post-natal environment that affect the functioning of the genetic material a child inherits. Then, environmental factors such as poor quality air or water may affect the developing child. For example, water polluted with high levels of neurotoxins, minerals, or metals such as lead and other harmful complex chemicals may disrupt the child's development. Elevated lead levels in the environment may lead to high lead levels in the child's blood, negatively and significantly affecting a child's IQ, and increasing vulnerability to ADHD.
We must add to this picture the role of infectious agents, viruses, bacterial and fungal infections. While we are just beginning to learn about the impact of infectious agents, we know they play a role in Obsessive-compulsive disorder in children, for example. The sudden onset of OCD is often the aftereffect of strep infections. Apparently, streptococcus leaves a toxin that may —in a genetically vulnerable child— harm the brain and lead to OCD>
Socioeconomic factors also play an important role in the development of serious mental disorders. People lower in socioeconomic status are more likely to live in communities in greater proximity to polluted ground, air, and water. Lower SES families, unable to pay for higher-quality medical care, may inadvertently be adding to a child's vulnerability to mental illnesses. Lower SES families may also be unable to provide high-quality nutrition to their growing children.
Psychological events in childhood may contribute to this picture, but without the basic biological factors complicated by the effects of low socioeconomic status, "traumatic" events in childhood would be unlikely to lead to serious mental illnesses.
9. Most older people lose brain-power
It's widely believed that people 70 and older have slower, more limited mental capacities. Furthermore, it's assumed the elderly are no longer ambitious. WRONG
While some percent of the elderly may lose some ability in memory function, many do not. In addition, many remain highly creative as well as ambitious.
Ambitions may change as a reflection of what is possible given physical limitations. However, this is no different than the way ambition reflects what is possible at any age.
For example, a slightly chubby young woman who loves dancing is unlikely to have the ambition to be a gymnast. Graceful, however, she may be quite ambitious as a Zumba dancer and she works hard at it. At age 20, she was overjoyed when she was invited to teach a Zumba class at a local gym.
A 90-year-old man had moved into a small modern condo after his wife of many years passed away. A passionate gardener, when he sold his house and moved into the condo, he was thrilled to discover there was a good-sized plot of land on which he could garden. He was glad it was smaller than his old garden —it was easier for him to tend to, as he'd developed arthritis that on some days, made some tasks more daunting. His new garden was gorgeous, perhaps more so than the larger space he'd left behind. Before many months had passed, several young couples living in the condo complex had started asking him questions about gardening —they'd never grown anything, and realizing he was a gold mine of information, they'd struck up a friendship. Before he knew it, he'd started a Saturday morning class in urban gardening —he found he loved teaching the youngsters all he'd learned over the years. It was like a new career.
10. If you take the right steps, success will follow.
If you just make yourself consistently take the right small steps each day, big success will follow. WRONG
Something is missing in this formula. Most of you —over and over— find yourselves failing to take those small steps, no matter how hard you try. You end up feeling like a failure and flop down in front of Netflix.
Something else is needed. There's a problem in "making yourself" or expecting yourself to take those "right small steps consistently" —you can't seem to maintain the motivation required. Those small steps are often tedious, even boring, and something has to help kick up your motivation.
If you are by yourself, without much social support or without regular interactions with good role models, it is very difficult to maintain high levels of motivation. However, if you are able to gain and maintain some level of social status, something positive —even inspiring— happens to motivation and you find you have it, almost by magic.
Find friends, find neighbors, build your own small circle of social support and status and you'll discover you have the motivation to be consistent in those small steps leading to the success you've wanted.