In the spirit of not letting mental illness define yourself or how you see other people. Diagnosis isn’t a label or an identity. That is what 2016 taught me.
The motto of Holocaust literature, in its horrifying but electrifyingly necessary recount of the suffering of Jews particularly in concentration camps, is ‘never forget’. Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and psychotherapist, wrote his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ in the spirit of not only remembering the Holocaust but also in moving on, with his philosophical musing and discussion regarding his own form of existential analysis called logotherapy.
Essentially, the purpose of this book is describe and analyse the psychological reactions of the average concentration camp prisoner as well as to elucidate the development of logotherapy stemming from Frankl’s own experiences in such concentration camps where he was separated from and lost his father, mother, brother and wife, having been ‘stripped to naked existence’ (Frankl, 1984 pp.7). These experiences influenced Frankl’s philosophical thoughts which were the foundation upon which logotherapy was developed as a means of therapeutic intervention.
The book is divided into two parts i.e. ‘Experiences in a Concentration Camp’ and ‘Logotherapy in a Nutshell’. In the first part, Frankl narrates various experiences as he was transported from different concentration camps including the daunting Auschwitz to less perilous rest camps. One of Frankl’s major arguments in this part of the book is that the psychological reactions to life in a concentration camp are summarily divided into three distinct phases.
In the period following an inmate’s formal admission to the camp, the characteristic symptom is that of shock in this first phase and under certain circumstances it may even precede the formal admission. The second phase, when a prisoner is entrenched in camp life, is that of apathy or the blunting of one’s emotions which are primarily centred on preserving one’s life. Apathy, notes Frankl, acts as a protective shell for the inmate who was constantly surrounded by an environment characterised by perpetual illness, violence and maltreatment. Finally, the third phase is that of depersonalisation, upon liberation from the death camps, which is described as ‘unreal, unlikely, as in a dream’ (Frankl, 1984, p. 96).
The second part of the book focuses on the concepts and principles of logotherapy. According to Alport (1984), Dr. Frankl asks patients who have suffered from torment why they do not commit suicide and based on their responses he identifies something worth tying their lives to. For a widow, her life could be tied to her children or for a struggling artist it could be his or her especial talent. Hence the object and challenge of logotherapy is ‘to weave these slender threads of a broken life into a pattern of meaning and responsibility’ (Frankl, 1984 pp.7).
While Man’s Search for Meaning was written in a different historical period with a climate quite different from that of the modern world today, it still remains relevant and can be connecting to various fields including health psychology, clinical psychology and social psychology.
The impact of hope for the future on one’s survival was described in the novel where it was described that a senior warden had a dream that the Second World War would end on March 30th, 1945 and this dream gave him hope that he would be free. Yet, when the date drew closer it became apparent that the war would not end and they would not be liberated. This was a devastating blow to the senior warden’s hope and belief, making him vulnerable to illness and unfortunately he succumbed and passed away on March 31st, 1945. The same ramifications of mental strength and hope can be seen in the fight against cancer. In health psychology studies, it has been found that chemotherapy is only effective in a certain portion of cancer patients since their psychological makeup such as depression and hopelessness affect their fight against the disease. This is how Frankl’s experience is reminiscent of the biopsychosocial model in health psychology where health is determined by not merely biological factors but also psychological factors of an individual.
Frankl also made keen observations regarding prisoner identity. He wrote, “The authorities were interested only in the captives’ numbers. These numbers were often tattooed on their skin, and also had to be sewn to a certain spot on the trousers, jacket, or coat. Any guard who wanted to make a charge against a prisoner just glanced at his number; he never asked for his name.” (Frankl, 1984, p. 19). This observation is relevant to the study of identity transformation among prisoners, applicable to the modern world. In fact, this has been a studied in the famous Stanford Prison Experiment by Philip Zimbardo wherein the jailers would command the prisoners to repeat their respective numbers, drilling it until the number was synonymous to their selves and some prisoners equated their numbers to their identity so quickly that they even began to sign their letters using their numbers as opposed to their names (Alvarez, 2015). This synonymy is not necessarily only in prison set ups but also in large educational institutions such as universities where students are assigned roll numbers for official purposes and on spending significant time identifying themselves through these roll numbers, there may be identity suspension.
Frankl maintains that one can remain true to his or herself and find meaning within their life. However, he contradicts this by writing, “…I saw the plain truth and did what marked the culminating point of the first phase of my psychological reaction: I struck out my whole former life.” (Frankl, 1984, p.27). Can it not be the case that there are dual lives and respective identities at play and that meaning in pre-prison life can be different to post prison meaning? Schmid and Jones (1991) studied prison identity and found that there indeed was a duality of selves i.e the coexistence and conflict between an individual’s ‘true identity’ prior to being admitted into a maximum security facility and the prisoner’s ‘false identity’ within the prison. Hence the stability of meaning is not guaranteed since even the concept of self is not a single stable entity.
Suffice to say, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ is an interesting read for psychology majors because of the plethora of connections that can be made to other theories and phenomena in the field and in understanding how Viktor Frankl’s harrowing experiences have been transformed into a means of therapy, perhaps his own sublimation of personal trauma for the betterment of society through his existential philosophy.
Hi everyone! I’m in my final year of college and am currently working on my research dissertation in psychology. My research is on the personality traits and and preferences of the viewers of Game of Throne between the ages of 18-30. Anyone across the world can take it by opening the link below which will take you to a survey I prepared to collect data. If you could spare some time to fill out the survey, I would really appreciate it! Also, feel free to pass the link along to other people who might be interested! Thanks for your time!
If anyone has any queries, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂
Ever wonder why some people are so drawn to cyberspace by maintaining a blog while others don’t understand the appeal of it? While social media is considered the one-size-fits-all corner of the internet, blogging, on the other hand, has become a dedicated art and crafted by very interesting individuals. Blogs have even been utilised in the education system, engaging students with various assignments. As you can imagine, there are a great host of reasons as to why people blog. Whether you started a blog for cathartic, self reflections or to demonstrate to the world that you have something to show them, research has found that your personality has a say in your blogging habits.
The NEO Personality Inventory developed by Costa and McCrae measures five basic personality traits known as the ‘The Big Five personality factors’ i.e. neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness and studies have linked these five personality factors with blogging.
According to a study conducted by Guadagno, Okdie and Eno (2013), those who are high in openness to new experience as well as in neuroticism are more likely to become bloggers. This makes sense as those who are high in openness are characterised as imaginative, artistically talented and possess a wide range of interests. Blogs can be a convenient and simple outlet for their self expression. Those who rank high in neuroticism may, however, blog for different reasons. Characterised by feelings of anxiety, tension and nervousness, they could be blogging to branch out and form social connections with fellow bloggers in order to combat feelings of loneliness.
Also, in the case of the relationship between neuroticism and blogging it was found that gender is a moderating factor for women, with those higher in neuroticism more likely to blog than women lower in this personality factor yet for men there was no difference in this regard. This highlights the gender differences in personality and its impact on this form of online behaviour.
Gill, Nowson and Oberlander (2009) found that bloggers who are highly extraverted tend to use their blogs to engage directly with readers, just as they would with people in real life, as well as document their lives. They vent both negative and positive emotions. However, highly agreeable individuals focus on expressing positive emotions while highly neurotic bloggers mostly dwell on negative ones. Highly open bloggers blog about leisure activities while highly conscientious bloggers tend to report more on their daily life and work.
Not only do your personality factors predict the maintenance and content of your blog, they also play a role in how much you enjoy blogging. Agreeableness and extraversion have been positively associated with levels of perceived enjoyment in blogging while conscientiousness has a negative impact on the very same. Factors like neuroticism and openness to experience proved to be insignificant (Wang, Lin & Lian, 2010).
So, it looks like your personality manifests and transforms your blogging space to tailor its needs and mirror itself instead of morphing into an unknown person to display an online facade. Fascinating, isn’t it?
If you’re interested in reading the full studies, check them out here:
Ever heard of a culture-bound syndrome? Apart from known psychiatric and psychological disorders, there are certain disorders which are closely associated with a certain population and require cultural context to understand its diagnostic dimensions and treatment methods. The occurrence of these disorders really draw attention to the role of cultural factors in the onset and prevalence of various disorders.
One particular culture-bound disorder I found out about is called taijin kyofusho (TKS) which is a social anxiety or phobia manifested in the Japanese cultural context. TKS patients suffer from an intense fear that his or her body or its parts will offend, humiliate or displease other people. This form of anxiety is characterised by a fear of social contact, extreme self-consciousness in terms o body odour, blushing and physical appearance and the contraction of disease.
Feelings of emotional distress in the form of shame, embarrassment, fear and tense feelings when in social conditions are characteristic symptoms of TKS. Those who worry about the maintenance of healthy interpersonal relationships can also be diagnosed with the disorder. Its somatic symptoms include insomnia, fatigue, head, body and stomach aches. Physical symptoms include blushing, inappropriate eye contact & facial expressions, shaking of the hands, gastrointestinal distress, profuse sweating, body odour and dishevelled appearance.
Cultural influences play an integral role in the development of taijin kyofusho which explains why this disorder occurs in Japanese populations. As an Eastern collectivistic society, people in Japan are concerned with adherence to group norms, family loyalty and harmonious social relations. Emphasis lies in the promotion of selflessness and putting others needs, such as family or community, ahead of one’s own needs. It is encouraged to behave in a way that betters society. Individualistic societies typically seen in the West, are by contrast, concerned with personal identity with the individuals needs put before the one’s of others.
The fundamental differences among these cultures explains the distinction that can be made between social phobia disorder (SAD) and taijin kyofusho (TKS).
At first glance it may seem that social phobia and TKS are similar but there exists an essential difference between the two. Not to be mistaken or grouped under social anxiety which is the fear of embarrassment in the presence of others, those suffering from taijin kyofusho fear that others will be embarrassed in his or her presence. Primarily, social phobia disorder (SAD) is based on an individual’s reactions while taijin kyofusho is based on the perceived reactions of a group of others. This explains why the former commonly occurs in Western individualistic cultures and the latter commonly occurs in the Japanese collectivistic culture.
Furthermore, self reliance in the case of collectivistic cultures is viewed as not being a burden to others. This explains why the Japanese do not wish to humiliate others with their presence and the induced fear that this can bring shame to their loved ones i.e family and friends.
Socialisation of children is also another perspective from which this syndrome can be viewed. Children learn about the norms, values, beliefs and attitudes of their culture through this process yet it can have adverse negative effects in extremes. According to the ICD-10, Japanese cultural values encourage “over-socialisation” of some children which could lead to the development of feelings of inferiority and anxiety when in social situations.
Also, one of the phobias comprised of TKS called Jikoshisen-kyofu can be explained in a cultural context in the sense that Japanese children are taught that making direct eye contact with another person is considered rude whereas by contrast, in the West it is not. The fear of direct eye contact offending others may stem from such an embedded expectation within Japanese culture. Shame is culturally pervasive and has well defined norms for which the violations are instantly recognised and together with embarrassment is conceptualised as haji. For the Japanase, gaze is seen as a stressor that can result in physiological reactions. Japanese feel stress when subjected to gaze and this in turn is processed into haji. Even imaginary gaze is sufficient to generate the same response. The tendency for this to occur lies in the fact that the Japanese have allocentric empathy which allows them to take on the role of the audience and view their actions as a spectator. This explains why TKS patients feel so concerned about the embarrassment of others rather than of their own selves and why they may have a phobia of eye-to-eye contact.
Also, perfectionism is a common trait of TKS patients and that is because of the high standards of self presentation that exist within Japanese culture. What is known as exposure sensitivity makes Japanese individuals feel as if they are actors on a stage and hence feel the need to display perfection which involves impeccable self presentation. Codes of formal communication both verbal and nonverbal are meant to facilitate this self presentation such as extremely conventional forms of greetings and facial expressions, gestures, postures that are occasion appropriate, coordinated group activities like sports and singing. Japanese readily conform to these rigid codes. The Japanese tea ceremony is an example of a formal art that reflects the cultures embedded perfectionism. The participant of this ceremony must follow elaborate rules in preparing the tea, utilising utensils and dressing accordingly etc.
Hence, perfectionism on display and exposure sensitivity can cause a morbid fear of self-exposure wherein the self is considered to be localised in different body parts like the face, eyes and mouth. This self-exposure fear can manifest as what is called hitomishiri which is the Japanese conception of stranger anxiety. Hitomishiri has been attributed to the Japanese characteristic of shyness. This abounds from the clear line that is drawn between two domains i.e the socially internal domain referred to as uchi and the external domain called soto. In other words, there is a dilemma in which the individual fears self exposure to the audience and thus tends to become socially withdrawn but is aware of the fact that this behaviour is odd. Knowing this, he or she feels driven to overcome this tendency and present him or herself in a perfectionist way. Hence TKS can be viewed as a part of the shame complex or conflict.
Together, all of these factors can explain why a culture bound social anxiety such as TKS has developed among the Japanese population. However, a case of Jikoshisen-kyofu has been reported in Korea which a study suggests as meaning that TKS is not only specific to the Japanese culture but also to those countries with similar cultures. It has been found that China, Korea and Japan in East Asia give a great deal of importance to social etiquette and appropriate interpersonal relations so it is possible that Jikoshisen-kyofu may not necessarily be ‘bound’ to Japan but can be viewed as an East Asian specific syndrome. Further research exploring TKS in the broader East Asian cultural context can shed light on this matter as there is still so much left to investigate. (Iwata et. al).
Cherry, K. (n.d.). What Are Collectivistic Cultures? Retrieved July 7, 2015, from http://psychology.about.com/od/cindex/fl/What-Are-Collectivistic-Cultures.htm
Fritscher, L. (2013). Taijin Kyofusho – Japanese Social Phobia. Retrieved July 7, 2015, from http://phobias.about.com/od/phobiaslist/a/Taijin-Kyofusho.htm
Iwata, Y., Suzuki, K., Takei, N., Toulopoulou, T., Tsuchiya, K., Matsumoto, K., . . . Mori, N. (2011). Jiko-shisen-kyofu (fear of one’s own glance), but not taijin-kyofusho (fear of interpersonal relations), is an east Asian culture-related specific syndrome. Aust NZ J Psychiatry Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 148-152.
Lebra, T. (1983). Shame and Guilt: A Psychocultural View of the Japanese Self. Ethos, 192-209.
Nagata, T., Wada, A., Yamada, H., Iketani, T., & Kiriike, O. (2005). Effect of milnacipran on insight and stress coping strategy in patients with Taijin Kyofusho. Int J Psych Clin Pract International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice, 193-198. Retrieved July 7, 2015.
The ICD-10 classification of mental and behavioural disorders: Clinical descriptions and diagnostic guidelines. (1992). Geneva: World Health Organization.
Saunders, D. (n.d.). Taijin Kyofusho. Retrieved July 7, 2015, from http://www.brainphysics.com/taijin-kyofusho.php
Stites, L. (2014, April 24). Taijin Kyofusho – A Particularly “Japanese” Social Anxiety – Tofugu. Retrieved July 7, 2015, from http://www.tofugu.com/2014/04/24/taijin-kyofusho-a-particularly-japanese-social-anxiety/
Negative thinking is common to all of us be it at a certain point in our lives or characteristic of a particular mental illness such as an anxiety disorder and depression. It’s important to identify your negative thoughts and challenge them before they impact your life. While at my internship, I was reading about different questions we can use to counteract these negative thoughts and here they are some:
Backgrounds: Tumblr and Google Images
Questions: Edited by me 🙂
So I found these quizzes and decided to pass the time by taking them and here are the results. They clash quite a bit, one saying I’m a people person, the other saying I’m not but then again, it’s not like they’re all reliable. Go ahead and try them for fun though!
Zodiac Sign: Aries | Taurus | Gemini | Cancer | Leo | Virgo | Libra | Scorpio |Sagittarius | Capricorn | Aquarius | Pisces |
Myers-Briggs: ESFP | ISFP | ESTP | ISTP | ESTJ | ISTJ | ESFJ | ISFJ | ENFJ | INFJ | ENFP | INFP | ENTP | INTP | ENTJ | INTJ|
Four Temperaments: Sanguine | Melancholic | Choleric | Phlegmatic
Celtic Zodiac: Birch (The Achiever) | Rowan (The Thinker) | Ash (The Enchanter) | Alder (The Trailblazer) | Willow (The Observer) | Hawthorne (The Illusionist) | Oak (The Stabilizer) | Holly (The Ruler) | Hazel (The Knower) | Vine (The Equalizer) | Ivy (The Survivor) | Reed (The Inquisitor) |Elder (The Seeker) |
Soul Type (one test): Hunter | Caregiver | Creator | Thinker | Helper | Educator | Performer |Leader | Spiritualist |
Hogwarts House: Gryffindor | Hufflepuff | Ravenclaw | Slytherin |
Dark Triad: Psychopathy | Machiavellianism | Narcissism |
The Animal in You: Lion | Tiger | Dolphin | Bear | Wild Cat | Fox | Weasel | Badger | Dog | Otter | Wolf | Sea Lion | Wild Dog | Walrus | Gorilla | Deer | Rhinoceros | Hippo | Sable | Horse | Sheep | Mountain Goat | Warthog | Zebra | Baboon | Elephant | Bison | Giraffe | Cottontail | Mole | Bat | Porcupine | Beaver | Prairie Dog | Shrew | Mouse | Eagle | Rooster |Owl | Swan | Peacock | Vulture | Penguin | Crocodile | Snake |
Life Path Number: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 11 | 22 |
Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 |
Brain Lateralization Test: Left | Right | Middle (Tie)
Interning over the summer at a neuropsychiatric hospital was an eye-opening experience but there was one thing I found disappointing and that’s the fact that doctors jump right to prescription drugs as a treatment plan for mental illnesses where therapy is more important or just as important for mental illness or addiction. An ADS (Alcohol Dependence Syndrome) patient had been prescribed medication when he drinks excessively and therapy wasn’t even considered.
Therapy and natural treatments such as changes in lifestyle and diet can be very helpful alongside medication and should not be written off. All of this inspired me to draw some sketches of natural treatment methods for some of the common cases I encountered at the hospital, namely depression and anxiety( not the disorder).
I was glad at the opportunity to combine my love for drawing with my interest in psychology and I hope those in need find these useful. I guarantee I did my research before making these.
Hope everyone stays healthy and happy 🙂
We’ve all read at least one book that makes us marvel at how writing can be so influential. I’ve often wondered how we can be so emotionally invested in nothing but words printed on crisp paper and then came across an interesting explanation of why we get lost in a book. At Free University of Berlin, a study of brain reactions to certain passages in the Harry Potter books was conducted to see if certain types of excerpts facilitated the immersive experience more than others . Out of this study, the fiction feeling hypothesis was born.
According to the fiction feeling hypothesis, narratives with emotional contents invite readers more to be empathic with the protagonists and thus engage the affective empathy network of the brain, the anterior insula and mid-cingulate cortex, than do stories with neutral contents.
Emotionally charged passages in books makes us readers empathetic with the characters and this brain engagement leads to the feeling of getting lost in a book. So if the passage is fear-inducing, we feel dread. It’s all about which neural pathways are activated while reading. This paints an interesting image in my mind, just thinking of brain scans lighting up in certain regions when reading different passages of books like a colourful kaleidoscope. It’s fascinating.
But then what about getting lost in the writing part of it?
I’d read something last semester that took a look at this. Freud attempts to answer this question in his essay, ‘Creative Writing and Day-dreaming”. He sought to understand where creative writers draw from while writing and how they are able to invoke in readers emotions they never thought they could have. In his quest for an answer, he likens the creative writing process to day-dreaming and child’s play. A child takes elements from the real world and builds his or her own, rearranging until he or she’s pleased and does so with a great deal of seriousness and emotional expenditure, all the while able to distinguish it from reality. Similarly, as we grow older, this pleasure derived from child’s play is found in its more mature substitute: day dreaming which can be immersive in its own right.
According to Freud, the hero of the story is a written manifestation of our ego or basically that the writer is in fact the hero, making most works autobiographical. Although I’m sceptical that this can be applied to every author, The Bell Jar is certainly a good example of this, with Syvia Plath and her protagonist Esther mirroring one another. Her semi-autobiographical book could have been a form of confessional, therapeutic writing, narrating her own descent into depression through a fictional counterpart. Not only does Freud say that the writer identifies with the hero, but readers do as well. I suppose that’s why reading this book can be quite intense.
So literature can be therapeutic for both writers and readers. It’s a space where we can fulfill wishes, live through danger vicariously and live out our potential problems. It’s a fantastic channel to release pent-up tension without negative repercussions and that’s what makes it so appealing to everyone. Expressive writing is an effective therapy technique for this very reason.
Another point Freud goes on to make is that in the case of the modern writer, the hero/ego is often fragmented into many parts, split off into several characters. It’s as if writers can pocket parts of themselves, positive and negative traits, in a wide range of characters. I think we can see this in the case of Game of Thrones (I’ve always thought GoT is Freudian what with all the emphasis on sex and violence in the series). George R.R Martin himself said that he identifies with all his characters, even the nasty ones we can’t fathom loving or even liking.
“When I get inside their skin and look out through their eyes, I have to feel a certain – if not sympathy, certainly empathy for them. I have to try to perceive the world as they do, and that creates a certain amount of affection. That being said, my favourite character is definitely Tyrion. He’s the one who I most enjoy writing. But I identify with all of them.” – George R. R Martin
While Freud may be far-fetched in some of his theories, I think these points have a certain truth to them. The essay is also worth a read, if you’re a little curious of what the father of psychology thought about creative writing.
We know a lot of things about people around us but what exactly makes them tick? That’s what psychology is all about and social psychology in particular is everywhere. It’s in the books we read, the movies and TV shows we watch and the social interactions in our daily lives. It’s funny how after studying the subject for an entire semester, you know the reasons for a lot of common phenomena. So much of what we learned in class was actually something we already knew, just unaware of what it was in psychological terms.
And I just had to connect it to TV shows and books!
Ever wonder why you can’t remember anything from your early childhood, like it was some blur in time and then everything became clearer a little later? It’s called childhood amnesia. It is not possible for your autobiographical memory to recollect anything before the age of 3-4.
In a book called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, the protagonist mentions this clearly:
“Except I can’t remember anything before I was about 4 because I wasn’t looking at things in the right way before then, so they didn’t get recorded properly.” – Christopher Boone