Psychology Introduction

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The summer after my junior year in high school, our church youth group went to a week-long camp in North Carolina with about five other youth groups. Youth camp happened every summer, but this was the first time the camp had included other churches. Maybe they felt the need to regroup, or maybe it was their practice to begin with, but whatever the reason, early in the week a few of our guys started meeting together at night to talk about what was going on in their lives and how they were doing spiritually. A day or two into it, I was invited. I had never seen anything like it. Certainly I had never been involved in such a thing. I had always been withdrawn, and I’m surprised I even had the kind of friendships that would get me there in the first place.

But instead of feeling threatened by all the openness, I was enlivened by it. It wasn’t, as one friend suggested, that I was glad to see that other people’s problems were worse than mine. It was that people were gathering to share something that was somehow of vital importance to me–their inner lives. Eventually the gathering became co-ed and grew to about forty people (we had a large youth group). My fascination only grew as the group did. The more the merrier, to me!

Thus was my interest in psychology sparked. I am never content just to experience things like the communal self-disclosure of those meetings. Anything that so engages me I have to study. So the human mind became something to explore. By coincidence I was already signed up for a high school psychology class the next year, which was also fascinating, and I decided to major in it in college. That changed to Christian education the next year, however, though I kept psychology as a minor.

Several topics in psychology capture my attention. One is psychotherapy, which is basically what drew me to psychology in the first place. Sitting in those youth camp meetings, I felt impelled to help the people who revealed their personal struggles, even though I had no idea how. Helping people is what I had in mind as a psychology major and even when I switched to Christian Education, although it would be a somewhat different format for my helping role. Many of the topics that fit under psychotherapy could fit just as well under spirituality or philosophy, so my categorization of some of these essays will be somewhat arbitrary.

The psychology of personality has been one of my central tools in understanding human nature and in relating to the people around me. One of my friends got me into the Myers-Briggs personality theory our senior year in high school, and it was a major obsession of mine for the next year. Fortunately, the obsession was temporary. Myers-Briggs is helpful, but it isn’t everything. In any case, I am also intrigued by the Enneagram and am generally willing to try out any personality theory that comes along. The thing I like about these personality theories is that they represent systems of values and strategies for dealing with life. As you will no doubt discover if you keep reading this site, I am enthralled by systems, values, and strategies. Other facets of individual differences also interest me, like birth order and gender.

The psychology of education grabbed me in the middle of my sophomore year in college when I got fed up with the anxiety of exams and decided to analyze what made school so stressful. That began a process of discovering how I learned and worked and what practices made a teacher helpful or unhelpful. But my interest in education is broader than a concern for my own stress levels. Personal growth is what engages me, both my own and other people’s. It’s an occupation that penetrates to the bedrock of my life and sends out tendrils to every part of it. One means of growth is education–growth by knowledge and interaction, two of my other pervasive concerns.

Then there are a few other topics that wander through my mind. One is cognitive psychology, which has a natural tie-in to epistemology. Another is interpersonal psychology, which includes things like friendship and conversation (and personality, but I separate that one out). I have a growing interest in other areas of social science as well, such as linguistics, semiotics, and cultural anthropology. But even though social science is one of my major interests, as with philosophy, I don’t know that much about it yet.