Wednesday, December 7, 2016

URBANISM: ISSUES AND CONCERNS

Urban areas are said to be developed settlements that constitute a fast paced lifestyle and are directly exposed to globalization and social and cultural change. It is generally characterized as a place that has a high density of population, a complex division of labor, advancement of technology, high mobility, individualism, and impersonality in social relationships, collectively referred by the term urbanism. Urbanism is a social-cultural-economic phenomenon, which represents a way of life. It has a wide range of consequences on human nature, in terms of needs, emotions, experiences, and behavior in general. 

In urban areas people are generally achievement oriented and have a consumerist attitude. In such instances relationships often take a backseat and become neglected, which affect the nature of those relationships. 

The idea of relationships has also been changing over the years. Families are breaking down into smaller units, and people are marrying late in life or prefer to stay single. Marrying late or the decision to remain unmarried has led to the rise of one person households (OPH), in which an individual prefers to live alone at a house. The perspectives about living alone are slightly changing and it is now not necessarily seen in a negative manner. People are gradually looking beyond the negative stereotypes of living a life by oneself. Recent research also suggests that aloneness has positive aspects associated with it, such as being more perceptive, self-fulfilment, and having greater purpose in life 

Further, there is a rise in live-in relationships and part-time live-in relationships. People’s beliefs about traditional notions of relationships are changing. People being more involved in their work and focusing on career development has led to a change in perspective towards marriage. There is more of an acceptance of remaining unmarried. Due to this people prefer alternatives to marriage like living together without being married. 

In the same regard, because of being more work and career oriented, people also prefer to go a step beyond live-in relationships. They prefer to be in a part-time live-in relationship, which means staying together during weekends or off-days, and then getting back with their own lives, the rest of the time.

With respect to interpersonal relationships in general, urbanism gives rise to the issue of loneliness. Being highly self-involved, with limited interpersonal interaction, there is a likelihood of the feeling of emptiness and with an unfulfilled need for intimacy and self-expression. Additionally, interpersonal processes such as empathy and relationship quality become important.

Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why people have turned to the cyberspace. The fast paced life of urban areas coupled with advancement in technology has led individuals to be spending more and more time on the internet. 

Many of the social networking sites have reduced distances between people. Individuals can easily be in touch with their family and friends who are in another city. It helps them to have interactions with their loved ones, which may not always be possible.

The internet also becomes a medium for self-expression, for individuals who otherwise may be too self-involved due to the lifestyle they become accustomed to in urban areas. Specifically, things like blogging and microblogging helps a lot in sharing experiences and expressing views about various issues. In many ways, interaction on the internet helps to fulfil the needs for intimacy and self-expression.

This has been more prominent in introverts and people experiencing loneliness and social anxiety. Such individuals have a heightened need for self-expression and have often been found to use the internet for fulfilment of this need. The characteristics of such individuals like high level of social stimulation, social skills deficits, and hesitancy for face-to-face (f2f) communication allow them to be more comfortable on the internet rather than being involved in f2f interactions. 

Further, the characteristics of online interaction such as heightened private sense of self-awareness, reduced public sense of self-awareness, and deindividuation enable such individuals to be involved in more intimate self-disclosure as compared to f2f communication. 

On the other hand, however, spending too much time on the internet leads to hyperactivity, lack of focus and concentration, and gives rise to issues like mindfulness or a lack of it. It also leads to issues like online disinhibition effect, cyber-trolling, and cyberbullying, which cannot be ignored, especially when it comes to the youth.

During online interaction, when an individual’s communication gets inhibited, due to lack of social cues, then it is referred to as online disinhibition effect. The brain areas associated with social interactions (called the social brain) do not function properly during online interaction, which makes individuals behave or react in ways that may be different from f2f interaction. Sending angry or hateful messages immediately, without thinking, is one such example.

The social brain of adolescents are not highly developed, which makes them highly vulnerable to online disinhibition effect. In the long run, the individual becomes emotionally numb and completely lacks in empathy. Further, online disinhibition effect turns out to be one of the factors that may lead individuals to indulge into cybertrolling and cyberbullying as well as becoming a victim of it.

Adolescents, especially, tend to get seriously affected by being trolled and bullied on the internet. It may lead them to feel humiliated, develop low self-esteem and inferiority complex, and may even lead them to commit suicide.

Apart from the many issues related to online interaction, in urban areas, the youth in today’s time, face a large number of problems and challenges. In the age of globalization and economic and technological development, it is the youth that are the most affected.

The fast paced urban lifestyle can often become too demanding for adolescents and young adults, which may cause emotional vulnerability and instability. They become highly susceptible to stress. If not given proper care, it may lead individuals towards substance abuse and erratic behavior, including erratic sexuality.

The person may face a number of problems associated with relationships, which may include disruptive familial relationships as well as problematic romantic relationships. The consequences of such issues might be low self-esteem, depression, chronic loneliness, stress, anxiety, and suicidality.

The transitional phase of adolescence often tends to be highly confusing for the individual. Confusion may arise not just regarding decisions about relationships, but even educational and career choices. A wrong step can prove to be fatal, leading to a lack of purpose, being directionless, lack of meaningfulness, unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and a sense of failure. 

Regarding this, an awareness of individual differences among each other is of utmost importance. In order to cope with the competitive lifestyle of urban areas, individuals must be aware of their unique strengths and weaknesses, which they can utilize appropriately. It is this awareness that enables individuals to identify their true potential, choose their goals in life, and move towards the direction of positive mental health. Individual differences can be reflected in terms of skills, abilities, traits, coping strategies, and so on.

An awareness and acknowledgement of individual differences develops a sense of uniqueness among the individual. The person gets the realization that he/she is a unique entity and that social comparisons may be misleading. It helps in understanding the true sense of happiness and success, develops self-efficacy, self-determination, self-competence, and gives purpose in life. 

With the changing of times, especially in urban areas, the traditional gender roles have been going through a transformation. People have started looking beyond the gender stereotypes, though in a more subtle manner. Men are seen to have a sensitive side and not necessarily tough and outspoken, and women are now seen to be as bold and not necessarily coy. Likewise, men are not necessarily seen as the sole bread earner and women are not necessarily expected to be a homemaker. Women are also being seen as career-oriented and ambitious. 

On the other hand, men are seen as taking part in household chores and being more participative in the upbringing of a child, something that was not considered very masculine-like earlier. In recent times, there has been more of an egalitarian relationship and an equal division of labor among husbands and wives, and partners.

The rise in cross-sex friendships (friendship between a male and female) has also played a role in the changing of gender roles. The lifestyle in urban areas has provided opportunities for more male-female interactions that are beyond the gender-based schema, which is viewing non-kin interactions with the opposite-sex as romantic in nature.

It is quite normal and very much acceptable for a male-female interaction to be non-romantic and just platonic. The idea of a male and female being friends just like any friendship between people of the same sex has helped in breaking many of the gender stereotypes. It has helped in individuals getting the other gender perspective and also getting an insider’s view of the opposite sex. It has also led to healthy interactions between the opposite sex, which involve expressing physical attraction and being flirtatious in a more acceptable and less hesitant manner. 

The changing gender roles and stereotypes have given rise to concepts like the metro-sexual man and the alpha female. The metro-sexual man is someone who likes spending time on grooming and shopping, shows interest in fashion, has no qualms in being sensitive, and on the whole does not really believe in the traditional gender roles. 

The alpha female, unlike the traditional beliefs associated with women in general, is someone who is strong, confident, independent, dominating, and outspoken. She is also highly career oriented, very ambitious, and does not really believe in relying on man to be her support system. 

Apart from the changing gender roles, people are also becoming more aware and comfortable about issues related to different sexual orientations, sexual identity crisis, and other LGBT (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender) issues. There has been a growing acceptance towards homosexual relationships. Homosexuality is no longer seen as something that is unusual and quite a few people are coming out in the open and accepting and willing to talk about having a homosexual orientation. 

The changing gender roles, in urban areas, are also bringing about changes in the workplace. The proportion of female employees in corporate sectors is on the rise. Females are willing to work at late hours as well being at higher positions. There are a lot more mangers, leaders, and CEOs that are females. The idea of gender-specific jobs is becoming obsolete. More of females are getting into jobs related to engineering and information technology. Likewise, more of males are getting into jobs related to teaching, social work, and counselling.

Along with the gender-specific changes, the workplace in urban areas is going through other changes as well. Due to the rise of multinational companies (MNCs), there is more of a multi-cultural environment, in the workplace, with people from different cultures working together.

Further, in order to cope effectively with the competitive work environment, in urban areas, there has been a lot of emphasis on social and emotional skills of employees, in the past decade or so. Employees, especially in corporates, are expected to be emotionally intelligent and not just having good technical skills. Research has suggested that being high on emotional intelligence is a major factor in organizational success.

Additionally, in the workplace, there is a change in the perception of individuals. There has been a growing awareness about introversion and how introverts can be successful in the workplace, which was not considered earlier. Introverts being empathetic, sensitive, perceptive, and far-sighted are now considered as effective leaders, which was not the same earlier. Thus, there has been a significant change in the work environment, in the past few years.

On the whole, urbanism, which represents a way of life in urban settings, has raised a number of issues and concerns. It has changed the nature of relationships and patterns of interpersonal communication. It has raised concerns over youth behavior and mental health. Further, to quite an extent, it has helped in bringing about a change in gender stereotypes and raised awareness over issues of gender and sexuality. Finally, it has also brought about significant changes in the work environment and the workplace culture.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

PERSONALITY, FALSE MEMORIES, AND FALSE MEMORY SYNDROME

The recollection of an event that has not occurred is said to be a false memory. When the belief in these false memories become so strong that it deeply affects the individual’s identity and relationships, then it is said to be a false memory syndrome.

False memories have known to be a very common phenomenon. In everyday life, people often have distorted memories that they actually believe to be true. In criminal trials, many a times, eyewitness testimonies are based on false memories created due to misleading information. The cognitive psychologist Elizabeth Loftus has even created false memories in experimental conditions.

Even though false memories are very common, false memory syndrome is suggested to be quite rare. The cognitive psychologist John Kihlstrom describes false memory syndrome as a condition in which a person’s identity and interpersonal relationships are centered around a memory of traumatic experience, which is objectively false but yet the person strongly believes in it. The syndrome, according to Kihlstrom, may be diagnosed when the memory is so deeply ingrained that it orients the entire personality and lifestyle of the individual, leading to disruption in all kinds of adaptive behavior.

The concept of false memory syndrome emerged in the early and mid- 1990s. A number of young girls had filed complaints against either their father or a close relative for sexually abusing them during their childhood. It was found later that there was no physical evidence regarding their complaint. A further investigation revealed that their claims of being sexually abused in their childhood were actually false memories that were implanted during therapy involving recovered memories.

In a number of cases, it has been found that false memories occur due to suggestion based therapies like hypnosis or hypnotic therapy, which involves recovery of lost memories. Hypnosis is a state of consciousness that is characterized by intense absorption with internal experience and a voluntary suspension of normal awareness of outside stimuli. In this dissociated state of focused awareness, it is possible to influence voluntary and involuntary behavior through suggestion. During such therapeutic sessions, a therapist, if not highly competent, leads the individual to believe something that may not be true. 

These suggestions by the therapist are based on the responses of the individual, while being under hypnosis. It has often been found that such responses have no relation with their own life experiences, but may in fact be something related to another person’s life or something that they have read in popular media.

Hypnosis or hypnotic therapy, in fact, has been found to be one the major factors leading to the development of false memory syndrome. The recovered memories that people believe to have after hypnosis, are often something that comes out during the therapy due to its highly suggestive nature; it has nothing to do with any event of the individual’s life. Hypnotic therapy, at times, has been found to make people falsely believe in paranormal experiences and reincarnation. 

If hypnosis is one of the major causes of false memory syndrome, then the personality trait of hypnotizability becomes associated with false memory syndrome. Hypnotizability is the hypnotic susceptibility of an individual or the extent to which an individual can experience hypnosis.

Hypnotizability is a stable trait. Research suggests there are individual differences in hypnotizability with people varying from low to high levels of hypnotizability. Among the general population about 15 to 20 percent of people are said to be high on hypnotizability.

Hypnotizability seems to be affected by childhood experiences of normal dissociation and is found to be stable through adulthood. The characteristics associated with high levels of hypnotizability are positive constructive day dreaming, use of vivid imagery, greater intensity of affect, and longer durations of alpha brain waves. 

False memory syndrome generally occurs due to hypnosis. Therefore, it can be argued that a high level of hypnotizability – being highly susceptible to hypnosis – is associated with false memory syndrome.

People high on hypnotizability are also highly imaginative to the extent that they become deeply involved in the ongoing fantasy activity of hypnotic induction. This aspect of being high on hypnotizability also makes such people prone to false memory syndrome as it makes them tend to believe events that have never occurred.

The tendency to believe in fantasies and being involved in excessive day dreaming are also characteristics of the trait of fantasy proneness, which has been found to have a strong association with false memory syndrome. 

The personality characteristic of fantasy proneness has been the focus of research in false memory syndrome. People high on fantasy proneness are known for their profound fantasy lives. Such people spend a lot of time in fantasizing. They have a lot of difficulty in differentiated between the real and imagined life. Many a times, when they report their fantasies, they feel as if they are reporting real events.

Fantasy proneness has been found to be associated with false memories of being sexually assaulted and pregnancies. It has also been found to be associated to a wide range of paranormal experiences such as alien abduction, out of body experiences, and sightings of ghosts or spirits.

There is also a strong association between fantasy proneness and hypnotizability. People high on fantasy proneness are highly susceptible to hypnosis. This association of fantasy proneness with hypnotizability also makes it prone to false memory syndrome.

Apart from hypnotizability and fantasy proneness, in some instances, extreme levels of the traits of openness to experience and neuroticism have been found to be associated with false memory syndrome. Openness to experience includes many facets such as curiosity, creativity, preference for variety, and being highly imaginative. Neuroticism is about the emotional stability or instability of an individual. It includes anxiety, fear, moodiness, worry, loneliness, etc. Specifically, neuroticism with respect to psychopathology has been found to be associated with false memory syndrome.

False memory syndrome is a rare phenomenon. It is not yet recognized by classification systems like Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) and International Classification of Diseases (ICD). However, there has been a lot of research on false memory syndrome in the field of parapsychology – the field of psychology concerned with the scientific investigation of paranormal and psychic phenomenon. The personality traits of hypnotizability and fantasy proneness, and to some extent extreme levels of openness to experience and neuroticism have been found to be associated with false memory syndrome.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

PSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECTS OF ARCHITECTURE

Architecture refers to the style, character, design, and structure of a building. Built structures or buildings are not mere constituents of brick, stone, wood, etc. A deeper examination of a building, especially its architecture is associated with various psychological aspects. 

One of the most salient features of architecture is that it reflects culture and cultural identity. The architectural style represents the characteristics of a place, region, and country; it is said to be the representation of people and societies. Architecture suggestibly is strongly associated with the culture, values, and behavior patterns of the society. The architectural style of a particular period is a reflection of the culture of that time.

The architecture of any place reflects its history and heritage. It reflects the identity of civilizations that thrived in the past. It is a demonstration of their socio-political and cultural forces. It is the physical expression of ancestral culture, philosophy, and lifestyle.

Further, architecture displays the relation of the past with the present. It enables an understanding of the present as a factor of the past. It traces the history of a nation and it shapes its cultural identity. 

Architecture is thus, a manifestation of history, identity, culture, tradition, society and civilization, philosophy, as well as insights and knowledge of the community as a whole. Examples of specific architectural styles that reflect culture and society are the European architecture, Indo-Islamic architecture, Ancient Indian architecture, Central Asian architecture, and so on.

An intriguing feature of architecture is that it depicts a meaning system or semantics. The semantics represented in architecture is rooted in ideology and philosophy of society and culture, which together form shared meanings. These shared meanings are represented in symbols in architecture, with different symbols having different meanings.

The architectural theorist, Rapoport, suggests three levels of semantics reflected in architecture. The three levels are ideological or high level meanings, social or middle level meanings, and behavioral or low level meanings.

High level meanings are about cosmologies, cultural schemata, and philosophical ideas. The middle level meanings are about reflecting wealth, power, and status. The low level meanings are expected behaviors associated with architecture. These different levels may vary across different cultures and different periods of time. 

Along with reflection of culture and display of semantics, architecture, the style in which buildings are designed, has been found to have an influence on mental and physical health of people. This aspect of architecture is associated with social design or social design research, in which architects collaborate with social scientists to design a building that best serves the requirements and desires of individuals.

A great amount of research suggests that social design can play a significant role in healthcare environments. Architects with making significant changes in buildings has been found to have a positive influence on patients’ satisfaction, quality of life, sleeping patterns, and anger management.

Research suggests that designing spaces in such a way in which patients get good enough privacy is beneficial for health. Further, designing places in such a way that gives them an outside view helps in recovery, especially a daylight view. Additionally, designing places in a way that gives them access to nature and outdoors has been found to be therapeutic. 

Also, giving patients a comfort and controllability in movement, and having distinguishable demarcations for public and private spaces reduces stress levels. Finally, changing interiors, in the sense of using a wide range of colors, textures, and art, including paintings, has a positive effect on the health of patients.

Research, further, suggests that making subtle changes in hospitals and psychiatric centers such as shaded lightings, a home-like environment, and designing the surroundings as per the requirements of the inhabitants, have led to better conditions in patients of multiple sclerosis, mental retardation, delinquents, and psychotics. A similar approach has been found to be beneficial even for classrooms, offices, and public buildings.

Specific aspects of architecture like stimulation and coherence have also been found to be related to stress, even in non-patients. Stimulation is the amount of information in a setting, which is related to complexity, novelty, intensity, and variety. Too much stimulation such as complex patterns or extremely bright colors, in the interiors of a building, can be puzzling, and thus, stressful. Coherence is clarity and comprehensibility of the elements of a building. If there is incoherence, that is, there are ambiguous cues, disorganized patterns, and difficulty in predictions, then it leads to stress.

This aspect of architecture being related to mental and physical health is something that people are not very much aware of. It goes to show that architecture is not just an aspect of art and culture, but it can be something that is very beneficial for human beings. Designing buildings keeping in view the requirements and general health of individuals provides a very unique and intriguing aspect of architecture. 

A very fascinating aspect of architecture is that it can be associated with the unconscious. The unconscious or the unconscious mind, according to Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, is the reservoir of thoughts, feelings, and memories that are not accessible to conscious awareness and yet influences behavior.

The design of a building developed by the architect is derived by many contributing factors. These contributing factors may be the experience and imagination of the architect, which may be an expression of the unconscious. Even though vague in nature, this aspect of architecture is not completely unfathomable.

The unconscious also plays a role in architecture in the form of changes in mood and responses. Architecture that is meant to visually stir individuals may affect them in terms of other senses as well. The responses due to the non-visual senses, such as an echo of steps, can address individuals unconsciously. 

Research suggests that the non-visual senses in the surroundings in an architectural piece, such as smell or sound, tend to affect the unconscious and plays a role in change in responses and mood. Even though being quite complex, this aspect of architecture is very fascinating and arouses a lot of curiosity. 

The design and structure of a building, therefore, has a number of psychological aspects. It can be associated with cultural heritage, meaning systems, mental and physical health, and the unconscious. Architecture, as mentioned above, is not simply about art or being a visual marvel, it is in fact something beyond the usual and the expected.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

TROLLING ON THE INTERNET

Trolling on the internet or cyber-trolling is online behavior to intentionally anger, hurt, or frustrate someone. It is purposely posting inflammatory messages or comments that are meant to provoke negative emotional reactions. Generally, internet trolling involves remarks related to bigotry, racism, misogyny, and just simple bickering. More recently, cyber-trolling has been equated to online harassment, which has become a very common behavior on the internet.
Cyber-trolling mostly takes place in online discussion forums and the comment sections of blogs. Off lately, a lot of cyber-trolling has been taking place on social networking sites, especially Twitter. Trolling taking the form of online harassment has become quite common on Twitter.
Many people have expressed their experience of the harassment that they have faced after posting a simple tweet. A lot of celebrities in the past couple of years have been constantly complaining about how trolls attack them with their venomous remarks for just expressing an opinion. The trolling becomes so hurtful that some even have decided not use Twitter at all or spend very little time on it.
Cyber-trolling, clearly, creates a lot of problems for its victims. In the form of cyber-trolling, people have faced humiliation, disgust, and even death threats. Such inflammation tends to be very disturbing and can lead to severe negative consequences to an individual’s mental health.
Communication on the internet has certain features that sometimes makes cyber-trolling to be a natural phenomenon. Some people use an anonymous identity, while communicating on the internet. Being anonymous makes them feel that they can say whatever they feel like and get away with it, without facing any consequences. This creates a reduced sense of public self-awareness.
Even if people are using their real identities on Facebook or Twitter, they still feel a reduced public self-awareness, due to a sense of obscurity. While interacting online, individuals feel that whatever they are saying is in the cyberspace and has little to do with the real life, where they have face-to-face interactions with people who they know and meet quite often.
Along with a reduced public self-awareness, individuals while communicating on the internet, due to social distance and often being alone in their own comfortable private space, feel a heightened sense of private self-awareness. This heightened private self-awareness also makes the person feel that he/she will not face any consequences of speaking his/her mind.
Both reduced public self-awareness and heightened private self-awareness together makes individuals feel little or no hesitation, while interacting online. The relative obscurity and social distance gives them a sense of power in which they feel they can say whatever they feel like. Quite often this lack of hesitancy makes them use inflammatory remarks, which they may perhaps resist during face-to-face interaction.
The perceived obscurity and social distance, during online interaction, also quite often makes people de-individuated from their individual identity and form a stronger online social identity. People often become a very different person on the internet. They behave differently in comparison to face-to-face interaction. This may make them a hostile and bigotry person on the internet, and get involved in cyber-trolling, when in actuality they may be calm and sensible.
The characteristics of reduced public self-awareness and heightened private self-awareness lead to the experience of cyberdisinhibition. Cyberdisinhibition refers to an inhibition in communication on the internet due to lack of social. The social brain – brain areas, mainly the prefrontal cortex and the limbic system, that act together and help in smoothening social interactions – gets activated in face-to-face interactions, due to receiving proper social cues in terms of facial expressions and body language.
The mirror neurons – neurons found in the social brain – are not able to function properly during online communication, and thus, lead to improper communication. The mirror neurons, in face-to-face interaction, get appropriate real-time feedback in the form of social cues. It is these social cues that help the mirror neurons to monitor individual’s and others responses, which enable appropriate social interaction.
The social cues being absent in online interaction make the mirror neurons unable to function properly, leading inappropriate communication, which often involves a lack of empathy. This lack of empathy, due to social cues being absent, causes people to indulge in hostility and harassment on the internet, in the form of cyber-trolling.
Apart from the characteristics of online communication, personality can also be a factor in cyber-trolling. For instance, the personality of passive aggressiveness can be associated with cyber-trolling. Research suggests that passive aggressive individuals thrive on the internet.
Passive aggressiveness is a deliberate and indirect expression of anger. Such behavior may usually be due to the fear of expressing anger directly. The relative obscurity and social distance on the internet can work as a mask to express anger.
For a person with passive aggressiveness, the internet becomes an appropriate medium to express their anger. Knowing that inflammatory remarks and comments on the internet are met with almost no consequences, such individuals easily become involved in behaviors like cyber-trolling.
Besides passive aggressiveness, sadism has also been found to be associated with cyber-trolling. Sadism is deriving pleasure in inflicting pain on others. Recent research suggests that internet trolls actually have sadistic tendencies. People who are involved in cyber-trolling have a lot of fun in the distress of others. They have no real purpose of expressing inflammatory remarks and causing disturbance on online discussion forums or sending hateful tweets. They simply like the idea of causing trouble to people on the internet.
This can be clearly seen when people troll celebrities on Twitter. Many people just get a high in sending extremely abusive and hurtful remarks at famous people. They see it as exciting and fun. Even in online discussion forums, some people see it as fun deviate from the main topic and hurl abuses for no reason. They very well know that they cannot be harmed for hurling such remarks and thus, they do so with pleasure.
Personality being a factor in cyber-trolling seems to be a plausible explanation. There are innumerable people who everyday interact on the internet. However, everyone does not get involved in cyber-trolling. Many people, in fact, are very polite, sensible, and intelligent on the internet. The characteristics of communication on the internet combined with personality of individuals can be seen as the possible causes of trolling on the internet.
Internet usage has become an integral aspect of everyday life. With the increase in internet usage, there has been an incessant rise in behaviors like cyber-trolling. A reduced sense of public self-awareness and heightened private self-awareness on the internet, cyberdishinibition, passive aggressiveness, and sadism can be seen as the causes of cyber-trolling.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

DEALING WITH LONELINESS AND SHYNESS

Loneliness, the unpleasant feeling due to the inability to have satisfying relationships or the dissatisfaction with one’s quality of relationships; and shyness, being socially reticent and the tendency to feel awkward, worried, and tense during social interactions, are both problems and difficulties that a lot of people, throughout different age groups, experience.
Both loneliness and shyness are a lot more common than they are believed to be and their consequences on individuals’ mental, emotional, and physical health is a lot more debilitating than it is believed to be. Even the extreme form of shyness, which is social anxiety (the persistent fear of being negatively scrutinized by others and the fear of being embarrassed and humiliated in social situations), has been found to be very common - third most common psychological problem all over the world.  
Loneliness and shyness have been found to be associated with each other. An individual with loneliness is likely to suffer from shyness or social anxiety; likewise, an individual with shyness or social anxiety is very likely to experience loneliness. Many of the consequences of loneliness and shyness are also common; some of the major consequences of both being depression, low self-esteem, inferiority complex, and lack of self-confidence and self-belief.    
In extreme cases such individuals should go for professional help. One of the most common techniques used to overcoming loneliness and shyness is cognitive behavioral therapy, in which individuals’ faulty adaptive behaviors and faulty thinking patterns along with negative feelings associated with the experience of loneliness and shyness are altered to more adaptive and positive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
In less extreme cases, however, individuals, in their day-to-day life, can try to alter their behaviors and develop strategies in which they could cope and deal with their difficulties associated with loneliness and shyness. This could also be done initially, by individuals who suffer from extreme forms of loneliness and shyness, as their lack of self-confidence and awkwardness in social situations may cause them to hesitate in going for therapy.

There are a number of ways in which lonely and shy individuals can help themselves in dealing with their difficulties. These are given below:

Identification of Strengths
Each person has some strengths. The key is to identify those strengths. The identification of these strengths will boost the self-esteem of that person and will make him/her feel that there is something good about him/her. With time the confidence due to identification of that strength(s) increases. Even a little bit of confidence can turn out to be very fulfilling for lonely and shy individuals.

Being with Likeminded People
For lonely and shy individuals, it is always good to be with like-minded people and spending time with people who have similar interests. Being with similar people will reduce the feeling of self-consciousness. It will help in interaction with little hesitation, reduce the feeling of being left out, will bring in positive vibes, and help in developing a positive mood.

Finding a means for Self-expression
Individuals with loneliness and shyness can find it to be very helpful if they try to share their feelings with people who they feel understand them. If not with people, then indulging in writing can be a great medium for self-expression. Individuals can write about issues that they feel passionate about; they can maintain a diary. The internet can also be used as a way for self-expression. The individual can share experiences of self with others on online forums. They can talk about their difficulties and experiences on blogs. Self-expression has been found to lead to better mental health. It reduces the feeling of worthlessness and makes individuals feel better about themselves.

Guided Visualization
Guided visualization is about overlooking the negatives in the current situation and thinking about how things could get better. Having a positive attitude towards life is the key to a successful living. In difficult situations, individuals with loneliness and shyness must learn to tackle conditions by imagining a possibly good reason behind it and sorting the best way to handle it in calm and composed manner. One must try to overlook the present gruesome conditions and think of the time lying ahead of it, which might give pleasure along with strength. Being hopeful that things will get better in the future helps in instilling self-belief that things will get better in the future.

Avoid Making Comparisons
Each person is a unique individual. For individuals with loneliness and shyness, it is always better to be like they are and avoid comparisons in life. A person should not try to be like someone else and should stop aiming for other lifestyles. They should always focus on who they are and be what they are. Making comparison is an irrelevant aspect of life. It is more important to identify oneself, realize ones true potential and ones goals in life. Individuals should focus on their own strengths and the things that inspire them, instead of wanting to be like someone else.

Breathing/Relaxation
Individuals with loneliness and shyness tend to become anxious in social situations, which increase their breathing rate. Breathing rate tends to be a marker for the level of anxiety at any time. Short breaths depict sudden terror or anxiety felt by the brain and the body. In situations of fear and panic attacks, in social situations, deep breathing exercises can be very helpful. By taking long continuous breaths, signals are sent to the brain not to panic and stay calm. Loosening of muscles also works in the same manner.

Self-Talk
During anxiety, too many thoughts start occurring in the mind. The person’s brain starts an over production of thoughts and ideas that may have little logic. These thoughts can even heighten up in nervousness and distress. In such situations, individuals should try to calm themselves down. The person should start indulging in self-talk, such as to challenge themselves by asking questions and finding the answers to it. This can turn out to be very useful because after this, the person feels much better and very much in control of his/her thoughts, feelings, and behaviour.

Behavioral Rehearsal
Behavioral rehearsal is about imagining the whole social situation beforehand. The person may think of all that can be spoken and try to have the whole conversation in his/her head. This can give a basic idea of a forthcoming situation. It prepares the individual in how to react appropriately. It also helps in relaxing oneself and dealing with the anxiety associated with a specific social situation.

Confronting the Fears
Lonely and especially shy individuals develop a fear of being in social situations and interacting with others. Instead of evading such situations and making things get worse, the person must work on these fears, try to figure them out and try to deal with them. This is a useful way of dealing with these problems because they tend to be exacerbated if left just like that.

Learning about the Fears
This involves a keen observation and record of the fears and problems faced by the individual. The individual should keep a track of that happens and, accordingly set small yet achievable goals regarding reduction of inner fears. By doing so, lonely and shy individuals can specify the exact reason of fear in a wide range of social situations. Once they get to know about specific fear arousing situation/object, they can then try to confront it and try to deal with it effectively.

Self-appreciation
Individuals with loneliness and shyness often develop a low self-esteem and lack confidence. Such individuals should concentrate on their contributions or on what they can contribute in their life and society in general. They should try to appreciate what they have done so far and think about the benefits of their contributions around them. This realization will bring about a change in their self-evaluation and will enhance their confidence. It will also help in delivering with maximum efficiency. The more confident they will feel, the more satisfied they will feel about themselves. Apart from this, they should also always praise their own success, which will further add to self-appreciation and make them feel better about themselves.

These aforementioned strategies, which small alterations in thoughts and behavior, help lonely and shy individuals a lot in dealing with and to quite an extent overcoming with their difficulties.


Apart from bringing about changes in themselves, it also becomes important for others to act in certain ways towards them, which may help them to feel better about themselves and feel more accepted. One of the best ways for lonely and shy individual to deal with their difficulties is the feeling of being accepted by others. This can only happen when and if those others think and behave in specific ways. Such actions/behaviors are given below:

Being Aware
Just being aware about the various problems, difficulties that people face can be very helpful. Being aware gives an understanding of such issues. It will make them sensitive towards lonely and shy individuals and will develop empathy towards them. The development of an empathetic feeling towards lonely and shy individuals will encourage them to shed their inhibitions and make them try to interact with others in a better manner.

Understanding and Acceptance
There should be an understanding about individual differences. An understanding that there are different types of individuals, with different types of behavior patterns helps a lot. This understanding can develop a feeling of acceptance for lonely and shy individuals. It is acceptance what such people need to feel better.

Care and Encouragement
Showing care and concern for such people becomes very important. People should not indulge in harassing or making fun of them. They should show appreciation for any of their talents and strengths. They should encourage them to come forward and express themselves and try to mix up with others. Even a small word of appreciation and encouragement can turn out to be very fruitful for lonely and shy individuals.

Parents Should Be Supportive
Parents need to be supportive towards their children who are lonely or shy. They should not be critical about them. They should develop a relationship in which they share and discuss their problems and issues with them. They should not take signs of withdrawal in their child lightly (which are the initial signs of feeling lonely and shy). They should be able to identify early signs of loneliness and/or shyness/social anxiety. They should also put in all the effort to help the child and make them feel comfortable and should not in any way make them feel unwanted.

Teachers Should Be Sensitive
Teachers need to be sensitive towards lonely and shy individuals in the classroom. They should try not to be critical to them, especially in front of others. They should always show appreciation in front of others. They should also be able to identify any kind of signs and symptoms of loneliness and shyness (such as sitting alone, away from others, or having a sad expression), and take actions accordingly. Teachers should also be aware about a student being bullied by others and help him/her not to feel embarrassed in such situations. They should always encourage the students to share their personal problems with them and try to help them as much as possible.

If people, including peers, friends, parents, siblings, relatives, and teachers keep these things in mind, they will be helping lonely and shy individuals to a great extent. Such behaviors can be very encouraging and soothing for individuals with loneliness and shyness. It can prove to be very significant in helping them to cope and overcome with many of their difficulties.   


Loneliness and shyness are serious issues that are quite often ignored. Both can be dealt with if individuals having these problems consciously make some minor, yet significant, alterations in their behavior and thought processes. It also becomes a lot easier for lonely and shy individuals if others, in their surroundings, are more aware, caring, and accepting about such issues, and do not see it as something that is trivial.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

PSYCHOLOGY AND ABNORMAL BEHAVIOR

Psychology is very often, by many, seen as the study and treatment of mental problems; it is seen as a field of study that deals with abnormal behavior and psychological problems. However, initially, psychology had no association with mental illness and disorders. This aspect of psychology emerged much later.
Modern psychology began in 1879, with the establishment of Wundt’s laboratory at Leipzig. Psychology then, and for many years later, was the study of conscious experiences and its aim was to understand basic human processes. The major topics of study were sensation, perception, memory, and learning. In 1892, when the American Psychological Association (APA) was established, psychology was regarded as an academic discipline with its roots in experimentation and was considered to be a field of study based only on research.
With the formation of the APA, psychology was said to be firmly established as a distinct discipline. Psychology was regarded as a scientific, research based discipline as in the beginning of modern psychology, and psychologists were even then mainly concerned with sensation, perception, and dimensions of the mind.
It was only in 1896, seventeen years after the beginning of modern psychology and four years after the formation of the APA that psychology began to be concerned with mental disorders. The year 1896 is regarded as the birth of clinical psychology – the area of psychology concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of psychological disorders.
The opening of the first psychological clinic, in 1896, by Lightner Witmer, at the University of Pennsylvania, is regarded as the formal beginning of clinical psychology. After completing his PhD under Wilhelm Wundt, Witmer returned to the University of Pennsylvania and became the director of the psychology laboratory. While doing research, he was always very keen of using the basic principles of human behavior to help individuals with their difficulties.
In 1896, a teacher consulted Witmer about the problems her student was facing in school. Witmer organized a make shift clinic and after assessing the student’s problem, he developed a specific treatment program. He found that the child had difficulty in spelling, reading, and memory, and recommended tutoring, which later proved to be a successful intervention.
Lightner Witmer
Witmer, thus, became the first psychologist to use his understanding of the principles of human behavior to help an individual with a particular problem. Within a few months, Witmer was preparing courses on methods for treating mentally defective, blind, and disturbed children.
Later, in the same year, Witmer presented a paper at the annual meeting of APA in which he described his methods of diagnosis and treatment. It was here that he used the term clinical psychology for the first time. He also proposed that a psychological clinic could be devoted to diagnosis and evaluation, individual treatment, public service, research, and the training of students.
By 1904, the University of Pennsylvania began offering formal courses in clinical psychology and Witmer went on to offer the first college course on clinical psychology. In 1907, Witmer founded the journal Psychological Clinic, which became the first journal in the field. For many years, this was the only journal for clinical psychology.
In the first issue of the journal, Witmer proposed a new application of psychology and a new profession to be called clinical psychology. The following year, he established a boarding school for retarded and disturbed children, and in 1909 his university clinic expanded and was established as a separate administrative unit.
Witmer independently developed his psychological clinic at the University of Pennsylvania along with programs to assist children with primarily school related difficulties and challenges. Teachers began sending to Witmer’s new clinic many other children with a broad range of deficiencies and problems, which included hyperactivity, learning disabilities, and poor speech and motor development. As his experience with these problems increased, Witmer developed standard programs of assessment and treatment.
A number of psychologists followed Witmer’s example, and within a few years many psychological clinics opened. All these clinics were patterned on Witmer’s clinic.
Many of the principles that Witmer developed in his psychological clinic are still used today - he favored a diagnostic evaluation prior to offering treatment procedures and services, he favored a multidisciplinary team approach instead of individual consultation, he used interventions and diagnostic strategies based on research evidence, and, he was interested in preventing problems before they emerged.
Therefore, clinical psychology, the area of psychology devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of abnormal behavior and psychological disorders began in 1896. This was the first time a psychologist used the understanding of basic processes in order to treat abnormal behavior.
A year before the birth of clinical psychology, abnormal behavior, which was only studied in psychiatry, became a part of psychology, due to the beginning of the classical school of psychology called Psychoanalysis.
In his career as a neurologist, Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, realized that many of his patients had neurological problems without any organic pathology. Freud found that the neurological symptoms of his patients were caused by hysteria, which was due to an emotional conflict that individuals might be suffering from.
This emotional conflict, according to Freud was due to painful childhood memories, forbidden sexual wishes, or forbidden aggressive wishes that were hidden in the unconscious mind of the individuals. When not resolved, this emotional conflict gets manifested as neurological symptoms.
Sigmund Freud
It was this realization that led Freud towards the founding of psychoanalysis. In 1895, Freud collaborated with his colleague and mentor Joseph Breuer in the publication of the book Studies on Hysteria. The book was about the description of the cases of hysteria that they had treated. The publication of this book is said to be the beginning of psychoanalysis – a system of psychological theory and therapy that aims to understand and treat mental illness by investigating the unconscious elements of the mind.
After separating from Breuer, Freud further developed his theory with the publication of his books The Interpretation of Dreams, in 1900, and The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, in 1901. Freud majorly used the techniques of free association and dream analysis for treating his patients.
In free association, the patient lies on a couch and is encouraged to talk openly and spontaneously, giving complete expression to every idea, no matter how embarrassing, unimportant, or foolish it may seem. Such thoughts were often jumbled and fragmentary, with no apparent patterns. However, Freud would gradually see a pattern emerge, which resulted in a highly emotional recall of forgotten events.
These events, according to Freud were repressed in the unconscious mind of the patient and were only revealed in the conscious awareness due to free association. This recall of repressed memories and events would help the patients to be treated of their emotional trauma.
Freud also analysed the dreams (dream analysis) of his patients. He believed that dreams represent a disguised satisfaction of repressed desires and that the essence of a dream is wish fulfilment. Freud believed that when patients described their dreams, their forbidden desires (the latent dream content) are expressed only in symbolic form. This revealing of forbidden desires of his patients helped him in their treatment.
Freud used clinical observations as his primary data. He was a gifted observer and heavily relied on clinical data. He derived his theory from the experiences he had with his patients in his clinic. Freud also believed that normal and abnormal behavior can be seen in continuity. According to him normality and abnormality differed only in terms of degree and not in type; and thus, had a humane approach towards mental illness.  
Among all the classic schools of psychology, Psychoanalysis is the only one that made its aim to improve the mental health of an individual. Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, according to which behavior is guided by the unconscious forces of the mind, was the first comprehensive theory of personality.
The ideas of Freud became very crucial to the development of clinical psychology. It moved the field far beyond its origins in Witmer’s clinic. Psychologists were fascinated with Freud’s work and his ideas provided clinical psychologists with their first psychological techniques of therapy.
Therefore, in 1895, sixteen years after the beginning of modern psychology, with the formation and rise of psychoanalysis, the study of abnormal behavior which was only a part of psychiatry had also become a part of psychology.    
Psychology, even though popularly seen as synonymous with the study and treatment of abnormal behavior, initially had no association with it. Modern psychology began as a scientific, research-based field to understand general, normal basic human processes. It was a good sixteen to seventeen years after the beginning of modern psychology that abnormal behavior was included as a part of psychology. Before this, abnormal behavior was only a part of psychiatry.


This article can also be found on the blog History Of Psychology 

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