So far most important things I learned from taking Abnormal Psychology

This semester, I took an online Abnormal Psychology course taught by Dr. Bradburry.

At the beginning of this year when I registered for this semester’s courses, I was so obsessed by my instant “dream:” to be a mental health counselor and help people live happily (See the question I asked on CareerVillage) .

I spent days planning for my remaining two years in college, sharing my “passion” with friends, thinking about future possibilities…

And also, worrying about everything.

How to repay the ridiculously expensive tuition to my parents? How can I possibly graduate on time? What if I cannot help those suppered and experience emotion fatigue (Yes, I know those fancy words)? What if I miss other possibilities?

But time doesn’t wait. You have to register classes if you want to graduate on time.

That’s why I registered the Abnormal Psychology course – a required one for mental health professionals, one talking about mental disorders and abnormal behaviors.

There are some interesting materials. I learned the definition of what is abnormal is complicated and ambiguous. History, culture, and society largely influence people’s concept. If you live in Japan, which I studied abroad last summer, you could dress whatever you like and still be considered as normal; if you live in China, however, dressing in lolita – those Victorian doll costumes – will be considered abnormal. If you are having a great time with friends and laugh hardily in public in China, no one will pay extra attention; if you do so in Japan especially in metros, everyone will judge you as if you did something horrible.

There is no good or bad, just different societies define what is normal, abnormal differently.

Also, I learned about negative reinforcement – increase certain behavior or thought by removing an aversive stimulus. If a child is trying in the store, the mom gives him candy to let him stop crying – the child is actually “manipulating” his mom! He induces the mom to give him candy by removing his crying behavior, which causes a lot of noises and trouble in the store.

How funny it is! I laughed when hearing Professor saying that.

But there’s a thought came up. Is negative reinforcement a reason for so many people to have mental health problems? Like me, eating, avoiding things I fear, by removing my anxious feelings?

If some ways of thinking are learned…. just habit, could we be more aware and then, just break it? 

A lot of insightful knowledge within this month.  Also some discomforting thoughts about myself.

Psychology, to be honest, is science.

I’m not saying I don’t like scientific research. Of course, biology plays an important part in diagnosing and treating mental health problems.

It’s just that I’m more interested in theoretical thinking. Psychoanalysis, sitting down on a cozy sofa, share deepest emotions face to face with the counselor. Through intuition and empathy, you connect with clients, use years of learning, and help them realize the problem.

I want to connect, instead of opening DSM, turning pages and pages to match symptoms, scientifically proving something.

It is important, effective, and even could say the right way to actually help people solve their problems.

It’s just, not the way I want to do.


I’m only interested in connecting people and making them feel happy.

Not patient enough. Every time I feel, experience, and embrace, I would like to share with the world. Counseling is different. They need to consider pros and cons, reactions, consequences… hold their integrity and responsibilities… sometimes lie, hold their thoughts.

I truly respect those professionals and admire their greatness, but I, the free spirit only want to explore the fullness of humanity, so far, could not one of them.

That is why I finally realized that I am not suitable for a counselor career.

So far, not suitable. At least, not suitable for a traditional way. 

At last, I want to share a Ted Talk about problems of labeling.

This Ted talk is from Jon Ronson a journalist. When he went to his friend, he saw the very long (886 pages) of DSM Manual and diagnosed himself with, according to the book, 12 disorders. Then he visited a Scientologist who believe that psychiatry is “pseudo-science.” The Scientologist referred him to a prison and visit a man who alleged to fake madness.  No one believes him because his behaviors match a lot of symptoms of “psychopath.”

Then he went to visit Albert Dunlap, a billionaire who fired 30% American workers at that time and tried to use the symptoms in DSM to persuade Dunlap himself is a psychopath.

Later the journalist realized that, when using the manual, he is actually making himself become a psychopath. He looked back his journalist career. Are journalists the same – going outside, across borders to catch tiny details and ignore all the normal stuff?

Overdiagnosis is everywhere in Psychiatry. People forget that there actually has a grey area, just like the patient in prison, in fact, is a semi-psychopath.

It is the grey area that “lies complexity, humanity, and truth.”

At last, when the patient came out of prison and invited the journalist a drink.

He didn’t go, but will you?

Will I go?



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A 20-year-old ENFP looking for likely-minded people

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