One day, my client was telling me about his birthday celebrations. Generally people feel happy during their birthday celebrations. I predicted that my client was feeling embarrassed or ashamed but not happy. I asked him if that is true. I always verify my assumptions. He said “yes”. He was shocked and surprised that I understood his emotion even though he didn’t give any clue. I explained him how I guessed. In the previous sessions, he smiled when he was talking about his childhood abuse. He also smiles while talking about how his boss humiliates himself in front of others in office. So I thought, he smiles while talking about humiliating experiences. He explains happy things without any emotion. While explaining about birthday celebrations, he was smiling. So I thought he was feeling ashamed. We later explored about why he felt ashamed during celebrations. [This is an imaginary story based on several true stories]
I would have failed if I would have gone by conventional notion that smile indicates happiness. Because, in his case, client smiles only when he feels embarrassed. There are n number of sources which teach us conventional notions. Books on mind reading, body language, astrology, nameology, numerology, cultural virtues, ethics, moral stories, etc. These books talk about people and characteristics of people. Even some of the fake books use the name ‘Psychology’ and talk about people in conventional manner. We see many posts on social media also with a tag ‘Psychology Says’. This is an example and I have really seen this kind of post “Psychology says, people whose name starts with S are extroverts”. LOL… Psychology never said such things! Words like- introvert, extrovert, empath, nonjudgemental, etc have became so popular. They are being used by everyone in different kinds of contexts.
There are also some Psychologists who use conventional methods of tagging people. There are conventional Psychology books about mindset of people. I have read these lines in a book “any human being falls in love with someone who is identical to him/her”, “Anxious people are perfectionists”, etc.
Whether it is a fake book written by illiterate (Who doesn’t know Psychology) or an authentic book written by genuine qualified Psychologist, that won’t make any difference. They successfully implant ideas or preexisting notions in mind.
By reading a book, we can only understand about author of the book but not about any other human being. That is because, author writes book based on what he learned in his/her life. Each human being can be compared to unique world, full of learnings and experiences. I never understood this when my supervisor explained me. I only understood after talking to clients. They taught me that things doesnt happen in the way in which we read in books.
What are the sources of knowledge for a good Psychologist? Only the client, his behaviour, his actions and his words. Thats it! Knowing something about client by reading a book takes away the opportunity of understanding some aspects of client.
Let me explain with an analogy. Imagine you have a white pages book. You went to attend seminar. You can note maximum number of points while attending seminar if your book is empty. Imagine if you have same book, but made inquiries about seminar, got information through various sources and wrote in the book. You went to attend seminar. In this case, you lost an opportunity of writing some of the points because some pages are already used.
In general, we humans fill our notebooks before attending seminars, i.e., we learn many things from various sources. Then we try to understand same things which we already wrote in book from the person who is giving seminar, i.e., we expect other person to behave according to our own understanding of that person. But that is not possible. So we come to conclusion that it is impossible for us to understand seminars, i.e., we believe that it is impossible to understand people.
We humans have high intellect when compared to animals. There are n number of permutations and combinations to explain about our actions. We have to make use of our boon, which is nothing but language. Humans have high intellect and it is difficult to understand human actions. But at the same time, humans have capability to speak. Listening is the only method that can help us in getting information from other person! To listen effectively, we have to first unlearn what we know! To understand a person, we have to listen to that person after unlearning everything that we got to know about him/her by any method other than “LISTENING”.