When life throws you lemons, thank it for the snack

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Teaching Psychology

They say you learn more by teaching. This is very true, especially in psychology. We have spent the last two weeks on the topic of stress and coping and each time I teach about it, I am reminded of the good habits of coping that I sometimes forget. Quite possibly the best coping mechanism, the one that certainly changed my life the most, is reflected in this blog itself. True, I haven't updated this blog in quite a while. Most of that is due to a busy life, sometimes it was because I could not think of a topic.

Well, today's topic is teaching. The lesson I have learned and have re-emphasized in my life and with my daughter has been the idea behind Rational Emotive Behavior therapy, Gestalt therapy, Cognitive Behavioral therapy, and Monty Python. Put simply--"Always look on the bright side of life!" Granted, there is much more theory and practice in the actual therapy methods mentioned, however, it boils down to a matter of perspective.

I have found that changing my view point to one of more optimism, more logic, and more a critical thinking has reduced the potential stress I experience on a regular basis. Yes, sometimes I do meet a frustration initially with an expletive (not necessarily a cuss word [Nutbunnies is not usually offensive]), yet I quickly remind myself to slow down and think about the situation with a 360 degree view (or at least a 180 to get the opposite viewpoint). This is a lesson that I hope my students eventually have drilled into their brains, as I have noticed that something like 99% [note that 84% of statistics are made up on the fly to try to prove a point] of the stress people experience is directly or indirectly due to their insistence on worrying about a decision that has already been made. Usually that decision is to see the stressor in a negative light. [Okay, I would actually like to see some real statistics and I know it is possible to develop a research study--or find one--that demonstrates the correlation, if not causal effect, between cognitive appraisal and stress experiences]. This is the greatest lesson I learned while teaching psychology.

I have learned other lessons, as well. I have learned basic biology and anatomy (being required to teach the biological brain chapters encourages me to look up the information myself so I don't look like too big of a fool during the lessons). I have reinforced my education in motivation and personality. Most importantly, not only am I refreshing my memory on the topics, but I am also finding new ways to actually APPLY the material to my everyday life, not just in the classroom. That's what I love about teaching psychology. The subject is not just academic and scientific, it is also very applicable to the real world.

Things like using and recognizing compliance tactics, acknowledging an individual's unique motivational sphere, and understanding how and why people operate and think differently via the influence of their personality and past experiences has helped me to navigate the social realms much more easily. I do not have a slew of friends (real or Facebook--I don't use FB much any more besides checking in with some interest groups) or hundreds of followers on Twitter (@eowyn35 is my username, but I only tweet about my craft projects as a personal rule), nor do I have any readers of this blog. However, I have my methods for interacting with others that keeps my stress at a minimum and I am teaching many of these methods to my daughter. So far she has been able to self-correct some of her self-defeating behaviors (pessimistic thinking, irrational cognition). As a result, she is able to handle her very busy schedule with relative ease, has less difficulty with the less-than-perfect social interactions at school than I ever did, and is a mentally healthy child. She still has problems, I still experience stress, but I believe our stress levels are much lower than they could be if we did not apply these lessons from psychology.

Teaching keeps the information fresh in a teacher's mind. Some lessons in a subject are more useful than others. The most important thing is to find a useful way to apply it. The more I teach, the more I find ways to apply my knowledge and plant idea seeds in my students' mind gardens. Whether those seeds grow for them is a choice they will have to make for themselves. I have been enjoying the fruits of my harvest for 8 years now and I hope to continue to do so for many more years to come.

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