Saturday, February 27, 2010

Getting ahead of yourself

           The concept of getting ahead of yourself was taught to me in school by my hindi textbook. I tell this to people all the time, guess because this funny story stuck in my head. Of course, the exact story may not have stuck with me, but the moral of the story definitely did. Long story considerably short not super short goes like this, there is this funny character called shekhchilli, who is walking, carrying some milk. As he is walking, he starts thinking about making some butter out of the milk and then selling the butter, using that money to buy more milk, making butter, selling that for profit to I guess buying a cow and then going on and on that, as he keeps building castles in the air, he suddenly slips and falls down dropping down all the milk he had and his little dream castle gets demolished in a minute. As I said, the story may not be exactly what I read in my school hindi book, yet, I think all smart readers of my blogpost by now would have gotten the moral of the story and that is not to get ahead of yourself or in other words, 'don't count your chickens before they hatch'.

           Stories apart, one of the classic real life examples of where this happens with us human beings is mostly during relationships. We would start talking to someone, and have an instant liking for them, Few conversations and we foolishly start feeling that we know this person really well and this is the person we really like, this is the person have fallen in love with. We get so ahead of ourselves that we let our imaginations have fun and think far too ahead along the lines of spending our entire lives with that person. Think of it rationally, we might not even know that person really well and we are in love and thinking about spending all our life with them. With time, we slowly go to stage where we don't see beyond that person and try to interpret and analyze each word they speak to us. We get upset when they don't respond to us in the manner we expect them to. In the process we forget to look at the practicality of how right that person is for us. A similar example which Indian movies often show is the one where someone's flirtatious talk could be misunderstood for a romantic interest in us. It could end up like being fooled by a mirage. We start living in an illusion until reality strikes one day. People who call themselves mature might read this example and say, well this doesn't happen to everyone, it happens to people who are immature or people who don't think rationally. I am not saying this happens to everyone, but I do know all of us go through such an excitement atleast once in life. If you didn't, either you are really dumb or you are blatantly lying. Let me give another example. We often prepare for situations say for instance an interview which goes really well and we start getting ahead of ourselves and start making plans for after a getting the job, though we haven't even got the offer yet. We have all been shekhchillis atleast at some point in our life atleast for a few minutes. 

            Getting ahead of yourself has negative effects when you encounter experiences where you eventually met with a failure.  So you get a bad experience and then you slowly become cautious and then with another bad experience you become cynical. In such cases, we keep telling ourselves not to get ahead of ourselves and try to be very watchful. We could even end up being over cautious and afraid of taking risks in life. But  paradoxically, someone can come and ask us, 'a man can dream can't he?' . There is a fine line between dreaming and getting ahead of yourself. It is easy to confuse visualizing or envisioning a future and trying to take actions to reach them with trying to do something or plan for something which is not yet appropriate. So if I have an ambition of becoming a psychologist, taking steps and preparing to achieve that goal is something positive. But if I start thinking now itself about how many people I am going to counsel once I become a psychologist or how much money I will be making by open up a private practice, that is just when I am getting way ahead of myself. From a psychological perspective, getting ahead of yourself could lead to a chain or train of thoughts, but should not be confused with the monkey mind concept where your chain of thoughts could pretty much be disconnected and each thought in itself may be rational.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Self-fulfilling prophecy

           I once wrote a statement on the whiteboard on my officedesk which I recently had written on my status message on my google messenger too. It goes like this- " Mistrust and distrust are often self fulfilling prophecies. " A small thing here before I go on further, while I am not an expert in English, yet with the little knowledge that I have, I would like to differentiate between mistrust and distrust. While I 'distrust' something means that I dont trust that thing and I 'mistrust' something means that I find it wrong or incorrect to trust that thing. Anyways, my blog is not about trust but about self fulling prophecy and I am going to come back to my point. So this statement on the whiteboard, as people who passed by my desk reading this statement mentioned to me that they were thinking if anytime this statement was true for something in their lives. As I learn more and ponder about life, I feel, self fulfilling prophecy is prevelant in peoples' lives in different ways.

           I first learnt about the term self fulfilling prophecy when I was studying about experiments and experimental methods in psychology 101. So, what is self fulfilling prophecy in the first place? Self fulfilling prophecy is a false perception or interpretation of something which directly or indirectly causes the false conception to come true. This could be connected to self-perception theory too in a way. This whole topic is huge and can be taken into multiple directions. In this post, I am going to divide and conquer parts of this huge topic. I am going to share a few things learnt in books and then I am going to conclude with how I have seen this concept in real life.

           In psychology, placebo effect is one of the easiest to understand forms of self fulfilling prophecy. One simple form of placebo effect is when a subject of an experiment is given for example a drug which would treat some medical condition. But instead of giving them an actual medicine, they are given a dummy medicine called the placebo, but the subjects are not aware. In their mind, they still feel they are eating an actual medicine and due to a sort of positive feedback, the subjects see and experience a change though actually its just a little mind game being played with them. Another similar self fulfilling prophecy is the pygmalion effect which deals with the attitude of people. It goes along the lines of placing higher expectations on people to bring out better results from them and in some cases it works positively. The flip side also works, where the more negative or lower expectations you have from a person, the poorer they are likely to perform. This is particularly true in case of observer bias where experimenter expects certain results and tries to unknowingly influence the subjects or the conditions to get the result they expected. Even in case of kids, parents and teachers often have high expectations from certain kids and low expectations from certain kids, so in most cases, despite the kids' actual potential, they tend to unknowingly fulfil the high and low expectations. I dont want to go into a lot of details about the self fulfilling prophecy theoretically here.

           When I think about these, I think if I have encountered anything similar in my own life. Well I guess yes. Lot of people including me, tend to become very cynical after a few bad experiences. Cynical about not just others, but about themselves. In a way it is like a closed mindedness that you induce into yourself and somehow or the other your false perception eventually comes true. That is probably the reason, some people tend to appear to be making the same mistakes and have a string of failures be it in relationships, or work or in studies. One of the first classic examples of this is my own life is my fear of mathematics. As a kid I was always scared of maths. I am still confused as to how it started, was it because i disliked the subject and scored low or was it because I scored low that I started disliking the subject. But however it started, by my  5th grade, I used to be scared of maths and slowly began to dislike the subject too. I kept believing that I didnt have the aptitude and kept proving that right by scoring low in maths all the time which would affect my overal grades every year. On top of all this, I wanted to become an engineer and knew I could never escape mathematics no matter what. Thanks to god, I tried to stop thinking about liking or disliking the subject or about the fact that I am good or bad at the subject. I started studying because like other subjects I had to study this one too. By the time I got into Engineering college, I started getting better and confident about the subject. But similar things have happened to me, where few friends ditched me and slowly I began to believe that friends are people who will leave you and go and the more I began to believe that, more friends began to leave me,  and my defense mechanism for that, before they try to leave me, I try to leave myself. Funny and stupid as it sounds, it is very true.
            Another classic example is astrological prediction. Some prediction could say that you are going to flunk your exam next semester, and there is a high possibility that you believe that prediction and unknowingly tend to do things which are going to make you make that prediction come true. Similarly, good prediction could work good for you too. While the prediction was just a mere statement, our perception could make it true eventually. Similarly, distrust is one biggest examples according to me, of self fulfilling prophecy. We tend to mistrust people slowly and steadily, it does become true and become a distrust altogether. I mean all this happens in the mind, what might have actually happened in reality may not exactly be in sync with our imaginations and thoughts. After watching "shutter island" yesterday night, I started exploring this concept in terms of self-perception theory and a glimpse of that can be summed up in one line, may be people can drive themselves crazy without their own knowledge. However that whole thing is a separate topic for another blogpost.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Commenting on blogs

Disclaimer for this post: I am not sure how other bloggers think, but this is just what I think.

Comments for blogs are always welcome and highly appreciated. But when you write comments, I would appreciate any comments, which could be critical or in support of what I wrote, however what hurts is when someone tries to comment on me as a person as a comment to one of my blogposts. I dont want comments on whether I am an expert on a topic or not, I dont consider myself an expert in anything for that matter. A comment appreciating my quality of writing or pointing out flaws in my writing would encourage me to write better. I strongly believe anyone who blogs just writes his/her ideas and uses this as medium to share it with others and not to hear judgemental comments about themselves. Once again, please comment on the content of someone's blogs, or their style of writing but not on the people they are.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Freedom to be free!

I remembered this Shahrukh Khan featuring advertisement which used to always show up while I used to be watching cricket matches. It used to go as..."Freedom to be free, azaadi dil ki..", I guess it was Pepsi's advertisement. Well, as of now, I am living in country which is all about free will. Have you ever wondered about the freedom to be free? I always knew about freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom to life etc, but this is interesting enough. We are bound in so many ways, directly and indirectly in several of our actions. Thanks to culture, ethics, society, our upbringing and what not. My parents, friends and a lot of people around think that I am a very independent person. I probably am financially, economically independent. Mentally and physically too may be I am independent. Emotionally, I dont think anyone of us, including me is independent, atleast I am not. Freedom is never free, it is always accompanied by some constraints. For every freedom we enjoy, we do have some constraints and restrictions. As children, we have bounds created for us by parents, and schools etc. As we grow up, it doesnt really stop, it goes on and on and beyond a point in life, we start creating bounds ourselves. And think about it, even freedom of thought is not completely free, we have several self created blocks which prevent us from thinking beyond a certain point or atleast discussing openly about what we thought. Those who break free from these bounds in some cases make it big in life. 

Lately, often, I wish, I could be free, free with no bounds. Free to think as I like, free to make decisions as I want,  free from expectations, free from guilt, free from regret, free from feeling bad for others and for my ownself. As easy as all this sounds while writing, in real life, I know, getting to this would be like becoming a monk. Philosophically, Free Will is a concept used to refer to the belief that human behavior is not absolutely determined by external causes, but is the result of choices made by an act of will by the agent. Such choices are themselves not determined by external causes, but are determined by the motives and intentions of the agent, which themselves are not absolutely determined by external causes. In Devil's Advocate ( Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves movie) free will is preached by John Milton and Kevin Lomax shoots himself saying, free will and he could do as he wanted without feeling sorry for it. While all this is easy in a movie, in real life, it is far from possible for most sane people. So do we have the freedom to be free? I dont think we do. But there might be people who will argue with me saying that it depends what do you want to be free of. As far as I know, freedom doesnt come free, if you want emotional freedom, then I guess you have to become free of emotions, but that comes with its associated gains and losses. Everything has a cost, but I think we have to learn to make the smart tradeoffs such that we enjoy we can enjoy our freedom to the maximum possible.

Friday, February 5, 2010


Is experience the name we give to every mistake which we realized we made in the first place? Is it something inevitable that happens in everyone’s life? These questions have often come to my mind, but I always conveniently told myself that, whatever the term experience is actually, one thing which is forever true if you believe in destiny, god etc is that every experience you have is designed to make you stronger and better. This statement would definitely make you feel better especially when you have just realized that you had a disgusting experience. But think about it, most experiences we have are a result of our own actions, mind you I am not talking about those unforeseen circumstances where there is nothing much you can do except face the situation and if you survive, name that situation an experience and move on. But what about several situations and problems we get into due to our own ignorance or carelessness or mistake? We still conveniently call them experiences.

I know I have myself mentioned the word experience in many of my blog posts. Experience is not just what I wrote above. If you were to look at definition for psychology, as I understand, it is a sort of learning our brain has undergone due to exposure to something. This is the definition which will help us when we are talking about being experienced in doing something, like in jobs, or technologies etc. Now here again, we could categorize experience into first-hand experience, second-hand experience and even third hand experience. In one line, first-hand experience is the experience you get when you are the direct subject of the experience; second hand experience is the experience you get when you are an indirect subject of the experience. However third hand experience is not the best, though it could still be put to good yes, provided you take it in the right spirit. This is the experience which we could get by reading or hearing or witnessing the experience that someone has gone through directly or indirectly, and where we had literally nothing to do. Example of this could be, like getting knowledge by reading autobiographies of people.

In terms of psychology, my knowledge about experience is pretty much limited. But from little knowledge I have, I believe, experiences we have could be physical or mental or emotional experiences. As such, though I have categorized experience into three categories, yet what we need to know is that either one of these experiences affects altogether. I mean to say for example a physical experience could affect us emotionally and mentally too.

No matter how much we categorize or define experiences. Like everything else, an experience can be put to good use in the future if we decide to, and should always be looked upon as a learning as opposed to sulking, rethinking and replaying the experience over and over with multiple different idealistic scenarios is going to lead us nowhere. By the look who is talking about this. I know I might not be the best person to talk about experience, but the fact that I am a human being gives me enough right to talk about this. Come on, even cave man became a civilized man through experience and not overnight.