Sunday, October 16, 2011

Psychology, personality, and . . . something else that starts with a P

Sometimes I think it would be fascinating to study psychology. I've always been interested in certain facets of what makes us all human--who isn't?--but my academic instruction in that area has left me with more knowledge about crazy psychology teachers than the subject they thought they were teaching. My high school psychology teacher sniffed a few too many markers, and my college psychology professor spent all of his time conducting pointless mind games on us, the willing victims who walked unwittingly into his classroom. It really is a shame that even the most fascinating of subjects can be rendered dull by the skill of the speaker, er, teacher.

But despite my lack of sane instruction on how the mind works and all that jazz (or perhaps because of it), over the past few weeks I've been pondering certain motivations that shape a person's personality.

Allow me to use a real-life example to demonstrate my point.

There's this episode in Gilmore Girls where Lorelai's mother agrees with her 100 percent. For those unfortunate enough to not have yet discovered the delights of this show, just know that Emily Gilmore never agrees with her daughter on anything. At least not 100 percent. So, naturally, Lorelai freaks out and spends the rest of the episode reevaluating every decision she has ever made in her life, from how to style her hair to whether or not she likes pop tarts. For her, the motivating factor behind most of her decisions depends largely upon whether her mother would approve of her decisions. Would Emily approve of eating a cold pastry out of a box for breakfast (or lunch or dinner)? Of course not; that's why pop tarts are Lorelai's favorite food. Would Emily approve of of high-speed internet? Of course she would; that's why Lorelai and Rory make do with a slow, dial-up connection.

*To experience the true Gilmore Girls feel of the previous paragraph, read it really fast without taking a breath.*

I had a similar thought-altering experience a few weeks ago when I was sitting at work, off on one of my tangents. I was wondering yet again why anyone would voluntarily wear a dress and heels all day without being required to do so. I certainly would never in a million years do such a thing.

But then I started thinking about why I strongly dislike wearing church clothes, buying (and wearing) shoes, painting my fingernails, and accessorizing myself with necklaces, belts, and purses. Ever since the day my Aunt Deona told me that boys like girls with pretty nails, I have fed the tomboy within me and done everything I could to repress my more feminine side. Something as simple as trying to impress the boys with my manliness rather than my femininity has been the motivating factor behind a lot of my decisions, and not just the ones that have to do with fashion choices.

But do I really hate skirts and purses, or do I just feel like I have to hate them because a true tomboy would hate them? Do I really enjoy sports, or am I just trying to convince the guys that I can relate to them on their (sort of) level? Do I refuse to carry around lipstick and hairspray everywhere because it's impractical or because I don't want to be caught with such embarrassing items? Do I make these decisions because I want to, or because I feel like I have to?

So many decisions, so many different ways they could have gone.

Now I remember why I didn't try harder to find a decent psychology professor. This stuff gives me a headache.

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