Children do not understand most things. They have not spent an adequate amount of time on earth to really attribute significant meaning or purpose to many things. They have no explanation for things beyond their realm of understanding. Often times they come up with ridiculous explanations for themselves. A quarter under the pillow after losing a tooth is the tooth fairy, not their parents; presents under the tree was Santa Clause; the goldfish disappears because he went to summer camp, he hasn’t wrote simply because he’s having such a great time.
Of course, adults are perhaps more guilty of pushing the children into thinking one way or the other, but a child accepts it so willingly; they want it to be true. There is no such phrase as ‘adultlike wonder,’ because adults don’t allow for the impossible to be possible, there’s always an explanation for something.
As we grow older, the magic somewhat leaves the world. We begin to understand more and more about how the world works and more and more the simple explanation leaves for a rather unromantic view of the world. We have a more complete understanding, yet our innocence has to be sacrificed to do so.
But one thing in my life has continued to fascinate me with childlike wonder. Psychology still has some magic left in my mind. Though its magic has changed, what enamors me has shifted, it still leaves me with a sense of awe. More recently, I’ve felt like psychology is the closest thing to obtaining superpowers.
That’s right, super powers. Psychology is like a sixth sense, one that can be honed and refined to give one superhuman skills. I was first amazed by psychology as a young child. My father is a psychologist, and has been for all of my known life.
He couldn’t talk about it at all growing up, physician-patient privilege, which made it even more captivating to me. When you tell a child they can’t do something or cannot know information, it only entices them further. He would hardly tell a story or talk about work, but when he did I was all ears. I would cease whatever I was doing and listen intently to the inner workings of the day in the life of the ever elusive psychologist. When he did tell a story, he would have to be extremely vague, make up names, places and dates just to tell a weave tale.
The worst were the fleeting moments he could not recall to us. We’d be walking through the park, watching autumn turn in the trees, listening to wind as it rustles the leaves across the path; they crunched beneath our feet. He’d be aloof, somewhere else in his mind, searching in the distances. A simple phrase such as, “This reminds me of a client’s story I heard the other day…”
Intently, I’d shut my mouth and pray to God he’d continue. If I asked what it was, he’d state it was nothing and move on, my only hope was to wait for him to come out with it; like listening to a war veteran, you cannot ask what happened, but you’re sure as hell not going to stop them when they get started.
Many times it happened, and many times I was left with incomplete details. In my child mind, I thought the information he knew was of great importance; why else would it be so forbidden? I thought for certain at some point in our lives, a helicopter would appear out of nowhere, men armed with guns and goggles would cuff him and take him to some dark holding cell.
He’d be sitting in a chair, bloodied and bruised as the men tried to coax out confidential information. In my mind, my father, despite the pain of his body, would hold. He’d spit in the face of the evil doers as they continued to pry information from his brilliant mind. But true to his PhD, true to his training, he’d hold and they’d let him go. “Physician-patient privilege,” would be the only words that left his lips.
No shit, I thought my father was some sort of CIA agent. Honestly, the two jobs are very similar. Both a CIA agent and a psychologist hold confidential information. Both deal with clients and at times handle off shore accounts for payment. Both work long hours. Both cannot talk about work with their families. Both want a clear separation between their work lives, and their home lives.
There was even a time when we had to change our phone number and block the new one because a client had gotten a hold of it and started calling my father every hour of the day and night. I remember thinking that’s was so fuckin’ cool. Seriously. I felt like our family was in protective custody. I was waiting for the call that would tell us we’d need to change our name and move halfway across the country. Because, like a CIA agent living under an alias, my dad needed to protect his family. When our phone number was found, the man disrupted my dad’s family life; like a warlord finding the true name of an agent, the family is in danger.
I’m getting goosebumps writing about it. Hollywood is missing out on an untapped marked of Psychologist thrillers. The only difference between one of those and the Borne Identity is my dad wields a pen and clipboard not a gun and he drives an Oldsmobile, not a Mercedes. Honestly, not that big of a difference. I’m sure Hollywood would take creative license and change a few minor things. Maybe give him an expensive fountain pen instead of the Bic. They’d switch out his old, yet comfortable, fabric rocking chair with a high backed leather executive chair.
The magical wonder of psychology has not changed as I’ve grown older. I know that my dad is not going to be abducted (a good thing), but the more I interact with him, the more I believe that he has some of superhuman power.
In an alternate universe, the Justice league would not be made up of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman. Instead, Freud, Jung and Philip Zimbardo. They wouldn’t have the Lasso of Truth or a utility belt filled with Baterangs and grappling hooks, but they’d have the power of psychoanalysis, inkblot tests and effective listening skills. They’d defeat Dr. Doom not with laser vision but by three or four years of consistent, effective therapy. Dr. Doom would find out that his desire to destroy the world comes from an absent father figure who never gave Dr. Doom any credit. He’d realize the fault in his ways, publicly apologize and move on to more noble pursuits. He’d open a bakery named “Dr. Doom’s Delicious Delectables.” The Psychologist Justice League would be there for the cutting of the ribbon. They’d congratulate him, but, due to physician-patient privilege, they would not admit they had helped Dr. Doom, or even knew him.
And thus the world would be saved once again by the combined might of psychological principles.
I first started understanding psychology’s superhuman capabilities my first year of college. It was at the end of my first time at school when my dad busted out the full potential of his PhD.
It was a Tuesday morning, the first day of finals for me and I had spent the previous twelve hours wide awake working on a paper that was due at 8am. Of course, I didn’t start it until about midnight, I finished it somewhere around 7:45am and turned it in.
My first final was at 10am. It was 8am. I thought to myself, “I got two whole hours, I’m going to take a quick nap.”
It wasn’t a quick nap. I woke up around 2pm and heralded in my first term at college by sleeping through my first final. Panic stricken, I emailed my professor who, graciously, let me come in the next evening and take the final.
That night I did not sleep well. Despite being able to take the final, I was really upset at sleeping through my first ever test. I had weird dreams that night.
I won’t go into incredible detail about what I dreamed, but one dream stood out in my mind. In the dream, I was at Luke Skywalker’s home. I had to find R2D2. Luke’s home was filled with gray water; it was impossible to see through.
I was in the water, clutching at the edge of the impromptu pool like a child afraid to swim out to their swim instructor.
And that’s it. That’s the dream. I never find R2D2, I never dive under the water and search for the droid.
The next day, I was talking with my dad and I brought up the dream, and asked him what he thought it meant. After I recited the dream, he simply stated, “Did you have any tests this week?”
I was dumbfounded. Even when I continued to be general, he figured out that a test did not go well. I suppose you could say he’s a good guesser, that he knew it was finals week, but his explanation of the dream and what it meant was eerily correct.
It doesn’t stop there either. I ‘ve told this tale to many people, and many people have doubted my father’s reverse soothsayer abilities. While I was in Japan, I told my friends there about these super human powers. I don’t think they thought I was lying, but I could tell they were apprehensive about completely believing what I was saying.
When he came to visit me, they wasted no time in asking him it. I had told nothing about them to my dad, no intimate details at least, and he was able to figure out what was plaguing their minds just by hearing a dream or two. One dinner and a three minute explanation of their dreams later, my dad had them pinned better than I had in the eight weeks I had spent with them.
Since then, it’s been my belief that psychology is the world’s best, and most secret party trick. If I had the next ten years to kill, I’d totally go back to school and get my PhD for the sole purpose of impressing strangers with my ability to reverse fortune-tell, based on their current state of mind and dreams they’ve been experiencing.
With its utility belt of inkblot tests, background checks, and listening skills, psychology has a striking resemblance to Batman. We are not born with superpowers; none of us have the x-ray vision or the ability to read minds. Yet through schooling and years of work, certain people can guess the future. They can make a hypothesis on how someone will act simply by consulting the person’s history.
Which brings up a whole different category of psychology; forensic psychology. There are people that work for the police force that have foretold, almost prophesized, what criminals will do. Especially in the case of serial kills, these psychologists are able to give descriptions of the perpetrator.
They can guess the type of car the person is driving, they can guess what type of home their living in and if they live with someone or alone. They can hypothesis where the person will strike next and the type of person that is in danger. Without ever meeting the person.
It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. If I ever got a job like that, and was good at it, I’d be really tempted to be unprofessional. Each time they arrested a person that followed my description, I’d throw my arms to the side, as if appeasing an invisible, roaring crowd and shout, “TOTALLY CALLED IT. Dude was living at home with his mom and drove a tiny, two door, 80’s piece of shit. I told you guys. I called that shit a mile away.”
They’d hate me, because of my arrogance but also because I was always right (so they’d have to keep me around).
(People wonder what would happen if you brought a firearm through a time machine into the past. I think we’re missing the real danger here; what if we put a psychologist in the medieval ages? Another untapped market, Hollywood. Perhaps we have the setting for Army of Darkness 2?)
You know, the more I think about it, the more I think I missed my calling. I think at a very young age my infatuation with psychology really should have driven me towards the subject. Even now it’s the type of science that fascinates me the most.
It’s one of the few things that still holds my mind in childlike wonder. There is so much about ourselves that we have yet to understand; which is such an odd concept, not understanding oneself. As I grow older, I know it will remain on the forefront of my interests. While I’m not quite ready to throw down a bunch of money and ten years of my life to do something with it, I am totally prepared to keep it in my everyday life. I can commit to writing about it from time to time and learning just enough to be informed.
Besides, being not having an official education allows me to throw up my hands in the air when called out and say, “Hey, I’m no psychologist, I just read an article in the New York Times, is all.”
I have to work hard to keep my knowledge of the subject balanced; too much and I’ll become a target and look like a snob, too little and I’ll be ignored and look uneducated.
The perfect balance is exactly what Hollywood will need when they inevitably make a movie. They’ll need someone to consult who understands the intricacies of the subject yet be able to deliver it in layman’s terms.
My background of having two parents with counseling degrees makes me the ideal candidate. Any day now they’ll be calling me to help put psychology in the thoughts and hearts of the world through cinema.
And the world shall share my childlike wonder.