I have long aspired to “give psychology away” as Dr. George Albee instructed the members of the American Psychological Association at his 1970 Presidential Address. But, taking the leap from discussing psychology in scholar-ese with a small group of like minded peers to presenting psychological concepts in a way that might be helpful to lots of people felt scary. “Giving psychology away” would require giving myself away, as the only way I know to elucidate psychological concepts is to provide personal examples.
As my spouse often says, the first mile is the longest. Getting started is often the hardest part. When I advise doctoral students on their dissertations, I espouse sticker charts, rewards for time spent working, and saving an easy task with which to start the next work session. Just as with physics, inertia makes getting started the hardest part and once one has begun, momentum helps to carry us along.
Often, one of the biggest aspects of inertia that we must overcome is perfectionism. We don’t want to start until we are expert—and, our skills will never improve if we don’t practice, experiment, fail, and learn. Scared of not meeting our unreasonable standards, we procrastinate. Underlying procrastination is fear. This academic year, I realized that I was procrastinating against accepting a professional service request. With examination, I recognized the fear that underlay my procrastination. And, I had the huge insight that procrastination is Fear trying to protect me, by avoiding something that she realizes has a risk: procrastination is a postcard from Fear, signed with love. I thanked Fear for helping me to see this.
This blog is about love and fear in relationships—which covers a lot of psychological territory. I am a school psychology professor and mixed methods researcher. However, rarely will I present any data that I have collected. Rather, this blog is a synthesis of sources regarding our loves and fears in relationship with others. I have combined empirical evidence and experience into a model of how love and fear interact in our relationships.
The big difference between research and other forms of expertise is that the scientific method is grounded in looking for disconfirmatory evidence. Humans are amazing meaning-makers, but we have a strong confirmation bias—we seek and believe information that supports our world view. For this reason, an empirical study never ‘proves’ anything—researchers only conclude that their hypothesis has not been disproven, suggesting that their suppositions might be right. Conversely, the scientific method can create the belief that something can't be true if we haven’t been able to measure it.
It’s a big, bold world out there and there are lots of variables—especially about the interactions between people—that we don’t fully understand. As we become more sophisticated in what we do know about the universe, we learn that words like ‘truth’ are situational, proximal, and transitory. Just as Euclidian geometry works extremely well at some scales and non-Euclidian geometry better explains phenomena at others, our loves and fears concurrently contain multiple levels—and truths. For greater understanding of ourselves and our relationships, we need the existing science, the expertise of clinicians with their lucid observations, and the insights that come from philosophy, religion, and literature.
Writing about love and fear has required that I engage in a lot of self-examination. Much of what I have seen has not been pretty, but it has been immensely valuable—to myself, my relationships, and now I hope to you. As Buddhist teacher Gregory Kramer eloquently states in Insight Dialogue, “We engage with patience, with compassion for our stumbles, and the moments of clarity increase.” Welcome to my blog!