Let’s Talk About “Pop Psychology”

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Written by:  Alexa Rives, Intern

In today’s modern age it is incredibly easy to access information, much more so than in any previous time image of cartoon lady looking to the sidein human history. As a result, there are new ways to spread information to innumerable people, and to personally take in seemingly unlimited amounts of data. Consequently, it can be difficult to find the energy to verify that information; why question the veracity of something that feels right or sounds like it comes from a place of authority? Understandably, many of us do not have the wherewithal to check the source of everything we come across on social media or news outlets. The implication of how this may change the way we interact with each other is profound.

Certain buzzwords tend to come up in the way that we talk about psychology and mental health that originated in academic settings and which have, for better or worse, taken on new colloquial meanings. The concept of codependency is used in sociology and psychology to understand harmful relationships between ‘givers’ and ‘takers’. If you’ve heard the term ‘enabler’ it is likely in such a context. However, the lines have been blurred between the very human need to be needed and connected to others, and the clinical implication which merits intervention. It can be understandably difficult, as a lay person, to know where that line is drawn.

Other such ‘pop psychology’ terms have made their way into everyday conversation, with examples like ‘gaslighting’ and ‘narcissist’, that have similarly blurred lines between hyperbole, condemnation, and validation. How do we then separate disagreeing with our partner and purposefully sowing self-doubt, or separating selfishness from self-preservation? These terms can be hugely validating for people who have no other words to describe their experience. They also have the potential to be harmful when used inappropriately. Because of this, it is important that we allow ourselves to have conversations about how and why they are being used, and reflect on our own understanding, so that we might change behavior as necessary or find support as needed.