I took two social psych classes this semester to test out some psychology fields that weren’t clinical. The problem that I’ve had with social is that there are so many problems and so few answers. I spent a semester studying how prejudice works and how it affects all of us, with very few solutions sat in front of me. But, as I slogged through my textbooks in preparation for my exams, I stumbled across a concept that brought me some hope.
Gilbert et. al. wrote about a concept called immune neglect, or our tendency to forget that we care consistently resilient in the face of adversity. He points out that:
“In science, literature, and folklore, people are famous for making the best of bad situations, remembering their successes and overlooking their excesses, trumpeting their triumphs and excusing their mistakes, milking their glories and rationalizing their failures—all of which allows them to remain relatively pleased with themselves despite all good evidence to the contrary. Psychologists from Freud to Festinger have described the artful methods by which the human mind ignores, augments, transforms, and rearranges information in its unending battle against the affective consequences of negative events . Some of these methods are quite simple (e.g., dismissing as a rule all remarks that begin with “you drooling imbecile”), and some are more complicated (e.g., finding four good reasons why one didn’t really want to win the lottery in the first place); taken in sum, however, they seem to constitute a psychological immune system that serves to protect the individual from an overdose of gloom.”
Real people are also famous for this tendency of finding silver linings. Our minds have their own immune systems that fight off gloom pretty effectively, we just don’t remember that we have it. Forgetting that we have an inherent likelihood of bouncing back from problems keeps us from taking risks. We fear that those risks will fail and be traumatic, forgetting that we move on and rationalize failure quickly and effectively.
Just reading about immune neglect reminded me of all that I have overcome in the past year and all that I have watched people around me overcome. We’re a resilient species if we let ourselves be. As 2017 edges closer, I’m trying to keep that in mind. Taking risks is okay, because I know that I can bounce back if I fail.
I’m also reminded of how much I love the topic that I’m studying. Being able to find insights and answers between age old problems is inspiring. So, bring on the new year and my four psychology classes. I’m ready for a challenge and I hope that you’ll take on some too!