There are 3 essential topics that will greatly increase your understanding of psychology are concepts of self, personality differences between people, and passages people go through in life.
- Self-Image: A human being always acts and feels and performs in accordance with what he imagines to be true about himself and his environment.
- Personality Psychology: Personality help to determine people’s motivation and psychological interaction with themselves and their environment.
- Passages in Life: You will face crisis in you life, be able to better understand your own and other peoples by learning about the common crisis in peoples lives.
- All your actions, feelings, behaviors – even your abilities – are always consistent with your self-image.
- Your self-image can be changed
Maxwell Maltz was a cosmetic surgeon who noticed an interesting phenomena among some of his patients. For some patients, when he fixed an abnormality, the patients didn’t notice an improvement in their appearance. For example, a patient with a scar on their face would see Dr. Maltz and have the condition significantly physically improved, but notice no difference when they look in the mirror. This is because they still think and see themselves as the person with the scar on their face.
When they walk down the street, they are self-conscious and think passerby’s are staring at their non-existent scar. This is because their self-image was not changed, only their physical appearance! Dr. Maltz realized he had to develop several techniques to change and improve peoples self-image. He outlines these in Psycho-Cybernetics.
According to Maltz, if one’s self-image is unhealthy or faulty – all of their efforts will end in failure. To change your life you need to understand self-image psychology because it is the basis for understanding your past self, your present self, and your future self. Self-image is also incredibly important when understanding other people. It’s what I immediately think of when I try to understand why someone I know is not living up to their potential. Self-image is the cornerstone to all changes that happen in a person.
This is the basis for understanding the differences in people. The most important contributor to personality psychology was Carl Jung with his book Psychological Types. This book is the basis for all personality test such as Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and the Big 5 Personality Framework (OCEAN).
Describing his work, Jung said “It is one’s psychological type which from the outset determines and limits a person’s judgment. My book, therefore, was an effort to deal with the relationship of the individual to the world, to people and things.”
The Importance of Psychological Types
Your psychological type determines your limitations and strengths. To become a well-rounded individual you need to understand your limitations and fix them, instead of being over-reliant on your strengths. Psychological Types is a 600 page book, but if you ant to understand yourself and other people it is the most important book to read.
For example, did you know what 75% of people are extroversion dominant and only 25% are introversion dominant? Dominant, because everyone has both an extroverted and an introverted side with one being dominant.
Jung distinguishes introversion and extroversion in terms of peoples orientation to the world. Jung defined introversion as an “attitude-type characterized by orientation in life through subjective psychic contents” (focus on one’s own mental self) and extroversion as “an attitude type characterized by concentration of interest on the external object” (obtaining gratification through the external world).
You need a solid framework of how to understand personality differences. You should read Psychological Types and develop a solid understanding of personality.
Passages In Life
People in a certain society go through certain general passages in their life. Yes, everyone in an individual, but we are all humans living withing a given society. 90% of people will follow a generalizable path. Everyone undergoes personality changes, and changes in their sex life. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a book in the 21st century that covers this issue in depth. The best book I have found is Passages: Predicatable Crises of Adult Life by Gail Sheehy, written in the 1970s.
Some people consider this book dated, because it was originally published in 1976. Some people think it propagates social norms, stereotypes, and generalization of her generation. Some things in this book may be dated, but I believe there is power in that. People can compare the present world to fifty years ago and better understand the changes. Any generalizations will always upset people, they don’t like the idea that society works in a particular way and people adjust to it.
That being said, this book is incredibly helpful at understanding crisis of different age groups, from the Goodreads intro:
The Trying 20s — The safety of home left behind, we begin trying on life’s uniforms and possible partners in search of the perfect fit. The Catch 30s — illusions shaken, it’s time to make, break, or deepen life commitments. The Forlorn 40s — Dangerous years when the dreams of youth demand reassessment, men and women switch characteristics, sexual panic is common, but the greatest opportunity for self-discovery awaits. The Refreshed (or Resigned) 50s — Best of life for those who let go old roles and find a renewal of purpose.
These are periods in people’s lives where people have to contend with the decisions they have made. Reading Passages will provoke a different response in everyone. If you have lived through them you will likely reminisce about the troubles you faced in past years, if you are young you will become (moderately) better prepared for your future.
I am not a fan of popular psychology, but I think this book covers something that is not covered anywhere else. This book will help you develop a heuristic for viewing different passages in life.
Studying Psychology Is More Important Than Ever
We have natural heuristics for understanding other people. Psychologists have all kinds of fancy names for these, but they all depend on the ability to attribute mental states to oneself and to others. People have different motivations, beliefs, personalities, and knowledge than us. Everyone has something we can learn from them, and if we really understand people we should often feel pity and compassion for others instead of anger.
In the modern era we have a new way of communicating with other people. Unfortunately communicating through a screen often leads to a dehumanizing effect. A prime example is looking at typical interactions on Twitter, obviously not the best platform for empathetic interactions.
Real communication happens offline, and it takes active practice. People often think they are better at it than they are. These three books will help you better understand yourself and the people around you.
Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz
Psychological Types by Carl Jung
Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life by Gail Sheehy