Psychology as a Field of Study

Psychology is a relatively recent discipline, arising from pioneering work carried out by the American philosopher and psychologist, William James (1842-1910). Depth forms of therapy, sometimes known as psychodynamic therapy, consider past events in a person's life from a causal perspective. They rely on in-clinic experience, and the close relationship between the analyst and the analysand. Cognitive behavioural therapies (CBT) rely more on evidence-based research, and involve retraining of clients' thought processes, emotions and behaviour, without the necessity to recover repressed memories from the past. [caption id="attachment_13988" align="alignnone" width="640"]freud's couch Freud's Couch[/caption]


I had my first taste of philosophy at Armidale Teachers College in 1961. This was one of the options that I chose to study, apart from the more mundane teaching subjects that were mandatory. Miss Margaret Mackie enchanted us with stories of the Delphic oracle, as well as introducing me to a long-term love affair with Plato, and Platonic ideals.  I did not realise it at the time, but this gifted teacher was opening up the foundations of Western philosophy and science to me and to others in the class.


Plato (428-348BC) has been cited as one of the founders of Western religion and spirituality. Plato's teacher was Socrates, and much of Plato's works are based on Socrates' ideas. We studied Plato's Republic, an amazing work about the just society. Our teacher focused on the allegory of the Cave, which has fascinated students of philosophy and mysticism ever since.

A mother is often the first positive influencer in one's life

Mum's favourite poem, when she was alive, was "If" by Rudyard Kipling. She was not an educated woman in the traditional sense, but she'd learnt to be tolerant of others and knew how to remain positive. Another message she tried to impart to my siblings and me was about staying true to yourself and respecting others. It is sometimes hard to stay positive when the world is in turmoil, with wars raging in other countries, and suicide bombers killing and maiming their fellow creatures. And when one seventh of the seven billion people on earth are hungry, it is hard not to think about this, especially as I sit down to eat in a place of plenty. The fall of the dice could have placed me in that seventh part of the globe. There but for the grace of God go I... But I have to think, rather, how lucky I am to be born in a country that looks after its people and tries to maintain some semblance of egality of wealth across all demographics.  It's not perfect, but I give thanks for living in a multicultural country that supports freedom of speech and religion for all.

When I married, another positive "significant other" came into my life:

"Nothing good ever comes from being negative," he said, "but something good can happen if you are positive." I used to shrug off these words as just another mindless cliché—the bain of writers' lives, as they are trying to improve their writing for publication. And I went through some dark periods in my past; there have in fact been many negative phases in my life. Perhaps it all amounts to cycles, as expressed through the lyrics of the song from the fifties and sixties, "To Everything There is a Season".  Positivity didn't happen overnight for me. There was a life crisis in the eighties, when my children were still young. But not long after that I knew it was time for change.

Did you know that one in five Australians will personally experience clinical depression or a bipolar disorder over their lifetime, there are the families, partners, friends and work colleagues who are also drawn into the crisis. Often, it is these people on the perimeter that selflessly reach out to assist those who are living with a mood disorder, offering their time, their acceptance, support and hope. In searching for strategies to deal with mood disorders, the latest Black Dog Institute Writing Competition throws the spotlight on the powerful stories that come from carers, with a particular focus on the questions of what worked best, what didn’t work and what you learnt.