I recently read a blog post in which Jeremy presented submissions from his readers about the “psychobable” they find the most irritating. Interestingly, two of the comments (numbers 4 and 9) are very much in line with my posts on “acting-out” and “denial,” which are part of a series I’m doing on the top 5 most frequently misused terms in mental health. Here are some exerpts from Jeremy’s post on PsyBlog:
Thanks to everyone for the great response to my request for psychobabble you love to hate. Here are the best 30 submissions (including a few of my own)….
4. “Every time I hear someone misuse the term acting out, I begin experiencing homicidal ideation. Of course ‘acting out’ is a psychoanalytic term denoting the enactment of an internal dynamic in the external world. You can’t recognize the internal feeling states and so it is necessary to ‘act it out.’ But even among fully trained, licensed clinical psychologists this term has come to mean ‘behaving badly’ — which of course makes it a useless term.”
6. “I’m not a drug addict, I’ve been self-medicating.”
9. “I’m stuck at denial (without a paddle, ha ha). A reference to Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ ‘five stages of grief’ which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance. Dr. Kubler-Ross never suggested one stage had to be completed before the next and there’s little evidence for these stages anyway.”
10. “Since I am not a native English speaker I didn’t come across someone calling me anal until I started to study in England. At first I was shocked, since I didn’t immediately understand my friend was not referring to my anus, but to my personality. I don’t think many people realize that they are referring to one of the personality traits emerging from the failure to successfully complete one of Freud’s developmental stages.”
15. “In every mental health job I have worked, the real pain in the ass clients are referred to as borderline. Borderline has now ceased to be a disorder; it’s psychobabble for ‘this client is so annoying and needy I would gladly chew off my own foot to escape’.”
16. “What annoys me most is conversational psychoanalysing – when someone you know (outside of a therapeutic context) frequently tells you that you don’t really mean what you’re saying, that you’re in denial about your true feelings or ignoring what is going on at a subconscious level. Particularly annoying is when they then go on to tell you what you’re really feeling!”
17. “The most irritating one is the word schizophrenia which is wrongly used whenever someone refer to split personalities. I just can’t hold myself back from being a besserwisser and telling them that they have no idea what schizophrenia is.”
In some future posts about misused psychology terms, I’ll be expanding upon some of the other complaints mentioned above.