My Perspective on Psychological Mindedness
by Anna Velychko
Living in a society like ours, with individuals similar to us as well as very different, is no easy task. In order to build healthy relationships, relationships that are essentially the foundation of every revelation the human race has been a part of, requires one to have an awareness of emotions, sensations, feelings and behaviors; so that we can better understand not just ourselves, but each other. In doing this, we can see the endless possibilities of collaboration we have to offer, all of which can continue to inspire others toward more significant discoveries. Otherwise, by living completely individualistic lives, caring about nothing more than our mere status within the world, we will never be able to produce an everlasting community capable of equality and peace. Having said that, in order to understand others, we need to become more psychologically minded and motivated as people, with intentions to learn and a willingness to accept. In doing this, we too will learn about ourselves.
The concept of mindedness appeared over 50 years ago to find a more efficient way to help people with mental deficiencies. There are various interpretations and definitions of psychological mindedness; one of which, cited by H. Conte, R. Ratto and B. Karasu in the article “The Psychological Mindedness. Factor Structure and Relationship to Outcome of Psychotherapy” states, “Mindedness is an attribute of an individual that presupposes a degree of access to one’s feelings that leads, through discussion of one’s problems with others, to an ability to acquire insight into the meaning and motivation of one’s own and others’ thoughts, feelings, and behavior, and to a capacity for change”.
Researchers derived this definition through factual findings and had established the concept of psychological mindedness, the reason of its origins being primarily to provide the underlying indices for successful practices within psychotherapy. However, for a person to be psychologically minded, having only the intellectual understanding of the concept would not be enough. One must see how this concept appeals to his/her own life experiences as an individual and what this concept reveals, not only about the logistics of psychotherapy but about people and the world in general.
Upon researching and analyzing the subject further, I have become more and more fascinated by its complexity, but also by its prominent relevance. Countless situations, cultures, people and places all pertain to the qualitative aspects of psychological mindedness, clearly demonstrating its importance; and in these realizations, I have found its relevance to myself. I have often thought about what it is that makes people feel the way they think, not only about themselves, but the world around them. In asking myself these questions, I have come to find that the exposure to the same situation may mean different things to different people. For example, some of us have experienced traumatizing events, all of which have many different degrees; however, it is entirely up to us as individuals to decide how we perceive our situation. This is where we are forced to make decisions on how our views are shaped; it is always a choice. Whether this is a tough situation or a mere superficial dissatisfaction, there will still be possibilities for psychological improvement when correctly practicing mindfulness. With endless options ranging from permanent physical impairments to temporary and unavoidable hardships, it is never about changing the situation, but merely changing our perspective on it. A task much easier said than done, for anyone would confidently agree to the severity of his or her “difficult situation.”
I then came to wonder what it is that drives one’s choices; this made me realize the importance of effort and motivation when practicing psychological mindedness. It is more than critical; it is a necessity for one to achieve mindedness successfully. A determination is essential during this pursuit, for we all experience obstacles; it is up to us how we deal with them. After knowing that choices are required, one must then understand that there is a significant effort needed in transforming any thought processes or emotional behaviors.
It should be evident that going on this “journey” is no easy task. Therefore, I believe that, on top of critical decision making and determination, social support is also an essential facilitator in providing a secure environment for anyone who may be discouraged about carrying the troublesome weight of his/her struggles alone. We can all say we have experienced this, right? Indeed, by identifying ourselves as a part of a supportive community, as opposed to operating as strictly self-serving individuals, it can help us to be able to interpret psychologically unstable situation from different angles. By doing so, one can understand how he/she might respond to this challenging situation and adjust to it accordingly, another necessity in achieving a steady state of mind.
Consequently, after coming to understand better different aspects one might run into throughout their pursuit of psychological mindedness, it becomes apparent to me that there is a positive correlation between psychological mindedness and life satisfaction, which Y. Wang and F. Kong were discussing in their paper “The Role of Emotional Intelligence in the Impact of Mindfulness on Life Satisfaction and Mental Distress.” People who are psychologically minded understand the impermanent nature of life and realize that they cannot control everything. Therefore, by having fewer expectations for the situations they encounter and being prepared to accept things for what they are, psychologically minded people are most likely to attain equanimity of their mind and be happy.
Since our life is a continually changing process, we need to acquire proper knowledge and acceptance of self, so that we can adjust to different life events (pleasant and unpleasant) and be empathetic toward others. One cannot empathize with someone else without first understanding their situation and feelings within themselves. I think of knowledge as a facilitator, or a mediator so to speak, between social support (a group of people) and an individual. It would be impossible for me to imagine how one can be a psychologically minded person by not utilizing his/her knowledge with people around them since fundamentally the notion of psychological mindedness “involves awareness of self and others” (Beitel, Ferrer, and Cecero 739). While on the subject of learning and acquiring knowledge, I find important to emphasize our encounters with failure. Failure should be understood as a driving force shaping one’s interest to ask questions and search for the answers, instead of it being an obstacle on the way to progress. Not letting the experience of failure overpower us, despite what the situation might bring to us is one of the biggest necessities of all, in my opinion, of achieving psychological mindedness. We will still have to keep searching, be curious, and open to new experiences. Also, listening is another important element of successful construction of psychological mindedness. I mean “listening,” by all aspects of the word; more than simply “hearing” what life may be telling us, further emphasizing my point of questioning and choices being fundamental in one’s pursuit. I think that listening is a multifaceted criterion, which does not seem to be even implicitly stated in the definitions of psychological mindedness that I have encountered before.
I interpret listening as: first, empathetic listening with full awareness to a speaker, putting ourselves in that person’s shoes and trying to see and feel the way they see and feel so that we can provide appropriate feedback for this person. When we do listen and understand what a person is going through, it can be amazing. We can perceive their situation from a different perspective, and can indeed bring them out of mental stagnation, which is highly beneficial in psychological improvement. Second, I think that a speaker and a listener do not necessarily have to find common ground on a particular topic. I may not agree with what a person says or believes, but this is irrelevant. This separates me from any place with empathetic nature, a necessity to psychological mindedness. We can completely disagree with one’s philosophy, and still try to understand them, and we succeed in this attempt nonetheless. Once we can empathize, listen and support another person, along with all our beauteous imperfections; only then we can create the fundamental links of interaction with people around us, helping us maintain the most ideal, healthy and peaceful mindset.
Lastly, the idea of “change” is one very frequently discussed in the subject of psychological mindedness. However, I feel “change” most often is an idea that is bestowed upon others; very rarely are people willing to take on the idea of changing themselves; they feel it is an unnecessary endeavor. That is why I feel this an improper way of summarizing the definition of psychological mindedness, “… capacity for change” (Conte, Ratto, and Karasu 254). It might be a traumatizing experience, or perhaps too new for the person who is lacking psychological mindedness and awareness, to be able to change something within them or their routine. Modifications and adjustments within oneself, and more importantly, an acceptance of these customs, is the only true necessity, not something as brash and permanent as a change in the article “The United States and the ‘Culture of Narcissism’: An Examination of Perceptions of National Character” by K. Campbell, D. Miller, and E. Buffardi about narcissism the concept of change ties to the whole continuity. Individuals do not see how they can have a narcissistic nature, but it does not stop them from viewing “their culture as being far more narcissistic” (226). So, by offering them new tools and perspectives, instead of merely proposing an idea to change, gives people an opportunity to take their time and to implement and utilize those tools patiently and slowly, understanding fully well why they do things they do, and seeing how those new tools of awareness will help them in their life.
Conceptual definitions of psychological mindedness reveal various descriptions, most of which are interconnected with each other. Psychological mindedness to me implies a person’s ability to recognize the availability of choices as tools of manipulating the steadiness of mind within certain situations, using motivation and effort as a driving force of turning choices into reality, and having the availability of social support and the capacity to learn about oneself and others as facilitators of a healthy mind, all together with developing a keen sense of listening. Therefore, I suggest being open and curious, to delve within to acquire insight of underlying psychological processes in our mind, as well as developing an ability to notice and move on, since not everything in this world can be explained or rationalized. Thus, in recognizing these distinctions, one can achieve psychological mindedness.
Beitel M., Ferrer E., and Cecero J. “Psychological Mindedness and Awareness of Self and Others”. Journal of Clinical Psychology 61 (2005): 739 – 750. Print
Campbell K., Miller D., and Buffardi E. “The United States and the ‘Culture of Narcissism’: An Examination of Perceptions of National Character.” Social Psychological and Personality Science (2010): 222 – 229.
Conte H., Ratto R., and Karasu B. “The Psychological Mindedness Scale. Factor Structure and Relationship to Outcome of Psychotherapy”. Journal of Psychotherapy 5 (1996): 250 – 259. Print
Wang Y., Kong F. “The Role of Emotional Intelligence in the Impact of Mindfulness on Life Satisfaction and Mental Distress.” Springer Science + Business Media Dordrecht (2013): 843 – 852. Print