Drifting apart

I’ve about 15 minutes before I reach my MRT stop, so I’m gonna pen down some thoughts.

I realise I don’t really have that constant BFF, or even good friends, from when I was young till now. I’ve always wondered, is it because

  1. As we go to the next phase of life, we change and thus outgrow the friendship (since we’re on different paths) and drift apart OR
  2. Our friendship was solely based on convenience and not compatible values OR
  3. We were never true to ourselves, and attracted the people to our “fake” selves.

It sucks when you don’t connect with your friends anymore- especially when they’ve been your friends for a long time. However, I don’t think you need to “cut ties” as per say immediately. Is this friendship worth saving? How does the other person feel? It takes two to clap. You could move them into a ‘lower’ priority of friendship- instead of meeting them once every week, meet once a month, or even once a year.

Hmmm, at least for me, my friendships have been constantly changing and sometimes I do wonder if it’s me or if it’s just life, because I really do envy those whose friends’ values align with theirs and are still best buds since young. But love cannot be forced, including friendship. Sometimes your friend outgrows you and move on, and sometimes it’s the other way round. When friendships become an obligation, it’s a big warning sign. I’ve learn to not take it personal, and I hope others won’t too. After all, like what the Adventure Time finale song “Time Adventure” said- you and I will always be back then.

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Transitions

Seasons do not change when time passes. They change, when a relationship changes.

A friend shared this with me, and I guess it’s really relevant currently.

Transitioning was never really hard for me, up until last year. I always looked forward to changes, because I guess with every change comes new opportunities, and somehow things always worked out for me.

Yet, recently I find myself struggling to adapt so much- and it scares me. The recent year(s) has been full of change- most of them unexpected- death, loss of a great friendship, loss of social circles, loss of wanderlust, loss of support, loss of structure, loss of meaning. I never felt so empty in my life before.

Just two years ago, I pride myself in being a free bird. A close friend told me that I had some commitment issues, while he was the one that remain rooted to the ground. Is it a limitation? A restriction? A choice?

Never did I expect that I would feel what I feel today.

As August came a few days ago, it acted as a reminder that one year ago was the starting point where I felt so lost and empty. However, I am beginning to see that this will only make me stronger, as did all other obstacles in the past- and things really do get better.

Friendships
While I mourn the loss of some very close relationships, I also admit that sometimes, I am the one who cut off people. I ask myself, would I rather be alone, or struggle in a friendship that no longer works? And luckily for me, the answer is clear.

Blessings
I am also very thankful for the lucky stars in my life right now- I don’t even need both hands to count them. For when I was depressed, stressed, and in a mess, they could still make me feel blessed #itrhymes. At my most vulnerable points, I know that I can count on them to listen to me, to calm me down, to help me see from a different perspective. And I hope that when they need me, they will not hesitate to look for me because they know I will be there for them.

Learning points
And I actually learnt a lot, the past year. I learnt that when you reach out for help, you do receive it. Of course, it is also important to know that not everyone will help you- but I am confident that at least someone will try. I learnt the importance of seeing the good in the bad. I also learnt how having suicidal ideation is not weak, but rather a consequence of a series of events that translated to such thoughts. I realise how narcissistic I can be (sigh the ME ME ME generation syndrome?) and I hope to channel that into self-confidence instead. I learnt that change can be good or bad, but we must always keep an open mind to adapt. At the same time, I learnt what values are important to me. Courage, optimism, open-mindedness. I am still learning- and trying to preach and do what is important to me. I also appreciate it so much more when people come up to me with their kind words. I learnt that relationships are easy to start, but the difficult part is maintaining it- which requires effort from all parties. I learnt that sometimes it is not only important to attract positives, but also erase the negatives. I learnt that it is never too late to start and seek new opportunities- friends, hobbies, passions. I also realise that when others come up to me and tell me that I made a difference and inspired them, it gives me a high that drugs can never give in the long run. I learnt that it is important to remind myself that I am not alone. I am never alone. And all these experiences really help to shape what I want to achieve in this lifetime. Not money, not fame, but fulfilling relationships and a meaningful purpose.

 

Graduation

Officially graduated from NUS!

Man, I don’t know what to feel. It feels so bittersweet, y’know? I mean, I kind of already left NUS after finals ended, but today really reminded me that this chapter has ended.

It feels similar – when I graduated from TNPS, from Damai, from MJC.

But at the same time, it’s not quite the same – because this is the end of my formal education.

I guess change is the only constant, and yes, I will take time to adapt to this “post-education” state (aka adulting), but for now I am grateful for all the opportunities, experiences, memories and bonds forged throughout these years.

Do I Regret Studying Psychology in Singapore? Personal Reflections.

Since I’m gonna be officially graduating from university in four days, I thought it would be a good time to reflect about choosing psychology as my major in my four years of university as an undergraduate.

Choosing Psychology as my Major: I still remember the feeling when I first received my A levels results: I was ecstatic. I did not get straight As, but I was simply happy and thankful because it allowed me to go to university. More importantly, it enabled me to go to the course I wanted – which at that time was either NUS FASS or NTU Psychology. I weighed the pros and cons between these two courses. Of course, I also considered other courses available besides Psychology. I did not have any strong passion for anything at that point of time- considering courses  such as Business, Computer Science, various Social Sciences such as Sociology, Social Work and Economics. At 19 years old, I didn’t really have much experience to know what I really want to study, much less for a career. Business was a choice because it felt general and safe at the same time. Computer Science because I kind of liked the idea of hacking, cyber security, and app development. I also looked at Law, Medicine, and Dentistry but my grades could not make the cut-off, so I didn’t really give it much thought. I kind of eliminated stuff such as Engineering, Accounting, Design courses – felt like I would not only suffer but simply hate it if I took it lol. So yeah, tl;dr I got into NUS FASS.

Managed to pass the pre-requisites to major in psychology (B- for PL1101E and PL2131 in NUS), so by year 2 I was in psychology. However, I know a lot of people who dropped out in y1/y2 and changed majors (usually to another major in social sciences). I think some of those who dropped out realised that the contents of a psych course was not what they really liked or expected. Some come into the major thinking they could help people, or that they could read minds. If you want to help people, I honestly think social work (as a major) is a better choice. If you want to read minds, you do not join university- you seek a psychic guru out. The course doesn’t teach you how to do that. Many also realised that psychology as a course is more theory-based and not really hands-on/applied. That makes it kind of boring. I went into psychology, knowing that there will be statistics modules to take, and essays to pen down, but I was quite disappointed with the amount of memorising I had to do. If you have a knack for memorising things easily, you have a 80% chance of doing well as a psychology major. I also hate how we had to review and read about research articles, some which were super boring- NUS in particular, is very focused on academic research.

If you want to help people, I honestly think social work (as a major) is a better choice. If you want to read minds, you do not join university- you seek a psychic guru out.

Career Prospects: Another major problem (pun intended) is the career prospects of a psychology degree at the Bachelor’s level. Honestly, I went into psychology because I thought it sounded interesting, and because I had hope to understand a little bit more about myself and the human behaviour in general. Fortunately (or not), I did not have any pressure by my parents to study a course that they wanted or thought it was prestigious (re: medicine, law, dentistry, accountancy, business; …oh the latest would be computer science/IT-related stuff I guess?).

Yet, at the same time, I did not really consider much about the prospects of a psych degree when I enrolled. I think this is a problem that needs to be addressed. Many people take up a major without knowing what they are getting themselves into, and as a result, waste time and effort changing courses/doing something irrelevant. However, like I said, at 19, we have a high probability of making bad choices because we do not have the relevant information or a mature mindset to decide. Anyway, this isn’t the point of my post. A lot of people told me that I made a mistake when I decided to major in psychology- and that they, too, made a mistake when they did. I panicked- they are kind of right: The market is saturated with psych degrees, and the job market seems bad. To be a clinical psychologist, you’d often have to be at a Master’s level. Also, the content of psych courses doesn’t really give you any hard skills to rely on, such as software and programming languages.

Psychology as an art and science: I personally feel that it is a matter of how you look at it- psychology IS broad, and yes, it is general, but I don’t really see that as a bad thing. A psychology degree enables you to learn research and statistical skills, from the simple ones such as SPSS to more complex ones which I never ever did (e.g. higher level statistics modules such as PL5225 in NUS) – giving you an advantage when you apply for research-related jobs. It also hones your essay and report writing which is an essential skill in many jobs.

The different areas of psychology: Because psychology is so broad, it gives you a sneak peek into many different areas – the compulsory cores that I had to take were biological (e.g. brain, genes), cognitive (e.g. attention & memory), social (e.g. interpersonal relations), abnormal (e.g. learning about mental illnesses), and developmental (e.g. human development over different stages of life). I hated the bio core, so subsequently I avoided all the bio-related psych modules as much as I could. I kind of liked social psych, so I took a lab in social psych (which made me realise I do not want to do lab stuff). As you take more psych modules, you start to learn which fields of psychology you like (if any) and lean towards them. I was someone who did not lean towards any for a long time (I just knew I hated bio). In my final year, I still took random modules such as clinical neuropsychology, moral psychology, criminal forensic psychology, and correctional psychology. It also allowed me to study really uncommon areas such as the psychology of religion, and the theory and neuroscience of consciousness. I learnt about different neurological disorders besides Alzheimer’s, that I would have never had the motivation to read up on my own. The bottom line: There are a lot of pathways that you can go with a psychology degree, but you need to navigate clearly. For instance, if you are interested in the psychology of hiring, training, and motivating people in the workplace- take up modules such as industrial and organizational (I/O) psychology to help you in your resume.

In reality, many of these modules alone will not lead you to whatever you want to do. After all, most of them are theory-based and hardly give you any practice to apply it to the real-world. You can learn all the theories you want, but a portfolio of zero experience will not make you look impressive. You need to get out there and go for internships, in order to really get a sense of what you want to do. I guess, at least for NUS, one thing they could really work on is to give psych majors a portal to look for psych-related placements, similar to the social work field placement that social work majors need to fulfill. It need not be mandatory, since some psych majors do not intend to go into fieldwork, but it could really improve the chances of getting a psych-related job. However, at the end of the day, it is still up to your own hands to really take the initiative and seek out the career you want for yourself.

You should also never discount profs as well. A good prof makes a boring module come alive, and a mediocre prof makes a what-should-have-been-interesting module dreadful to go to. If you’re lucky and you have both- then you will seriously look forward to attending it every week, maybe even feel inspired, and I think that is the crux and joy of learning. In addition, some profs are very helpful and they are more than happy to share with you about their career (e.g. forensic psychology), so ask away! This doesn’t just apply to a psych course but every course- but I would just like to highlight and remind the importance of it.

I’ve talked with a couple of psych majors over the past year, and a few of them regretted studying psychology- they wished they took up business, sociology, or another major instead. Many people come into psychology, wanting to be a clinical psychologist, but find that the path there is hard, and very competitive. Clinical psychology is just one of the many branches of psychology. I do think there are a lot of careers that are psych-related, yet is not considered a psychologist (e.g. UX Researcher, Marketing, HR, Policy Planning, click here to find out more: Career Prospects of a Psych Degree). Another thing is recognition- psychologists in Singapore are perhaps not as recognised as the ones in Australia, New Zealand, United States, Canada, or United Kingdom. I’ve also heard stories about how people respect psychiatrists over psychologists, so there’s that stigma there too. Others do not regret it- they loved the experiences and learning they gained throughout the 4 years, and that itself is invaluable to them.

For me, I did not regret taking up psychology as my major; mainly because it taught me so many things- about the different mental illnesses, neurological disorders, workplace satisfaction, criminal thoughts, interpersonal relations, a spectrum of emotions, cognitive biases, and how to live a happy life. Even after 4 years, I’m still not sick of it. For that, I am grateful.

Some FAQs:
Now that I’ve completed the course, here’s my thoughts to some of the questions that were discussed by myself and a few others:

Q: If I’d gotten straight As, what course would I choose?
A: Honestly, with what I know now, I would still go for psychology. But the difference would be that I would consider applying to an overseas university, and get a scholarship to pay for my university fees.
Q: Reeeeally? Even with the seemingly dull career prospects?
A: Yes. Although I’ve yet to find what I really love, I know what I hate- and that eliminates many choices already. And I honestly enjoyed studying psychology (yes I complain about the memorising but I still get fascinated and excited over learning about it). I also feel that psychology actually opens up many doors – if I took a specialisation like Medicine, or Dentistry, I would think that my field of work would be much narrower, and given that I have so many things I want to try out, psychology actually helps in giving this flexibility.
In short, I love studying psychology, and I feel super grateful to be able to study something that I genuinely like.

 

 

 

Quotes from Thinking, Fast and Slow

I have been reading a book by Daniel Kahneman called “Thinking, Fast and Slow”.

Its a book about two processing systems, cognitive biases, and happiness. Knowing how our minds work, can help us in many aspects of our lives – changing habits, persuading someone, increasing our levels of happiness.

Here are some of my favourite takeaways and quotes from the book itself.

  1. “Familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth” – We can create familiarity through frequent repetitions- this creates a sense of cognitive ease (instead of cognitive strain) and thus more likely for us to choose that over the unknown [“Becoming Famous Overnight”]. This is the root of false memories, and also, perhaps the reason why we may limit ourselves to our comfort zones: we do not wish to venture out of the familiarity, even if it is misery.
  2. “Creativity is associative memory that works exceptionally well” – Cottage. Swiss. Cake. Also, when we’re happy, we tend to be more intuitive (and make more mistakes) because a good mood acts as a signal that things are going well, directing us to let our guard down.
  3. Cognitive ease is both a cause and a consequence of a pleasant feeling; good feelings lead to intuitions of coherence” – When we experience cognitive ease, we tend to smile more, and when we smile more, we tend to relax and thus experience cognitive ease.
  4. How many animals of each kind did Moses take into the ark?” – Moses didn’t take any – Noah did. This question sets up a Biblical context, and we will not be surprised by the mention of Moses, even though we did not expect him.
  5. We are evidently ready from birth to have impressions of causality” – We are born prepared to make intentional attributions- eager to identify agents and assign them personality traits; only people afflicted by autism do not experience it. I thought about this as a possible argument that religion/higher powers are all made up- but that’s another topic for another day.

  6. Very little repetition is needed for a new experience to be normal” – Turning an passive expectation into an active one. I feel that this is one way for people’s mindsets about controversial issues to be open to change. Once bitten, twice shy normal.
  7. System 1 does not keep track of alternatives that it rejects” – System 1 =  The fast, automatic way of thinking. A definite choice was made, but sometimes we do not even know of it. Keeping track of alternatives = Mental effort needed. That belongs to system 2, where conscious doubt takes place.
  8. Before an issue is discussed, all members of the committee should be asked to write a very brief summary of their position” – This allows for diverse and unbiased perspectives and potential solutions- a really quick solution for a common issue in the workplace.
  9. Randomness appears as regularity.” – We are pattern seekers, and sometimes random events may fool us into thinking they are deliberate, and has an algorithm behind them.

 

 

“I am my remembering self, and the experiencing self, who does my living, is like a stranger to me.” 

Mere Exposure Effect: Repeated exposure -> Signal that it is safe -> Develop liking for it

/To be continued.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NUS Module Review AY17/18 Sem 2: PL4203, PL4241, PL4880P

It’s my last semester in NUS, so I’m only taking 15 MCs worth of modules because I overloaded while on exchange. (I will try to update my previous module review if anybody wants to know.)

Overall, I felt that each module was quite different from the other- and really going into uncommon areas of psychology. This was technically my most relaxing semester, with a 2 workday week.

 

PL4203: Cognition
Prof: Dr. Nicholas Hon
He’s a really chill guy and quite funny too. I took this module because it was seemingly the best out of the worst modules left (the rest sounded boring to me; neuroscience/history/stats). His powerpoint slides could use some improvement… but well, after learning about attention and memory, you will realise that its better to have simple slides so that you can give your full, undivided attention to commit it to long-term memory 😉

What is it about?

The content is two parts of cognition – attention and memory. First half is attention, second half is memory. How this seminar works is that we are given 2 articles to read each week, and then come down for class to discuss about it – the methods of the experiment, what it adds to the literature. We are given about 45minutes to discuss the article amongst ourselves in groups, then the last hour will be taken by prof to summarize the insights that the article provides – he speaks really clearly and I think everyone in my class will agree that it is very easy to understand what he is saying (some people also think that this last hour is the most important).

Final Grade: B+

How’s the workload?

No class participation. But he encourages us to speak up during class (got awkward silence sometimes). There’s a class presentation (20%) at the end of the semester, individual essay (30%) – you can write anything about memory or attention, i think it was a 2-3k word essay.  Also, finals (50%) were essay-based; 3 Choose 2. You can check out the past year papers to get a feel of it; the questions are quite broad and you will have things to say but as usual, you need to support it with examples (studies).

Should I take it?
I went in thinking that I’ll dislike this module the most out of the 3 psych mods. However, although the articles are quite torturous to read, Nic Hon as a prof is quite good and he really made me think about the little stuff and piped my interest regarding attention and memory – e.g. attentional spotlight, false memories, etc; something I might not have done on my own. But don’t take it if you hate learning about attention/memory.

PL4241: Exploring Consciousness – Theory and Neuroscience
Prof: Dr. Camilo David Libedinsky

About the prof: I think he’s quite a chill guy too, and fun fact- he’s not a psychology major but a neuroscience/biology guy. He is very open to people asking questions which I liked.

I have conflicting thoughts about this module. I took this because I thought consciousness sounded cool – especially after watching Westworld and Black Mirror. However, my interest kind of waned because this module was focusing on the neuroscience part of it as well. First two weeks we focused on the philosophy of consciousness. I guess I’m not a neuroscience person lol.

How’s the workload?

To be very honest, I think it is quite a relaxing module. However, class part is quite high at 25%, so remember to speak up because he really marks down who speaks (at least in the first few weeks). Group presentation is 35%, which means its quite important too- you are given an article to read one week before the presentation and then talk about it. No finals, but a final essay (40%) to be submitted in week 13, consisting of about 2.5k words. I think this essay will make or break you, and yes you can talk about anything under the sun about consciousness but you should at least ask the prof in case you go off-topic (quite a high chance).

Should I take it?

Hmm, I think this module is good for those who are interested in consciousness, the theory of it AND neuroscience. Personally, I was always left confused every single week that I attended (I don’t know whats going on… sobs) which was quite disappointing. In the second half of the semester, people started to disappear. But I know people who are very enthusiastic about it too so I guess this is hard to advise.

Final Grade: B+ (I think my final essay saved me. Which frankly up till today I don’t know if it made sense…)

PL4880P: Psychology of Religion

Prof: Dr. Paul Reddish
About the prof: I think he’s a really nice prof!! He puts in effort and like walk to pass the markers around the class to us (when he could just ask us to go up and write), and there was one week where he brought props to illustrate an example.

About the module: I was quite disappointed because I was also hoping to get some new insights about the psychology of religion which unfortunately did not happen for me – although some of my previous thoughts regarding the psychology of religion was nicely structured for me to think about (e.g. this module uses proper terms – cognitive building blocks of religion such as “pattern recognition”, “anthropomorphisation”). I felt that there could’ve been more interesting discussions, and maybe because it’s held in the morning, I remember always walking into class and complaining about how I have to wake up for this to my fellow course mates. I knew that this would not be about whether religion is true or not – it was about the antecedents and the social effects of religion – e.g. the effects of prayers and how rituals were formed. Yet, I felt that there was something missing – perhaps talking about the role of religion and current trends in today’s society? Such as secularization? Not sure. Or it could be how the prof presents his materials too – in a powerpoint slide, it got a little boring after a while.

How’s the workload?
I think the assessment is split into many parts here- which actually I don’t really like because more parts = need to split your energy more efficiently. 5% Class part which means you don’t really need to talk (although you should), 15% Midterms (5 short answer qns), 30% Individual Essay which is a subtopic of the group presentation, 20% Group Presentation, 30% Finals I think?
My group presentation was about death. So, religion and death- a very broad topic. The workload is OK, but compared to the other 2 modules, there are more components so I feel like more effort was needed (although still very light, compared to other PL4000 modules such like PL4228, PL4226, PL4235).

Should I take it?
Again, this module didn’t really meet up to my expectations but I would probably still take it because I don’t think I can ever take a module like this anywhere again – psychology of religion – and it did increase my psychological knowledge of religion – the content is quite interesting, but maybe the way it was brought up could have been slightly improved. So take it if you want to know the cognitive mechanisms behind religion, but don’t take it if you want to know if religion exists or not.

Final Grade: B

 

Okay, I realised writing module reviews take up quite a bit of effort. Haha. So that’s all from me for now! Hope this was helpful for psych majors considering these modules. Feel free to ask below in the comments about anything!

A Love Note To Myself

What is love, really?

For now, I conclude that it’s the little moments that is love. And most of my life, it has consisted for family and friends. I actually think that that is enough for now. I feel blessed on many levels.

Nowadays, I see every experience as, well, an experience. And life is really unexpected so just go out there and live your life to the fullest.