I’m 31 years old now, and I’ve been in school for the last 8 years. For the last six of those, I’ve been focused on becoming a psychologist. That entails a lot of “professionalization,” which is a euphemism for becoming the sort of person that psychologists agree with and would like to be around. At every step through the extensive course of training, would-be psychologists are coerced into expressing particular views about themselves and society that are congruent with the prevailing politics of the field.
Well, I started out in this field because I thought it would allow me to cultivate and express my true self. I thought that was the ideal outcome for patients too – for them become the best and freest possible versions of themselves and learn to create meaning all around them. In my mind then, and still today, the profession of clinical psychology should be bursting with life. We should all be so absorbed into the applications of the incredible knowledge available today that everyone who comes near a psychologist should feel the sting of opportunity. I got into this field because I want to live artfully, and I want to be able to inspire the people around me to do the same. I want to be a psychologist because I want to live in a world that is beautiful and robust, filled with people who are strong, self-possessed, and empathic.
Last year I applied for internships. I did what I was supposed to do: I wrote essays that revealed more of my personal background than I was comfortable with. I submitted to months of excessive, probing interviews. I answered questions diplomatically. I did this because difficult experiences during my training had made me feel that my real self was unacceptable to the field of psychology.
In retrospect, it was foolish to try and present myself so neutrally. I turned my own strengths into weaknesses. My strongest connections in this field have all come to me by way of those same personal traits which alienated me from other potential mentors. I’ve learned my lesson.
The truth about me is that honesty and intellectual integrity are some of my most closely held values, and I’m no longer willing to compromise them for a career field that should love them as much as I do. I’m in this field because I believe that thoughts are worth something. My experiences and beliefs are worth more than this essay. I’m not ashamed of my past; I’m proud enough to save it for people I trust. All I can promise is to treat the experiences and beliefs of my patients with the same respect.