Psychology is generally defined as the study of the human mind, experience and behaviour. But the meaning of psychology differs according to who is talking about it. The world itself is derived from two Greek words: “Psyche” which means breath, the principle of life, life, or, soul; and “logos”, which means word, thought, principle, or speech. The first academic or philosophical use of the term seems to have been a translation by Nicholas Culpeper in the mid 17th Century in which he stated that “Psychologie is the knowledge of the Soul,” which is a lovely way to think of it.
So, what is the meaning of psychology?
The word psychology is an umbrella term, and the meaning may differ from person to person. Psychology as a discipline encompasses many different branches. Some focus on behaviour, others on experience. Some focus on the mind as if it were separate from the body, others consider the mind and body as one holistic entity.
I believe psychology is all about the human psychological world, which encompasses all your internal experience. I see your internal experience as being made up of three parts:
Firstly, it’s your conscious awareness, which includes your thoughts, feelings and behaviour, and also your “Observer Self”. This is the part of you that can actually watch your own mind thinking thoughts, feeling feelings and seeing your own behaviours from a meta-perspective.
Secondly, it’s your semi-conscious awareness, which holds all the memories, experiences, and feelings you partly suppress, but which you can bring into your conscious awareness.
Lastly, it’s your unconscious, which holds the things that are so deep that you’re not even aware of them. Your unconscious includes your world of dreams (whether you remember them or not) and the parts of you that you have forgotten, almost forgotten, or have buried so deeply you can’t access them easily.
Psychology tries to acknowledge and unpack all the influences
If you’re someone who struggles with the question: “What does psychology mean?” I’d like to break it down for you. From my perspective, psychology is an attempt to acknowledge all the influences that make up who you are at this time – the biological, the environmental, and the social. It’s about exploring how you co-construct your reality as you interact and respond to these influences in the present. It’s about unpacking the past in order to better understand how you came to be in your specific present.
The meaning of psychology? It’s about healing and growing
To me, psychology tries to understand how you were wounded and how you heal. It’s a kind of holistic overview that uses story-telling and narrative to explore the journey that you have travelled in your life thus far, and helps you to build a vision for your future.
Questions that psychologists often ask
Psychologists ask questions in very different ways according to their theoretical orientation and approach. I explore issues with questions like:
- What happened?
- What was it like?
- What do you remember?
- How do you understand it?
- When did it happen?
- Who was there for you during that time?
- How did they support you?
- Where are you now, and what is that like for you?
- Where would you like to go?
- What do you want your life to look like?
- What do you already have that you want more of?
- What strengths can you realise, acknowledge, and build upon?
Conversations in therapy are different from the discussions you have with your friends and partners because therapy is a one-sided relationship, where the focus is all on you. Your life, your experiences, your feelings, your understanding. We don’t take turns, because it’s always your turn. I offer my thoughts, my reflections, and my interpretations to you, but these are all about you.
The types of questions asked are very different to a social conversation. We talk about things that maybe you’ve never talked about to anybody else. By exploring the answers to these questions with you during therapy, you and I will develop goals to facilitate your healing process, and to process the unresolved issues in your life that are holding you back.
A bridge between science and art
The meaning of psychology is complex, just as the human mind is complex. Psychology bridges science and art. Scientific rigour and evidence-based practice are key, but psychology is also a creative and soulful discipline that touches the heart, and forms a “knowledge of the Soul”.
If you want to know more about what psychology means, I encourage you to read more, do a course or book an online session with me to see firsthand how psychology can help you improve the quality of your life.
You are so much more than you realise. I see you as a whole world just in and of yourself, and I am fascinated by every aspect of you.