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Do you believe these psychology myths?

There was a time when I believed that chewing gum stayed in your stomach for seven years, fortune cookies were invented in China, and the Boston Red Sox would never win a world series. Here are more myths from the world of Psychology.

1. You can never praise a child too much.  You can indeed give children too much recognition, resulting in youngsters who are addicted to attention. You can inadvertently create a sense of entitlement that kids need to be acknowledged for the most insignificant of accomplishments. When these kids enter the real world of work, they can’t function without constant reassurance and endless praise. They typically have a low level of resiliency for dealing with setbacks and are too emotionally needy to become successful in a world that generally cares little about their feelings.

2. Autism is caused by refrigerator moms. In my college class on psychopathology, I learned that cold and rejecting moms were the cause of autistic children. Because these infants were rejected at an early age, they turned inward for stimulation and retreated into their own world. While the many causes of autism remain under investigation, this refrigerator mom theory has been rejected by scientific research.

3. Children can never recover from early trauma. Growing up can be tough for kids.  Many children are victims of sexual abuse, violence, substance abusing parents and extremely dysfunctional families. These kids somehow survive their childhoods in spite of insurmountable obstacles.  The good news is that many, if not most, of these kids are psychologically normal and lead productive lives. These youngsters refuse to allow their early traumas to resonate into their adulthoods.

4. Talking about problems is helpful. This is one of the biggest psychomyths of my profession. I’ve spent hours in my office with kids and parents who, if allowed, would incessantly discuss their problems.  There is nothing therapeutic in such conversations, unless they lead to a plan to change the way one thinks, feels, and acts. Talking is only the first step in changing your life. Kids begin to heal only when they move from talking to thinking and doing things differently.

5. Dreams provide an important insight into our subconscious world. Many people have an image of a psychologist as sitting in a chair while a patient is on a couch recounting their dreams. The psychologist then interprets the real meaning of the dreams and provides insights that result in lifelong changes.

The reality is that therapists are no better than anyone else in interpreting what a dream really means, if anything. While it’s popular and fun to talk about dreams, they have little if any value in therapy sessions.

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