The Armchair Psychologist

armchair-psychologist“Your actions are preceded by thoughts which have their origins in subconscious memories of childhood experiences.” — Armchair Psychologist

The Armchair Psychologist has little to no formal training in psychology but has all of the answers to the mysteries of human nature. The Armchair Psychologist is fascinated by people in general, and believes that the “how” and “why” of human dynamics can be found in psychology. Armchair Psychologists can be found in large groups of people or engrossed in close one-on-one conversation. It is in these settings that they can most clearly show their skills of psychoanalysis.

Not merely a psychology enthusiast, the Armchair Psychologist has a compulsive need to classify people and their behavior according to popular psychological theories, and just as often, their personal definitions. The Armchair Psychologist is fond of evolutionary psychology and psychoanalysis which allows them to not only categorize others but pigeonhole them. The Armchair Psychologist sees themselves as an advanced freethinker though their theories and analysis are often traditional and restricting.

How to know you’re dealing with an Armchair Psychologist? Armchair Psychologists come in many forms; the only undeniable way to know one is by what they say and do.  You may even be an Armchair Psychologist if several of the following apply to you:

  • Thinking Sigmund Freud was one of the greatest thinkers of all time and/or quoting his theories
  • Seeing behavior through a lens of psychopathology — nervousness indicates generalized anxiety disorder, short attention span indicates attention deficit disorder
  • Believing that most human behavior arises in response to evolution and mating needs
  • Believing that individual behavioral differences have their origins in childhood dynamics and upbringing, especially parent-child relations, and traumatic experiences
  • Following several personality theory systems and using them to classify most of the people you know and meet
  • Regularly using phrases such as “projection”, “defense mechanism,” and “fixation”
  • Regularly reading Psychology Today and explaining events in relation to what you’ve read

The Armchair Psychologist likes to analyze and classify all humans except, usually, themselves.  While they will admit that they too are just a product of human evolution and experiences, they tend to believe that due to their psychological awareness they are more stable and healthy than most. It escapes them that their armchair psychology could itself be considered pathological.

Could analyzing the Armchair Psychologist be considered armchair psychology? Maybe. It could be said that there is a bit of the Armchair Psychologist in us all.

 

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14 thoughts on “The Armchair Psychologist

  1. There are many armchair psychologists around here. Heck, almost every attractive girl in here late teens/early 20s is like this. That makes psychology at the universities a very popular major. They all go there, fight to get accepted (because it’s very competitive), and then are horrified when they are confronted with real psychology as a scientific discipline.

    All they basically want is to give you relationship advice.

    By their late 20s, many of these women get tired of the armchair psychology, but those who keep it in their 30s exist, and they tend to be very difficult people to deal with. Most of them are fascinated by Sex and the City for some reason.

    (And yes, this comment was all armchair psychology).

  2. I was casually talking to an alleged “armchair psychologist” one time. He didn’t talk about Freud or any of his theories, though. It was an excruciating experience and I felt that I was under a microscope. Yet when I tried to point out his imperfections, I got a whole bunch of psychobabble to deflect it off of himself.

    That said, it sure does seems to me that nearly everyone on some level thinks they know everyone else better than they know themselves. How do you explain all of the judgmental behavior out there? And most people think they are the exception to every rule. I won’t lie, I’m no exception to thinking that at times.

  3. Mira,

    “There are many armchair psychologists around here. Heck, almost every attractive girl in here late teens/early 20s is like this.”

    Why only the attractive ones?

    “That makes psychology at the universities a very popular major.”

    Just like here. :)

    “then are horrified when they are confronted with real psychology as a scientific discipline.”

    I was horrified when I was confronted with psychology as a discipline… It was so boring!

    “I’ve never met a male armchair psychologist.”

    You’re lucky then. Because they do exist and they’re not rare at all.

    …Actually, I think you might have e-met one. Remember our old friend who would say any woman who disagreed with had “daddy issues” or self-hatred?

    “(And yes, this comment was all armchair psychology).”

    LOL.

  4. That’s interesting, Mira, because Psychology is one of the most popular majors in the US, and it’s not competitive at all (at least, at the undergraduate level).

    I have a degree in Psych, and armchair psychology annoys me because a)people usually use it to defend racist/sexist/violent things other (White) people do; b) most mental disorders fall under the “____ disorder not otherwise specified” umbrella, so throwing out “Depression!”, “BPD!” and “Anxiety!” is foolish (even before you take into account the low prevalence of disorder); and c) it’s not like a mental disorder frees you from criticism when you do crazy/stupid shit.

    /endrant

  5. Valerie,

    “I was casually talking to an alleged “armchair psychologist” one time..It was an excruciating experience and I felt that I was under a microscope. Yet when I tried to point out his imperfections, I got a whole bunch of psychobabble to deflect it off of himself.”

    Typical. Psychonalysis isn’t as fun when you’re the one being analyzed.

    “That said, it sure does seems to me that nearly everyone on some level thinks they know everyone else better than they know themselves.”

    Many people do, yes. Because they’re so special and insightful. :)

    “How do you explain all of the judgmental behavior out there?”

    Well, I think judgmental behavior comes from both people thinking they know others better but also from people being personally attached to their own morals and beliefs, and thinking they are the “right” way. So when someone does something that contradicts their beliefs, they judge them negatively.

  6. Jasmin,

    “armchair psychology annoys me because a)people usually use it to defend racist/sexist/violent things other (White) people do”

    Yes, they do. One thing I’ve noticed about many armchair psychologists is that they like to judge/pigeonhole people in general. Psychology is simply a way for them to do that under the guise of academia or objectivity.

  7. Alee,

    Why only the attractive ones?

    No idea. Well, it’s not just the attractive ones, but most of the attractive girls do it. I think it has a lot to do with socializing (attractive girls socialize a lot – it’s one of the reasons they are seen as attractive), an armchair psychology make them gossip and talk about other people under a cover of deep and meaningful conversation. Being attractive, they want to show they are also smart, and armchair philosophy is perfect for this. For the same reason they read Paulo Coelho.

    Oh, I’m mean. I’m meean!!!!

    But seriously now. I have no idea why so many attractive girls are into it and not in, say, nuclear physics. It’s not like real psychology as a scientific discipline is easy. But I guess it attracts extroverted people, and extroverts have more chance to be seen as attractive (imo).

    …Actually, I think you might have e-met one. Remember our old friend who would say any woman who disagreed with had “daddy issues” or self-hatred?

    Huh? I’m not sure. Who is he? Not the male blogger himself?

    Jasmin,

    That’s interesting, Mira, because Psychology is one of the most popular majors in the US, and it’s not competitive at all (at least, at the undergraduate level).

    It’s extremely popular here, to the point of having private faculties for it. (Most of the faculties and universities in my country – and the only decent ones – are public. The private ones are a joke for rich kids, and the only majors available are the popular ones: management and such. Psychology is also there because it’s popular).

    In Belgrade, psychology is one of the 10 majors in the faculty of Philosophy (my major: archaeology is another), and there are always 3 people applying for one place. While the least popular subject (Classical languages), there are always free places left (so some people who failed to get accepted in psychology go there and try to switch majors after the first year). It’s crazy!

  8. Mira,

    “I think it has a lot to do with socializing (attractive girls socialize a lot – it’s one of the reasons they are seen as attractive), an armchair psychology make them gossip and talk about other people under a cover of deep and meaningful conversation.”

    Okay… That makes sense.

    “For the same reason they read Paulo Coelho.

    Oh, I’m mean. I’m meean!!!!”

    Lol. You are a little mean to the “popular/attractive” people.

    “But seriously now. I have no idea why so many attractive girls are into it and not in, say, nuclear physics.”

    ???

    Because psychology is relatively easier and nuclear physics is dry and lacking connection to human life?

    There is a certain kind of person who majors in/dedicates a large portion of their life to studying physics. They’re either very introverted/unsocial or very analytical/cerebral types. Often both. I’d say that applies to 9/10 of physicists. Even amongst scientists you can see there is a difference between the physicists and engineers, and everybody else.

    I know you were only using physics as an example, but still, most people would find psychology easier. At my college the people who failed hard sciences became psychology majors. There were a lot of psychology majors.

    “Huh? I’m not sure. Who is he? Not the male blogger himself?”

    No, a commenter.

  9. Lol. You are a little mean to the “popular/attractive” people.

    I know. :( I am little prejudiced against them and I know it. It’s not something I’m proud of.

    But while it’s true that type of girls where the ones who rejected me the most, it’s also true that most of my friends could fall into this group and not into the weird/tomboy type. I don’t know how it’s possible.

    There is a certain kind of person who majors in/dedicates a large portion of their life to studying physics.

    I’ve studied astrophysics. I’ve never graduated, though. It was my first love. But the university came at a very bad moment (emotionally) for me: after I broke up with a guy and when I believed all men are jerks and when I was too lonely to function, let alone study.

    My best friend graduated and defended her PhD thesis several weeks ago. She isn’t that introverted or unsocial. In fact, most of the women in the observatory try to dress up and be feminine because they hate the whole stereotype of an ugly female scientist. But it’s true she’s analytical: she’s one of the most rational people I know. Too bad she can’t be this rational with her love life (I believe I told you about her bf of 11 years and all the trouble they’ve had).

    I know you were only using physics as an example, but still, most people would find psychology easier.

    Ok, chemistry, then. Or even biology. Any natural science. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are MANY women in those majors: all the natural science and medicine sciences faculties are about 50:50 male/female ratio. There are a bit less women in the engineering, but still enough of them. Certain social sciences and humanities (especially foreign languages and literature) are where there’s significantly lower number of guys than girls. And yes, when it comes to psychology, it’s about 70:30 female/male ratio for students. Most of the other majors in the faculty (history, philosophy, archaeology, anthropology, etc.) don’t reflect this.

    No, a commenter.

    Now I’m even more intrigued. Many people talk about the self-hate, but I don’t remember the one who was into daddy issues.

  10. Mira,

    “I’ve studied astrophysics.”

    Perfect example. :)

    Lol, just kidding!

    “Ok, chemistry, then. Or even biology. Any natural science.”

    More or less any natural science is harder than psychology. Not for everyone: some people’s minds are bent more to the hard sciences or certain types of hard sciences. Some people are a mix of all three, like me. I don’t find organic chemistry hard like most people, but inorganic can be confusing. I don’t think psychology or any of the other social sciences to be difficult either, just not very interesting.

    But the hard sciences require you to think in ways and think about what you normally wouldn’t, plus synthesize a lot of abstract info/data, so many people find them more difficult. Social sciences are describing the human world so it’s easier for humans.

    Not to get too far off-topic here.

    “Now I’m even more intrigued. Many people talk about the self-hate, but I don’t remember the one who was into daddy issues.”

    I’ll let you know via email.

  11. You know I’ve been talking about narcissistic personality disorder and emotional abuse on my blog. I wouldn’t call myself a armchair psychologist I know jack about psychology but I’ve been sharing what I’ve learned b/c I’ve reading a lot of books. As I was victim of emotional abuse and when I talked to my own therapist he thought maybe my ex was NPD, it fit but who knows. I just wanted to share what I learned but I also wanted to figure out how all this happened, how I ended up the situation. I’m glad to share what I learned about these two things but even more I’m glad I understand what it is and understand more about me. No is doesn’t excuse his behavior, he’s still a bad person but in this whole thing this was less about him and more about me.

  12. Eugenia,

    Well, it’s different when you’re just sharing what you’ve learned and learning from your experiences. I wouldn’t say that is being an armchair psychologist. An armchair psychologist analyzes everything and everyone using psychology, and nearly refuses to see anything outside of that.

  13. Alee, I don’t have time to analyze everything and everyone b/c many times I can’t tell. I know what manipulation looks like and I know what emotional abuse looks like but that’s b/c I’ve experienced them.

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