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Psychology , The power of Failure and Imagination

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"Phenomenology: In contrast with the Freudian approach, Rumke, one of the grand masters of Dutch psychiatry, who was Van den Berg's professor during his psychiatric training, and in whose department he later become chef de clinique, brought home to him the basic phenomenological spirit, namely, that one has to take the reality presented by the patient totally seriously and should not interpose one's theory. This meant above all that one has to listen to the patient, one really has to hear what he says and above all, has to understand him and not to be too sure that one understands him too quickly."


This is an interesting read people are much too quick to judge and jump to conclusions via ones one interposed theory. This relates to everyone not just psychiatric patients.

Not to mention if someone has already made judgments about someone they may not be able to see the truth even if it's right in front of their eyes.


"The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuade, that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him."

"The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion ... draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects or despises, or else by some distinction sets aside or rejects"

"I know that most men—not only those considered clever, but even those who are very clever, and capable of understanding most difficult scientific, mathematical, or philosophic problems—can very seldom discern even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as to oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions they have formed, perhaps with much difficulty—conclusions of which they are proud, which they have taught to others, and on which they have built their lives."

I read a study on psychologists years ago about this and it is indeed for everyone we like to be our own little psychologists.

Cognitive Dissonance somewhat relates to a confirmation bias.


A rather different, but perhaps complementary, approach to rationalization comes from cognitive dissonance. 'In 1957. Leon Festinger...argued that when people become aware that their attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs ("cognitions") are inconsistent with one another, this realization brings with it an uncomfortable state of tension called cognitive dissonance '.[17]
One answer to the discomfort of the situation is that 'their minds rationalize it by inventing a comfortable illusion'

"Dissonance is aroused when people are confronted with information that is inconsistent with their beliefs. If the dissonance is not reduced by changing one's belief, the dissonance can result in misperception or rejection or refutation of the information, seeking support from others who share the beliefs, and attempting to persuade others to restore consonance."

The first except regarding cognitive dissonance is from the rationalization page. I'll quote a few comments on rationalization.


In psychology and logic, rationalization (or making excuses[1]) is a defense mechanism in which perceived controversial behaviors or feelings are explained in a rational or logical manner to avoid the true explanation. It often involves ad hoc hypothesizing. This process ranges from fully conscious (e.g. to present an external defense against ridicule from others) to mostly subconscious (e.g. to create a block against internal feelings of guilt).

Rationalization is what bullies use to justify them being cruel to their targets or victims. Theirs even such a thing as reverse bullying it's where someone is like I heard bob steals people's lunches. Therefore I will beat bob up and justify my wrong(rationalization) by claiming saintliness.

"For a near-determinist like Eric Berne, one's 'important decisions are already made...in early childhood': thereafter 'other decisions...are "directed" decisions rationalized on spurious grounds'.[12] Once a decision has been made on unconscious grounds, 'without the individual's being aware of the real forces behind it. he takes upon himself the task of finding justifications for it..."rationalization"'


Human nature is if you harm me I'll harm you. Even look at the US who attacked Iraq after 9/11 The government created a "comfortable illusion" that they had weapons of mass destruction and therefore were a threat to the world and justified in invading.

"By labeling it ‘part of war,’ it becomes something different, something more like an act of nature than an act of human cruelty. That’s an illusion — war is a choice, and if it’s not a war of direct self-defense, it is a choice with tremendous moral implications Yet most people avoid thinking about that, it’s rationalized as ‘going after a dictator’ or ‘beating extremists,’ with the human costs somehow defined away by such abstractions. And it works. People think more about their own soldiers killed in war than the massive suffering of innocents, and even see support for such actions as patriotic and honorable. Not that these aren’t good people; rather, good people are able to justify and accept cruelty with the proper distance."

By trying to make the world a better place by fighting the evil dictator Suddam Hussein and taking down his regime lead to 105,000 deaths(according to wikileaks) or Iraqi's as well as 4,500 US deaths at this point in time. This doesnt even take into account all of the wounded or traumatized veterans or civilians as well as the economic cost of fighting such a war.

Don't get me wrong here I'm not trying to put down the American soldiers who lost and put their lives on the line as the cause being "in vain". Most soldiers are pretty good people following orders, doing what is expected of them of their country.

Regarding ad hoc hypothesizing;

"In science and philosophy, an ad hoc hypothesis is a hypothesis added to a theory in order to save it from being falsified. Ad hoc hypothesizing is compensating for anomalies not anticipated by the theory in its unmodified form."

All of this psychology ties in together. For example one can use ad hoc hypothesizing to justify their rationalization, in many cases their ad hoc hypothesis will be wrong. In that case it's a comfortable illusion in order to avoid cognitive dissonance.

"In the Cambodian killing fields people were picked out and slaughtered, tortured, and brutalized just because they were ‘morally corrupt’ — they had an education, ties to the West, or lived in a city. Children again did a lot of the killing. The cruelty there was rationalized by defining the “other” as something less than truly human."

Viewing the other person as less then human is called out-group dehumanization. The simple form of this is called out-group enemy imagine while out-group dehumanization is the most extreme form.

"The term "out-group" refers to anyone who is not in your own group. In conflicts between groups of people, disputants usually view people outside their own group as less good, or in the case of the opposing group, really bad. The term "enemy image" refers to the same thing. The opposing groups is seen as "the enemy," who is inferior to one's own group in many ways. For example, the enemy may be seen as stupid, selfish, deceitful, aggressive, hostile, even evil in character. This is true, even if members of the out-group do nothing more selfish, deceitful, aggressive, or evil than one's own group does. However, when they are engaged in a conflict, people will normally "project" their own negative traits on the other side, ignoring their own shortcomings or misdeeds, while emphasizing the same in the other. The extreme form of this tendency is de-humanization, in which members of the opposing group are really considered to be less than human. While such a view is unthinkable when people are not involved in a serious conflict, it is absolutely necessary to dehumanize an opponent if one needs to go to war against them. Otherwise, it becomes psychologically very difficult to kill people on the other side. If one is convinced, however, that the other side is bent on one's own destruction, and is somehow less human than one's own group is, it is much easier to engage in war or human rights violations against the opponent.

Out-group dehumanization relates to in-group bias. Here's the wiki link.


Projection is mentioned in the enemy imagine/outgroup dehumanization excerpt. Projection is a defensive mechanism itself.



This brings me to what I'm in part doing now. Another defense mechanism.


"Intellectualization is a defense mechanism where reasoning is used to block confrontation with an unconscious conflict and its associated emotional stress, by 'using excessive and abstract ideation to avoid difficult feelings'.[1] It involves removing one's self, emotionally, from a stressful event. Intellectualization may accompany, but 'differs from rationalization, which is justification of irrational behavior through cliches, stories, and pat explanation'.[2]"

This is all very long I commend those of you with the time, desire to understand and learn, as well as the patience to read this.

Finally I'll leave you with the link and a few quotes from the power of failure and imagination from the J.K. Rowlings commencement speech at Harvard in 2008.


If you want you can watch the video.


"I would like to make it clear, in parenthesis, that I do not blame my parents for their point of view. There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you. What is more, I cannot criticise my parents for hoping that I would never experience poverty. They had been poor themselves, and I have since been poor, and I quite agree with them that it is not an ennobling experience. Poverty entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts, that is indeed something on which to pride yourself, but poverty itself is romanticised only by fools.

What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure."

"I am not dull enough to suppose that because you are young, gifted and well-educated, you have never known hardship or heartbreak. Talent and intelligence never yet inoculated anyone against the caprice of the Fates, and I do not for a moment suppose that everyone here has enjoyed an existence of unruffled privilege and contentment.

However, the fact that you are graduating from Harvard suggests that you are not very well-acquainted with failure. You might be driven by a fear of failure quite as much as a desire for success. Indeed, your conception of failure might not be too far from the average person’s idea of success, so high have you already flown.

Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea then how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default."

"Now you might think that I chose my second theme, the importance of imagination, because of the part it played in rebuilding my life, but that is not wholly so. Though I personally will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared."

"I shall never forget the African torture victim, a young man no older than I was at the time, who had become mentally ill after all he had endured in his homeland. He trembled uncontrollably as he spoke into a video camera about the brutality inflicted upon him. He was a foot taller than I was, and seemed as fragile as a child. I was given the job of escorting him back to the Underground Station afterwards, and this man whose life had been shattered by cruelty took my hand with exquisite courtesy, and wished me future happiness.

And as long as I live I shall remember walking along an empty corridor and suddenly hearing, from behind a closed door, a scream of pain and horror such as I have never heard since. The door opened, and the researcher poked out her head and told me to run and make a hot drink for the young man sitting with her. She had just had to give him the news that in retaliation for his own outspokenness against his country’s regime, his mother had been seized and executed."

"Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s places.

Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathize

And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know."

"What is more, those who choose not to empathise enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.

One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality."


Well-Known Member
Powerful speech from a powerful author.. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

I had pondered the thought of why we believe what we believe.. But I could never put it into words as dynamic as what you have used, and researched. This was beautiful. And I hope that less people are frightened away by the length of the piece, and really take the time to process this thread..

Also, I love the quotes you have. You're a remarkable person:mhmm:
Thank you for the kind words, I really appreciate it :hug:

I like your quote about depressed people, I have to agree kind people tend to get stepped on more their much easier deceived and played for a fool. It's very sad to many people it's a weaknesses others can exploit.

I agree the length of the post will certainly turn some people off as you will need at least 10-15 minutes to read through if not much longer.

The psychology of things is pretty interesting.

Here's a list of cognitive bias


One I found interesting is the Actor-observer bias.


"The hypothesis of an "actor–observer asymmetry" was first proposed by social psychologists, Jones and Nisbett in 1971. They hypothesized that “actors tend to attribute the causes of their behavior to stimuli inherent in the situation, while observers tend to attribute behavior to stable dispositions of the actor” (Jones & Nisbett, 1971, p. 93). Jones and Nisbett's (1971) hypothesis implies that a student who studies hard for an exam is likely to explain her own (the "actor"'s) intensive studying by referring to the upcoming difficult exam whereas other people (the "observers") are likely to explain her studying by referring to her dispositions such as being hardworking or ambitious."

Actor observing bias is quite similar to a self serving bias.


"A self-serving bias occurs when people attribute their successes to internal or personal factors but attribute their failures to situational factors beyond their control. The self-serving bias can be seen in the common human tendency to take credit for success but to deny responsibility for failure.[1] It may also manifest itself as a tendency for people to evaluate ambiguous information in a way that is beneficial to their interests"

The term "self-serving bias" is most often used to describe a pattern of biased causal inference, in which praise or blame depend on whether success or failure was achieved. For example, a student who gets a good grade on an exam might say, "I got an A because I am intelligent and I studied hard!" whereas a student who does poorly on an exam might say, "The teacher gave me an F because he does not like me!" When someone strategically strives to facilitate external causes for their poor performance (so that they will subsequently have a means to avoid blaming themselves for failure), it may be labeled self-handicapping.[5]

Denial is somewhat related.


I'll cover one specific area.


See also: Victim blaming
Harassment covers a wide range of offensive behaviour. It is commonly understood as behaviour intended to disturb or upset. In the legal sense, it is behaviour which is found threatening or disturbing.
DARVO is an acronym to describe a common strategy of abusers: Deny the abuse, then Attack the victim for attempting to make them accountable for their offense, thereby Reversing Victim and Offender.

Psychologist Jennifer Freyd[4] writes:
"...I have observed that actual abusers threaten, bully and make a nightmare for anyone who holds them accountable or asks them to change their abusive behavior. This attack, intended to chill and terrify, typically includes threats of law suits, overt and covert attacks on the whistle-blower's credibility, and so on. The attack will often take the form of focusing on ridiculing the person who attempts to hold the offender accountable. [...] [T]he offender rapidly creates the impression that the abuser is the wronged one, while the victim or concerned observer is the offender. Figure and ground are completely reversed. [...] The offender is on the offense and the person attempting to hold the offender accountable is put on the defense."

I have had others use DARVO against me and they are currently using it as one of their ways to protect themselves.


Well-Known Member
Makes sense. We all feel like we need some sort of shield to protect us from the never ending judgement.. Nobody wants to be a failure, obviously, so we instantly throw up our defenses so we look strong, even when we are at our weakest.
I wonder what the world would be like if nobody looked down on others for their mistakes... But as long as we're human, I don't think that's possible, huh.

Do you want to be a psychologist when you grow up? Or are you simply intrigued?
Hey I just realized I missed your reply to this thread.

People certainly do tend to judge others mistakes in a way so they can feel better about themselves, regardless if that person has learned from it or not. Judging someone off simple things like being overweight/obese or even ugly. An obese person usually has issues that has led them to be obese, sure one might say they choose to have a bad diet and not exercise but with our current society it's not hard at all to let yourself go in that aspect. Often times people don't care to consider what it must be like to be judged based merely on their apperance. It could be that they are judged based on their apperance so therefore they find it acceptable to judge others based on the same criteria.

As the ingroup bias state individuals will find any reason no matter how insignificant to prove why their group is superior, sadly this increases their self esteem. This can range from belittling and tormenting a fat or meeker person, to attacking someone visciously for trying to break up a fight. In some rare cases someone will actually kill another person for something as minor as an insult, in a way it could be seen as "revenge" but really it has more to do with an ingroup bias of trying to be the "superior" person.

The golden rule states treat people the way you like to be treated. At the same time I find in many cases people tend to treat others the way they've been treated. If you've become a victim you're more likely to victimize others.

Psychology is certainly an interest of mine, sociology is intersting as well. Regarding psychology I prefer Carl Jung over Sigmeund Freud. The latter was anti-semitic. Carl Jung is more known for his work on Analytical psychology. Freud contrary to Van den Berg is known for interposing his theory quickly on someone.

I've covered this in another thread but I like Jung's work on the shadow.

The shadow is an unconscious complex defined as the repressed, suppressed or disowned qualities of the conscious self. According to Jung, the human being deals with the reality of the shadow in four ways: denial, projection, integration and/or transmutation.[citation needed] According to Analytical psychology, a person's shadow may have both constructive and destructive aspects. In its more destructive aspects, the shadow can represent those things which people do not accept about themselves. For instance, the shadow of someone who identifies as being kind may be harsh or unkind. Conversely, the shadow of a person who is brutal may be gentle. In its more constructive aspects, a person's shadow may represent hidden positive qualities. This has been referred to as the "gold in the shadow". Jung emphasized the importance of being aware of shadow material and incorporating it into conscious awareness in order to avoid projecting shadow qualities on others.
For example terrorist project their shadow onto others like Al qaeda. By projecting it onto someone else they go out and attack their shadow or mirror image of themselves. This allows them not to deal with the evil within themselves. The best human beings have some evil in us and even the worst have some food, you have to be conscious of your darker side before you can really come to grips with it and not have to come into your life externally.

Aggresive judgments and labels are a problem of society, it is fairly narrow minded. Basically interposing your theory on someone with little or no knowledge, often times based on superficial things. It prevents people from having proper understanding. When we judge others we don't define them we define ourselves.
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