Listserv Flame War Results in Insight

A recent… ah… lively discussion on the APA [EARLYCAREER] listserv — prompted by a member’s marketing for her Mary Kay business — prompted a number of interesting and sometimes quite thoughtful responses. Here’s my favorite, from someone named “Michael”:

Hello all,

Speaking for myself, I’ve been by turns fascinated, angered, and frightened by the recent conversations here. But rather than focusing on the opprobrium, I think its probably important here to take a moment to reflect on the anxiety aroused by the recent horror stories posted here. In addition I’m supposing that many of us had a negative reaction to the “Mary Kay” posting as it seemed to violate the boundaries of what we consider to be our profession. However, in the context of the previous discussions, the strength of the feelings got me thinking. I find myself wondering if part of the moralizing reaction has something to do with the discomfort generated by the ways in which we view ourselves. Are we business people? Scientists? Medical professionals? Artists?

Most of us are quite bright, and could have been anything we wanted. Somehow, though, it seems as though we’ve payed handsomely to enter a profession where we must be everything. Of little help is the discomfort fomented by the exclusionary philosophical rivalries that exist in our discipline based upon the sturm und drang of our struggle for legitimacy in the public eye. Of course, besides what we give up during our years of training, it cannot be forgotten that we sacrifice so much of who we were to become, well, whatever it is we are. But beyond these concerns I can’t help but have the impression perhaps some of the anger is more about this confusion than anything else.

That hit me deep down. Yes, I could have done a number of things (certainly not anything) with my life, but I’m doing this: clinical psychology. I like the fact that my field allows me to wear a lot of hats. But it certainly makes for some interesting questions of identity, and when identity is threatened most people start behaving very weirdly.

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