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Dear Me, Future Psychologist. Yours truly, Dr. Alison Gopnik

Check out our latest installment of Dear Me, Future Psychologist, a gradPSYCH Blog exclusive in which a prominent psychologist writes a letter to their 16-year-old self. We hope you enjoy these letters and glean some invaluable wisdom and guidance as you decide whether to enter graduate school in psychology, as you navigate the challenges of graduate school, and as you make decisions about your career and life.

Gopnik photo really hi-res tiff (002)This letter is from Dr. Alison Gopnik. Dr. Gopnik is a professor of psychology and affiliate professor of philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley, where she has taught since 1988. She received her BA from McGill University and her PhD. from Oxford University. She is a world leader in cognitive science, particularly the study of children’s learning and development. She is the author of over 100 journal articles and several books including the bestselling and critically acclaimed popular books “The Scientist in the Crib” William Morrow, 1999, “The Philosophical Baby; What children’s minds tell us about love, truth and the meaning of life” Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2009,  and  “The Gardener and the Carpenter: What the new science of child development tells us about the relationship between parents and children” Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2016. She is a fellow of the Cognitive Science Society and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

She writes the Mind and Matter science column for the Wall Street Journal. And she has also written widely about cognitive science and psychology for The New Yorker, Science, The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Review of Books, New Scientist and Slate, among others. She has frequently appeared on TV and radio including “The Charlie Rose Show” and “The Colbert Report”. Her TED talk has been seen over 2.75 million times. She has three sons and three grand-children and lives in Berkeley, California with her husband Alvy Ray Smith.

DEAR-ME

FROM THE DESK OF ALISON GOPNIK:

May 2017

Dear Me,

Now by all the rules, you should be the one who is hesitant and uncertain, just starting out in life as you are, and I should be the one who’s figured it all out – I have the very unfair advantage, after all, of knowing how things will turn out. But, knowing you as I do, I’m afraid it’s mostly going to be the reverse. You are so sure about who you are and what you’re going to do, and most of my wisdom is a lifetime’s accumulation of doubt, even about the most fundamental biographical facts.

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Dear Me, Future Psychologist. Yours truly, Dr. Y. Barry Chung

It’s time for the next installment of Dear me, future psychologist, a gradPSYCH Blog exclusive in which a prominent psychologist writes a letter to his/her 16-year-old self. We hope you enjoy these letters and glean some invaluable wisdom and guidance as you decide whether to enter graduate school in psychology, as you navigate the challenges of graduate school, and as you make decisions about your career and life.

Y. B. ChungThis letter is from Dr. Y. Barry Chung. Dr. Chung received his PhD in counseling psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1996. He was a faculty member at Georgia State University and Department Chair at Northeastern University, before joining the faculty at Indiana University Bloomington where he is currently Associate Dean for Graduate Studies. Dr. Chung is a past President of the National Career Development Association and Society of Counseling Psychology, and is President-Elect of the Council of Counseling Psychology Training Programs. He is known for his scholarly work on career development, multicultural counseling, and sexual orientation and gender identity issues. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (Divisions 17, 44, and 45), Asian American Psychological Association, and National Career Development Association.

DEAR-ME

FROM THE DESK OF Y. Barry Chung:

April 2017

Dear Me at 16,

This letter is from you when you are 53. I hope the letter reaches you alright via the time travel machine.  I know you are still in high school in Hong Kong, and have no idea what your future may hold.  But if you don’t mind knowing ahead of time, there will be lots of major changes in your life.  You will live in a different country (USA), speak English daily (I know, trust me, you can!), and you will be a psychology professor, university administrator, and leader of several national associations.  I know these may be too much to take in right now, when you are still struggling to grow up, living in poverty.  But trust me, they will all happen.  Well, I am writing today to give you some advice.  You may not need it (evidently you have become me), but as your older self I would like to help.

First, I know you are struggling with that “odd” feeling that you are attracted to men. Don’t be afraid.  It is only natural, and life gets better.  You will come out as a gay man in your 20s, and ultimately find a loving life partner when you are 39 (yeah it takes time and be patient with all the heartbreaks).  You will devote most of your career to researching on and advocating for LGBT issues.  In fact, you are probably most known by your professional peers for your LGBT work, and eventually you decide to leave a bequest donation to support LGBT research when you leave this world.  For now, just trust your feelings and don’t allow others and society to make you become someone else.  Your experience with heterosexism will be a powerful motivation to pursue the kind of work that will benefit people like yourself.

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Dear Me, Future Psychologist. Yours truly, Dr. Alan Kazdin

It’s time for the next installment of Dear me, future psychologist, a gradPSYCH Blog exclusive in which a prominent psychologist writes a letter to his/her 16-year-old self. We hope you enjoy these letters and glean some invaluable wisdom and guidance as you decide whether to enter graduate school in psychology, as you navigate the challenges of graduate school, and as you make decisions about your career and life.

akazdin-photoThis letter is from Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, ABPP. Dr. Kazdin is Sterling Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University. At Yale, he has been Chairman of the Psychology Department and Director of the Child Study Center at the School of Medicine. Currently he is Director of the Yale Parenting Center. His 750+ publications include 49 books that focus on research methodology, interventions for children, parenting and child rearing, and interpersonal violence. His parenting work has been featured on NPR, PBS, BBC, CNN, Good Morning America, 20/20, Dr. Phil, and the Today Show. In 2008, he was President of the American Psychological Association.

DEAR-ME

 

 

 

FROM THE DESK OF ALAN KAZDIN:

Dear Alan,

I am sorry to have taken so long to write you. Writing to you was on my to-do list, which I misplaced several months ago. I finally found the list when I decided it was time to do my laundry. In any case, I am here now and so pleased to be in contact with you.

A task set out for me is to offer advice based on the perspective of time that has elapsed from when and where you are at age 16 to when and where I am now at age 71. As you will know in some distant future, as a general rule I am reluctant to give advice to anyone but I really love to receive the input of others, whether I follow that or not. With that in mind, I am not going to give you advice now even though I care about you deeply and actually am tempted.

I know you are really caught up in the present and truly enjoying yourself. As it turns out you will look back on this period with enormous warmth, joy, and amusement but also it will have enduring impact in relation to your very modest roots. Your style in the next decades will continue to focus on each present period without a long-term plan or even seeming goals beyond the immediate horizon. As odd as that may sound, I urge you to stay with that style—it will serve you well. Moreover, you will always be pleasantly baffled as to how you ended up here and there in your personal and professional lives, given that you were not thinking very far ahead.

There are some things you might consider as guides as your life and world continue to expand. Perhaps keep in mind that one (you) can (almost) never be:

  • Too kind to others;
  • Too forgiving and merciful;
  • Too helpful for those less fortunate, whether through no fault of their own or who have seemingly played a strong role in their own plight;
  • Too caring, intense, and loving;
  • Too connected to family; and because I know you and how you think,
  • Too funny.

After a very long and wonderful life, your mother has passed away quite recently, but she was fond of prizing you throughout your life for your enthusiasm and said that was the best gift she gave you. (She, and for that matter her entire cohort, were not genetically or epigenetically informed and knew little of the many domains [e.g., microbiome, connectome, environome, interactome] that influence affect, behavior, cognition, socialization, and health. Consequently, she pretty much took credit for your having that enthusiasm, and she had that as well.) Along with that, you have a somewhat naïve and occasionally Don Quixote feature about you. (I think next year you will be assigned to read that book—the real one, not those yellow Cliff Notes of which you are especially fond.) Soon, college will start to sculpt and then polish these features of you and eventually help you integrate them. (Apologies for the life spoiler—yes, believe it or not despite your fooling around so much now, you are going to college. I know you will provide an acknowledging smile when you read this—at this time in your life; you are taking high-school extremely seriously, except the part about classes and academic work! There is a potential spoiler here too but I will hold back. If you can save this letter and read it again in 3 or 4 years from now, you will understand and be happily astonished.)

As you move forward to your job and career (I am not telling what that is), direct any training, talent, or skill you have to helping people at the level of the individual but also at the level of society more broadly. There is enormous suffering and astounding inertia, indifference, and illusory efforts (all talk) to help. On the other side, there are many people already working to help and in amazing and creative ways that can and do make a difference. Use your enthusiasm, Quixotic naiveté, and intensity to connect with like souls, and join the battle in whatever way you can. There is so much to do and so much need, it is easy to find ways to contribute.

Above all, enjoy yourself and your family and keep your natural focus on the present. The main insight of your distant you (me) is how quickly life can unfold and pass. Probably the last thing on your mind at this moment is the prospect that in a relative flash of time, you may be old and asked to write a letter to your 16-year old self. By that time, quantum states may have been mastered and you could be in the same room at the same time and be both the 16-year old and the older wrinkled version who writes you now. Quantum computing is almost here and probably there will be quantum Skype or FaceTime right after that so if you are not in the same room, perhaps you and I can still chat and see each other.  Either way, I am so pleased to be entangled with you now.  Enjoy yourself.

Un fuerte abrazo,

Alan

Editor’s Note: Dear Me, Future Psychologist is inspired by the Dear Me book series by Joseph Galliano. Special thanks to David A. Meyerson, Ph.D. for creating this series for the gradPSYCH Blog. Please check out other letters in this series:

Dear Me, Future Psychologist. Yours truly, Dr. Thomas Plante

It’s time for the next installment of Dear me, future psychologist, a gradPSYCH Blog exclusive in which a prominent psychologist writes a letter to his/her 16-year-old self. We hope you enjoy these letters and glean some invaluable wisdom and guidance as you decide whether to enter graduate school in psychology, as you navigate the challenges of graduate school, and as you make decisions about your career and life.Thomas Plante

This letter is from Thomas G. Plante, PhD, ABPP. Dr.  Plante is the Augustin Cardinal Bea, S.J. University Professor and directs the Spirituality and Health Institute at Santa Clara University. He is also an adjunct clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine. He recently served as vice-chair of the National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Youth for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and is past-president of the Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality (Division 36) of the American Psychological Association. He has authored or edited 21 books including, Graduating with Honor: Best Practices to Promote Ethics Development in College Students (2016, Praeger), Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: A Decade of Crisis, 2002-2012 (2011, Praeger), and Spiritual Practices in Psychotherapy: Thirteen Tools for Enhancing Psychological Health (2009, APA).  He teaches courses in abnormal, clinical, health, and general psychology as well as ethics and maintains a private clinical practice as a licensed psychologist in Menlo Park, CA.

DEAR-ME

 

 

 

FROM THE DESK OF THOMAS G. PLANTE:

Dear Tommy at 16,Thomas Plante, 16-years-old

This is your 56-year-old self now sending a letter to you (the 16-year-old version).

No matter how thoughtful or wise, advice is so hard to receive since most people need to discover things on their own and often want to do things in their own way and in their own time. Yet, I hope that you will listen to your older, and perhaps wiser self, and consider the following 5 items of advice for your reflection.

  1. Treat everyone, even those you don’t agree with or even don’t like very much, with great kindness and respect. The adult world, even in areas like psychology, higher education, and health care, can be competitive, mean-spirited, and unkind at times. Don’t falter from your efforts to be respectful and compassionate to everyone (even when you are tempted to do otherwise). It will serve you well, you’ll sleep better at night, and it is the just the right thing to do as an ethical human being. In a nutshell, treat others as you wish to be treated and try to see the good and sacred in all. Always remember the words of Michelle Obama, “When they go low, we go high.”
  2. Try your best to surround yourself with people who are ethical, gracious, and are trying to make the world a better place. Our society seems to be getting more and more selfish and narcissistic with an attitude that “it’s all about me.” It isn’t! It’s about “us” and the common good. Stay close to others who are working hard to make the world a more humane, just, and compassionate place and with people who are not too full of themselves. Don’t be afraid to give corrective feedback to those who act entitled, demanding, and narcissistic. And always stand up to people who are bullying and disrespecting others.
  3. Keep up with the rapid changes in society and remember that no matter how fast the world spins, for good or for bad, it is evolving in ways that are often unpredictable and sometimes scary. Hold on for the ride, keep on top of things, don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone, and don’t get too nostalgic for the “old days.” Remember that we live in the world that we live in and not necessarily in the world that we’d like to live in. Adapt!
  4. Be quick to compliment, thank, and appreciate others. Be grateful. Laugh a lot. And give hugs freely and often.
  5. And finally, in the words of St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits, “Go set the world on fire!” In other words, go out there and try your very best to make the world a better place! Be part of the solution and not part of the problem. The world so desperately needs humble helpers of good will and kindness focused on the common good. Be that person!

May life be kind to you and may you be blessed with good health, healthy loving relationships, hearty laughter, and a vocation that gives you great meaning, purpose, and joy.

Your older (and perhaps a bit wiser) self,

Tom

Editor’s Note: Dear Me, Future Psychologist is inspired by the Dear Me book series by Joseph Galliano. Special thanks to David A. Meyerson, Ph.D. for creating this series for the gradPSYCH Blog. Please check out other letters in this series from Dr. Howard Gardner, Dr. Robert Sternberg, Dr. Mitchell Prinstein, and Dr. Phil Zimbardo.

Dear Me, Future Psychologist. Yours Truly, Dr. Phil Zimbardo

It’s time for the next installment of Dear me, future psychologist, a gradPSYCH Blog exclusive in which a prominent psychologist writes a letter to his/her 16-year-old self. We hope you enjoy these letters and glean some invaluable wisdom and guidance as you decide whether to enter graduate school in psychology, as you navigate the challenges of graduate school, and as you make decisions about your career and life.

This letter is from Dr. Philip G.  Zimbardo. Dr. Zimbardo is the Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Stanford University, two-time past president of the Western Psychological Association and past president of the American Psychological Association. He became known for his 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment and has since authored numerous psychology books, text books and other notable works, including The Lucifer Effect, The Time Paradox and The Time Cure. He is also the founder and president of the Heroic Imagination Project.

DEAR-ME

 

 

FROM THE DESK OF Phil Zimbardo:

Greetings to my youth-filled, 16-year old, skinny Phil!

From my ripe, old vantage point of 83 years of age, I want to share with you some psychological wisdom I have gathered over many decades of teaching, conducting a variety of research studies, writing books of all kinds, and  making educational videos.

First, I recall that you still live in the South Bronx of New York City, where you were born and bred, and now you are attending James Monroe High School, after returning there from a year’s journey with your family to North Hollywood, California. One of your most interesting classmates is Stanley Milgram, who was voted the smartest kid in the senior class, while you were voted the most popular boy. Nice award, especially recalling that you were the least popular student last year at North Hollywood High School!  In fact, you were openly shunned by everyone because they thought you had Mafia connections, because you were a Sicilian from New York, and therefore potentially dangerous.

But what changed in going from most undesirable kid to most desirable kid in a short time? In your discussions with little Stanley, he suggested that it was the “situation” and not your personality that had changed. You were the same inner person, but that was defined differently in those two different situations. So keep an eye on that kid – when Stanley grows up, he might have something significant to say about situational forces dominating individual dispositions.

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