A Life of Learning, Lessons, Writing and Psychology – An Article by Jodie Fleming

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I love studying. Prior to my seven-year psychology degree, I started three other degrees. I love learning, I love researching, I love growing, but mostly, I love writing. The sense of achievement that follows looking at a finished document that didn’t exist before provides me with such satisfaction.

I grieved after completing my degree, over the end of that part of my life.

Such was the loss, I wandered aimlessly, wondering how to fill my days. How to fill the gap in the joy, calm and sense of achievement that writing had fulfilled.

Before, I had sat in my favourite chair in the sun and listened to the tap tap of the keys and I turned my thoughts into pages and pages of my thesis. I sipped tea and felt the warmth on my skin and worked at my all-consuming task. I hadn’t ever predicted the ritual would leave such a gaping hole in my life and my wellbeing.

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Soon after finishing my degree, I returned to writing for other reasons.

Diagnosed with breast cancer, I began journaling in the form of letters to my grandmother, my nan, who had died four years earlier. I found I could connect with her throughout my time of need by putting pen to paper and in doing so, her answers to my questions and the love and support I knew she would have given revealed themselves, loudly and clearly. Comfort.

Cancer treatment, hair, breasts, ovaries all came and went and soon I felt well enough to search for meaning in all that had just happened in my life. What if, as a psychologist, one who had worked extensively with cancer patients, I had a message to share that might alleviate someone else’s burden of illness just a little? I knew I had something to share, something of value, and decided to write a book.

I joined a writing class and in three years my breast cancer memoir, A Hole in my Genes, was complete. Revisiting my old friend, the writing process, brought me stunning mindful calm and a sense of achievement like no other, in the form of meaning for my cancer experience.

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However, with the words ‘The End’ came another grieving period, my all-consuming ritual ended once again. It had been a catharsis. It assisted with my processing of facing my mortality. It had allowed me to express a myriad of emotions safely, yet fully. Writing had saved my life.

Now what?

Fast forward a matter of weeks and the urge to write, to create, to express myself tugged at my thoughts ever so strongly and I knew I need a new writing project.

A coffee, a dog walk, and some tossing around of ideas with a photographer friend one afternoon saw the birth of The Psychology of It.

As psychologists, psycho-education is one of our most valuable and most utilised tools.

When our clients can understand the what, why, when and how of a disorder, or a reaction, an emotion, a behaviour, they are more than half-way towards knowing how to choose the most effective coping tools to manage their situation.

Therapy is an interesting beast and I know for myself at least, I go through phases of using particular interventions,particular stories and metaphors and I certainly have my go-to examples thattend to help most people understand a variety of topics.

I noticed that I would find myself repeating the same information, using the same analogies, drawing the same diagrams over, and over again, day in and day out, wishing a resource existed, using my language, to direct my clients to.

Of course, there are amazing resources online but mostly they specialised in certain areas, were too science-y, too self-help-y, or were generally too ‘something’ that my clients wouldn’t read.

Enter Stage Left, The Psychology of It.

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The Psychology of It website is where it all began. I adore writing in many different formats and so created a website with five different categories. As a psychologist, the evidence-based research and science is key to efficacious work. We are scientist-practitioners and are always evaluating the work we do with our clients, as well as keeping up-to-date with the latest best practice principles. A lot of the time however, this information is only available in research journals and not easy tounderstand for the general community.

So, I began with a section called Analyse This, where we were able to interpret the more scientific information in a user-friendly way. There are descriptions of different disorders as well as information about different treatment modalities, and articles that describe why certain human experiences are so.

In the name of being user-friendly, I wanted a quick reference guide to a number of easy-to-learn coping tools that people could access and easily understand. These are the tools I’m teaching my clients every single day and so to have an article I can print out for them, or direct them too after a session to reinforce the skill they have learned that day, is invaluable. Those articles are found in The Coping Toolkit.

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I also wanted a space to write about personal opinions and experiences. The main aim of The Psychology of It is to normalise human experiences, reduce the stigma and highlight the similarities we have as human beings, as opposed to always focussing on the differences. I didn’t always want to have to be scientific about things and noticed that a lot of people are more likely to read information if it’s presented in a more personal format. This is where Up Close & Personal came in.

Another main aim for The Psychology of It is to connect us all, human to human, again by highlighting the similarities we experience as humans. Conversations on the Couch does that beautifully by introducing people from all walks of life and ‘interviewing’ them, using the same set of questions that explore their personal life experiences and opinions, identifying their unique outlooks but also highlighting their commonalities with others. This section helps us feel as though we’re not the ‘only one’. In fact, Fraser has his own Conversation on the Couch up on the website. You can find it here.

Finally, I realised there might have to be a ‘miscellaneous’ category which I named New Things. Whether it be new resources, new experiences, new people, it’s a section where almost anything fits.

As well as the five sections filled with articles by some wonderful guest writers, we also keep a resource list called Stuff We Like. It’s always needing updating so if you have any recommendations, please don’t hesitate to let me know!

In the world of social media, The Psychology of It is linked to a Facebook page with over 3000 followers, and also on Instagram and Twitter. These all allow for further reach for the messages we’d like to spread, reducing the stigma of mental illness, and pushing the barrow for mental health, messages of wellbeing and the importance of self-care.

The Psychology of It is growing and in many ways has taken on a life of its own.

This year, it has also become a clinical practice in south-west Victoria, Australia. This practice allows me to work as the type of clinician I’ve also aspired to be. Many sessions with clients are starting to be conducted outside of the clinic walls where we take the practice of the skills learned in session, into real life. Clients are booking in for mindful walking, running, eating sessions. I’ve also purchased two stand-up paddleboards so that in the warmer months, mindful breathing and grounding sessions can be conducted on our beautiful rivers and ocean. Within the next few weeks, I’ll be undertaking a Trauma-based Yoga for Clinicians workshop and am excited for what doors that may open for me both personally and professionally.

To top it all off, I’m extending the messages of the importance of self-care, well-being and preventative mental health by hosting The Psychology of It’s first international Wellbeing Retreat in Bali, Indonesia. To find out more about that, you can go to http://thepsychologyofit.com.au/retreat.html.

I’m so excited to be combining the science of psychology, with the ancient wisdom of yoga led by my close friend and colleague Peta Jolley, in the stunning heart of Bali. We are looking forward toa week of companionship, learning, personal exploration and growth, not to mention stunning experiences and the most amazing wellness food on the planet. Mindful Tribes have designed such a wonderful boutique experience for us and we’d love for you to join us.

In the meantime, A Hole in my Genes iscurrently at the publisher’s and will be available before the end of the year. I’ll keep you up to date and would love to offer the Get Psyched community a nice big discount.

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