The classes we offer here at Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center have always pointed our students toward self-discovery, self-improvement, and existing successfully within a society that can be fickle, conflicting, and confusing.
In Social Psychology, a five-week class currently underway in this, our 78th trimester, a dozen students are exploring the big picture in order to identify the conditioned behaviors that we all exhibit. The class explores the thinking process of the individual in order to learn how to establish and nourish healthy habits — keeping in mind that each of us has a psyche that is based on our personal and family history.
And, of course, that history is built upon the existing culture and society, which is dictated by evolutionary and biological needs.
A primary focus that is being explored more than halfway through this class is the “self-other distinction,” which means people instinctively and inherently distinguish between their own feelings and mental images and those feelings and mental representations of others around them.
Problems arise when social interactions result in the individual trying to understand another person’s mental and affective states while under the powerful influence of their own thoughts and feelings. The task is to distinguish between simultaneous representations of other people’s current experiences as well as our own in order to navigate our complex social environments with the least amount of drama or discord.
During the initial three weeks of this course, 12 Eagle Rock School students have been laying the groundwork on a number of topics that focus primarily on the self-other distinction — the way we shape our understanding of ourselves, and our implicitly and explicitly held views.
This week and next, class members are heading out of the classroom and into the Eagle Rock community to conduct studies of their own making. This exercise pushes students into the uncomfortable — but invaluable — position of becoming vulnerable with others as they critically reflect on their own view of the world.
In addition to a deep dive into psychology, the students are conducting interviews with their peers, and delving into data gathering and statistics at a level that few in this age range have experienced before.
By the end of the trimester, these students will employ the interviewing and statistics skills they have learned to make predictions about future health outcomes for themselves and the Eagle Rock community at large.
About the Author: Christoper Iafrati is an adjunct instructor in human performance at Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center in Estes Park, Colo. He earned undergraduate degrees in Exercise Science and Psychology from the State University of New York, Buffalo.
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