The Struggles of a Psychology Student in Pakistan

On paagalon ki doctor hou and other myths associated with psychology students

Choosing to study psychology in Pakistan is an achievement in itself.

You went out of your way to opt for a subject that you thought to be interesting and productive to society but you forgot that you’d have to justify it to your parents, their parents, their sisters, their brothers and other spreading branches of what we call, a desi family tree. You have to justify why you chose to do something that has not been heard of in our country until very late, something that apparently has no scope if you ask your next-door neighbor who went into retirement almost ten years ago, something that will leave you unemployed for the rest of your life and worst of all – is grouped with the one word, nearly all Pakistani parents cower from.

Arts.

But now that you’re well into your study of psychology, how do you play the rapid-fire round with your average Pinky Auntie and her rather nosy husband, over tea? Here are five questions, literally all psychology students are subjected to, in Pakistan.

1. Tum paagalon ki doctor hou na? 

Honestly, if this author got a hundred rupee note every time someone asked her this question, she wouldn’t need to practice psychology as a career. This one line is like a bad dad joke; only funny to the person who’s saying it – but seriously – psychology isn’t about just dealing with the insane, it’s much more than that. There is more than treating insanity to psychology, actually an entire field dedicated to research based on cognition and development etc. If Pinky Auntie can’t understand that, that’s on her.

The same goes for your perfectly healthy relatives who can’t resist asking for a free consult – after all, Pinky Auntie obviously thinks you worked hard all those years through graduate school just so you could check up on her. For free.

2. Tum paagalon ke saath reh kar khud paagal na ho jana!

Yeah apparently instead of trying to help my clients, all I’ll do after working my way through a degree and a license is act insane. The only thing that would make me go insane is if my relatives don’t stop staying this on repeat. Thanks for your concern but really, we all know you just wanted to make another dad joke.

3. Acha yaani, psychologists bilkul asli doctor hote hain! Woh bhi medical ke beghair?!

NO!

Getting a degree in medicine and getting a license to practice clinical psychology are two vastly different things and you cannot belittle one or the other just to fit into your definition of a doctor. If all you care about is the title then you might as well take mine and attach it to your name, hoping it would magically make you a doctor as well.

4. Lekin psychology tou arts ka subject hai!

This one positively rendered this author shook.

What’s worse than getting asked irrelevant questions about your degree? Yeah, it’s definitely having your degree declared as an arts subject and therefore not worthy of praise because, in the land of the all-intelligent, art is what you opt for when you can’t save lives or make money. The fact that actual talent, hard work, and genius goes into making that art is completely ignored and the word is tossed around like nothing worse than such a fate could befall you.

Psychology is categorized as a social science and while many will argue that it is a hard-science as opposed to a soft one, it can be definitely said that psychology is not a part of the arts. We do not draw on our client’s faces as much as we’d like to.

5. Psychology keliye zyada parhna tou nahi parta hoga na?

Oh sure. The human mind and behavior are pieces of cake that require minimum study because you can just wing it with your patients if you don’t know what’s bothering them. All you have to do is talk about the problem, right?

It doesn’t matter that psychology is a subject that requires you to be observant, extremely well-read and open to exploring new avenues and explanations for phenomena you can’t explain by the book. All that matters to your relatives is how you’re not choosing a medical school and must, therefore, be out partying with your friends while a degree and job await you as soon as you get home, shining on a silver platter. Yes. We wish.

If you’ve heard these things before then take a moment to shake your head at how long this country actually has to go when it comes to academia and then chin up for another round of irrelevant questions thrown at you by people who think that their sense of humor is improving.

All this author can do is wish you the best of luck on your journey of spending entire lifetimes explaining this mysterious science to your relatives rather than actually studying/practicing it.

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