Ophelia Syndrome

We were assigned a reading for today about the Ophelia Syndrome.  This refers to a development that occurs in many today, that of not thinking for oneself, and not forming oneself into an individual.  The history of this term comes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and refers to Ophelia going to her father, Polonius, being completely submissive to the way of thinking he is going to impose on her.  Since she does not know what to think, she will let him do the thinking for her, as if she were a baby.

I honestly think it is very easy to fall into this trap if you are not aware of it.  Reflecting on myself, especially in school, it is much easier to repeat someone’s ideas instead of digging deep inside myself to find my own personal, intuitive opinion.  I have noticed lately that I tell people what they want to hear, and I do this a lot.  I don’t want to be the girl who doesn’t have a valid opinion, but rather repeats what others have told her before.  It just seems easier to avoid any sort of confrontation or misunderstanding if you tell the person what they want to hear.  And although they aren’t telling you upfront what they want, it’s funny how easy it is to know sometimes.  In their demeanor and through the conversation, they have already told you what they want you to say.  I love to come across a situation where I’m challenged because of this inclination.  When I was applying for this field study, I was asked what I wanted to get from this experience.  Of course, I wrote about how I want to discover myself and grow as a person and find “me.”  I was very sure the facilitators would love my answer and that this was the purpose of any field study/study abroad experience.  Little did I know…

A few days later I read an article titled “What Students Don’t Learn Abroad.”  This altered the way I viewed this experience and hands-on learning.  Although self discovery often comes with these experiences, the true purpose is finding out about the people and learning about the history and their culture, or whatever field you would like to explore.  I feel like I went off on a tangent, but that experience taught me to be brave and to think for myself, not to just say what I think society wants me to say.  It was the first encounter in a long time where I noticed that I wasn’t really thinking for myself.  Now it is a lot easier to catch and I’m more perceptive of my true, personal thoughts.

I loved that Plummer, in his article about the Ophelia Syndrome, gave a list of ideas on what could prevent this syndrome and what we could do to not fall into this trap.  I can’t include it here because of time, but I know that they will be very useful throughout my preparation to go to Guanajuato and especially while I’m there.  Now that I think about it, this may be one of the reasons I’m so excited to go and do research: No one is telling me what the answer is to my research question.  I am going to find the answer for myself, with my own thoughts and opinions, pretty much guiding myself through the process.  Now I understand why it is important that this prep class be very self motivated and “learner oriented.”  We need to think for ourselves and learn for ourselves rather than storing the facts that someone lists out to us.

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