The psychology of individual differences….40 green bottles hanging on the wall

So a friend told me the story of him and 39 other young men who were in their basic training in the new SANDF. They lived in a barracks all 40 of them. Each had a single size steel bed with a thin foam mattress, two thick grey blankets, two sheets, one pillow with pillow case, a steel trunk at the foot of the bed and a single locker to the left of the head of the bed. That is all. Each morning at 04h00 (ouch!) they were awakened by the shrill shriek of the regimental corporal often hurling less than delicate admonitions and affronts to the forty boys with reference to their fathers’ limbs, marital consummation and their biological origins.

At 04h15 inspection took place conducted by the commanding officer, Captain Bliksem. Each recruit would stand at the foot of the bed, at attention, eyes front absolute silence, quivering in his boots, shined to perfection gloss and all, waiting for the captain to make his way to his nose. Two inches from the recruit’s nose, the captain demanded an explanation as to why the corners of the blankets and sheets were not standing at perfect right angles, why he could not see his face in the polished boots and why he had to listen to the recruit spluttering answers to his questions. Inspection complete, if you didn’t need to change your underwear, was followed by a 5 kilometre run with full battle packs and weapons and this was all before 05h00.

Each day was exactly the same; emotional abuse, physical exertion, unrelenting demands of body and mind. It was exactly the same for each of the forty. Over time, my friend told me, the number of recruits diminished, from 40 to 38, from 38 to 31…

Each recruit went through a medical examination and was found to be in good health, met all the physical requirements demanded of basic training, each had an intake interview to assess the suitability of their mental state. Each was required to do exactly the same activities as all the rest, eat the same food, survive the same abuse, so why did some drop out along the way?

The question that arises is why do some people of relatively equal capacity cope better than others even when they are in similar circumstances with equal demands being made of them?

If we want to raise children, educate or help people in any useful way we need to be able to focus upon and answer this question.

We need to understand what each individual brings to the attempt to meet the demands made upon him or her and how these resources differ from the resources that other people have or bring to the demands made upon them.

In short we need to know how the person copes. Why is it critical to understand how the person copes? Because Dr Jannie my Religious Studies teacher at university said so.… In our many discussions about psychology as an academic endeavour and as an applied discipline Dr Jannie always insisted that the basis of any applied psychology that sincerely intended to be therapeutic had to recognise as a starting point that all people are simply trying to cope with the world and its demands with the psychological resources they have at their disposal. I agree.

This raises two pertinent issues when trying to understand an individual. Firstly in any given life circumstance specific or general, parochial or broad what are the unique demands that the person has to face and deal with in their lives and in conjunction with that what psychological resources and coping capacities and subjective mediators of experience does the person bring to bear on those demands?

If we answer these questions (of each person) we would have gone some way to explain why of the 40 who started basic training only 31 completed the course….

Stress ZebraArtist unknown

Why do some people never get depressed? http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-16749565