The Day I Learned an Important Lesson (AKA the”BioPsychoSocial” Story)

(Originally Written April 2019)

I flashed back to moment earlier. One that admittedly pissed me off a little bit then, over 15 years ago.

This was in my second go round with college, the one where I actually tried. I was in a child psychology course and the professor was bringing up autism. And he was asking the class about what might cause autism.

What I didn’t realize was that he was looking for someone to blow up and make an example of. Undercaffeinated me did not see the trap coming. And of course ran right into the fucking thing at full speed.

*Raises hand* “Are you asking physical, environmental, genetic, what exactly?”

Fucker looks me straight in the eye and says, “Never ask that stupid question ever again.”

The part of me that was calculating what my next move should be. Do I strangle him in front of the class? Probably good to avoid a felony so, nah. Give him specific instructions on what sharp objects he could jam up some orifice? No, way too close to graduating and shutting your parents up to risk getting kicked out.

So a rather sharp “Excuse me?’ was what I went to. And he went on. And what was about to come out of his mouth was to this day one of the most important lessons I have ever learned. Which is really impressive seeing as I was not exactly in a welcoming place for a knowledge bomb.

He explained that this was not something that there was one particular answer for, it didn’t exist. That anyone who claimed that there was wrong in that it was universal. It was his experience both with his own clients and with he research out there that there wasn’t one cause that fit everyone. And he brought out the term “biopsychosocial”, which he used to explain that there is a biological, psychological, and social aspect to everything. Even if it couldn’t be figured out what each factor was.

It was such an eye opener for me. Not just in learning what I did in the course about autism. But in so many aspects of life.

How there are so many places where blanket statements or ideas are expressed but make no fucking sense if you actually study them. Hell, even with our individuality. We each have different internal things going on, social experiences and relationships, different mental processes. Also different emotional things going on…everyone’s Jenga puzzle just comes out so different.

Yeah, there are basic facts. 1+1=2, or water being liquid between 32 and 212˚F. But there are also a lot of assumptions. It’s natural to do in a way because it fills in where we perceive spaces to exist. But while it works to allow our minds to process, it doesn’t necessarily make it the truth.

It’s all its own individual equation. What works magnificently to cure illness symptoms for one person could kill another. Extreme example but you get the idea. So much of everything is learning about how a particular individual operates, and how all these factors internal and external combine in their way to help create that operating system. It’s really quite fascinating. And because of our tendencies as society to group everything together, so much of this goes right over our heads, individually and collectively.

So in many aspects of life, this lesson comes back and repeatedly kicks me in the ass. I remember, and I relearn.

Just for the record, that professor made it a point to pull me aside and thank me for being such a great sport about that in the end. “I was glad it was you that took the bait, someone that wasn’t going to put up with my shit. I was afraid that it would be someone that would end up having an emotional meltdown over it.”

If only he knew how close he was to being in physical danger in that moment….

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Rich Levesque

Writer. Guide. Mentor. Visionary. Voice. Presence. Geeks out over MCU, Star Wars, baseball, and randomness. Question everything except your worth.