Reverse Every Negative in Your Life
There's something in sociological science called the Rosenthal Effect; and it can be used to explain and (we argue here) reverse every negative interaction and thought in your life. In particular, look to this effect when trying to understand self-sabotage in your fitness or wellness program. Also called the Pygmalion Effect, it's been repeatedly confirmed as not just a theorized phenomenon but a sociological law more or less. The idea is that your expectation of someone else's behavior changes your own behavior to alter the environment in a way which will improve the likelihood of your initial expectation coming true. For example, if a police officer expects that a certain inner city youth will be more resistant than the next, she will behave in a way that improves the chances of that youth being resistant. Now, this isn't an offloading of responsibility (we will get to that shortly), because it is a two way street. If someone expects an officer to use excessive force, he will behave in a way that changes the environment such that excessive force likelihood goes up. Both began as objectively errant expectations. However, they become true, further reinforcing the expectations, and creating additional behaviors which perpetuate the negativity. If you look closely, you can see how inverting the expectations can begin to change the environment in increasingly positive ways. This is true for your own internal dialogue as well, creating a path of change and improvement where you previously doomed yourself to "failure" by expecting the wrong things.
One of the first variables we need to address within the Rosenthal Effect is allocation of responsibility or culpability. Humans have a great proclivity toward rounding. If person A is 49% or less responsible for something which person B is 51% responsible, person A will round his own responsibility to zero. That leaves us with person B at 100% responsible. The reality, in point of fact, as the reader should have noticed in the previous paragraph, is that it takes two to tango. Be careful. This isn't victim-blaming. It's a total reevaluation of how we like to ascribe blame. In politics and in social media outrage we see the constant invocation of rounding. It takes two to even invoke outward blame or be outraged. We can begin to change the environment by changing our belief that we ourselves are zero percent responsible for the outcome. Merely accepting that you may be 8% responsible and the other person is still 92% responsible at least frees you up to do something besides perpetuate the situation exactly as is.
Imagine if a school teacher expected that nothing he did helped his students. Throwing up one's hands is the ultimate rounding. Those kids are 100% responsible for their progress, right? And our provision of the education and how we engage them is zero percent responsible, right? Of course not. It's a two way street. In your life, you are many times both teacher and student. Don't forget that.
Going into internal dialogue, we have to talk about the fallacy of induction. In the rigorous study of logic, critical thinking and in the courtroom, there is an oft-cited argument that goes something like this: the sun will rise tomorrow because it has risen every day prior. That statement, though seemingly sensible at superficial first glance, is completely off the mark and rife with multiple erroneous beliefs. The sun will most likely rise tomorrow, but thanks wholly to Newtonian physics IF there are no bodies which unduly act on any other bodies in celestial motion. We can deduce that. Arguably, we cannot induce anything with full certainty. Dr. Phil might've gotten it partially right when he said the strongest indictor of future behavior is past behavior. But strictly speaking, that IS the fallacy of induction. There is no objective deductive formula leading from past behavior to future behavior. We aren't even the same physical body from one moment to the next. We turn over cells in the body faster than the U.S. postage stamp goes up in price.
Baseless accusation is a great motivator and capitalizes on the Rosenthal Effect. As the Salem witch trials proved, most people when aggressively prodded will confess to witchcraft even when they don't practice it. This is well-known in the world of interrogation. Confession isn't far from opening up the pathway to a behavior. In fact, in criminal psychology, it's just a given that someone will become brutal if most of the influences in his life expect brutality. Shaming pushes people to hide their thoughts and plans. Hurt people hurt people. That's not to say that if you call a kid "bad" you will predestine him to becoming "bad"... with 100% likelihood. If he becomes "bad," however, you may want to observe how that unnecessary jab and paranoid expectation shares some percent of blame. Praise, gratitude, affirmation, acceptance and the expectation of kindness can change all of that. Furthermore, expecting that you will adhere to your plan no matter what pressures will improve the likelihood of program success in whatever you endeavor to do. Be careful when saying, "I know myself; and whenever I... I will then...". That is a baseless accusation. Sure, there is honest self-evaluation. But then there's self-fulfilling prophecy.
Why are there people who do all the things you dream of doing while you are always miles away? In large part, they expect it from themselves. In some cases, their surroundings expect it from them. Meanwhile, you expect that the strongest indicator of future self is past self. That errant belief is preventing you from becoming your better self. Expecting that others around you will never support you is an errant belief preventing you from allowing others to help you.
Combining what we've learned about the Rosenthal Effect, improper outsourcing of responsibility and the fallacy of induction, there are insights into personal development. As you go through your week, look for examples in your own life where you have errant expectations preventing you from outcomes you really want. Both with others and within yourself, it's fairly easy to find these. Around a spouse or paramour you behave a certain way which improves their likelihood of acting the way you expect, good or bad. Expecting laziness from a subordinate or coworker, you engage them in ways that all but obligate them to laziness. Expecting from yourself that you will eat that candy bar in specific social settings is a familiar self-fulfilling prophecy. Analyze these. Examine why the expectations aren't true. Look for how you can recapture an additional 2%, 10% or even 76% responsibility and change the environment. Thus far, you've unwittingly changed your behaviors to influence outcomes you didn't want. Begin instead to train awareness and actively participate in the outcomes you really do desire. This isn't magical thinking. It is anti-magical thinking with real evaluation and hard strategy for an end to the negative.
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