After many decades of practicing psychology, I have thankfully found reliable ways to improve people's lives. I also apply these principles and methods to myself and have been able to greatly improve my health, well-being, productivity, and relationships. Since most people have too much frustration and not enough time, I want to reveal a basic principle and practical solution that will help you overcome obstacles that may have hindered you for years. The principle is called psychological reversal. When you understand it and strategically practice correcting it (which takes seconds), you will release shackles and frustrations that have impeded your progress in specific and, perhaps, wide-ranging areas in your life.
Of all the theories and techniques I have learned and practiced, psychological reversal is the most significant gateway to overcoming bad habits, negative psychological and physical symptoms, "stuckness," and motivational dysfunction. Later in this article, you will learn how to identify and correct psychological reversal. First, though, it's important for you to gain some understanding.
Explanations for the psychological underpinnings of behavior are legion. Traditional psychodynamic (e.g., Freudian) theories focus on subconscious primal instincts that blend with early childhood experiences to govern behavior in ways that the conscious mind masks. On the other side of the spectrum, behaviorists believe that most behavior is determined by previous conditioning that forms habits that increase the probability of certain behaviors.
Neuropsychology and neurophysiology explain behavior in terms of physiological reactions of the brain and nervous system. I have been trained in all of these disciplines and, over 40 years, have observed and considered the relative contributions and influences of these theories in practical terms. That is, I have watched how patients (and friends and family) respond, and have evaluated the methods of influencing motivation, changing habits, and relieving many conditions of distress.
As a results-oriented person and a professional partial to math and probability (having taught statistics in graduate schools), I tend to analyze problems and form solutions based on the most productive and economical interventions derived from evidence and experience. In statistics, there are methods of analyzing large amounts of data that determine which variables account for the largest part of the observed results (e.g., factor analysis and principal components analysis).
For example, decades of educational research have found that class size (number of students per class) is one of the greatest factors in determining educational outcomes. In another example, certain sports depend upon size, strength, and agility as primary factors that characterize the emergence of superstars. In a different domain, verbal skills are a principal factor in successful sales, teaching, and broadcasting.
In other words, factoring out the most potent and statistically relevant determinants of outcomes yields the biggest "bang for the buck."
Psychologists also seek the most efficient and effective methods for helping people change their detrimental behavior and eliminate distressing emotions and counterproductive habits. For many decades, I have utilized different methods and meticulously observed and measured the factors that are most relevant to progress and healthy functioning. Though there are a number of factors that heavily influence outcomes (and I am partial to neurophysiological and behavioral modes), there is one influence I've found to be particularly important in determining success in treatment and general positive behavior change: it is known as psychological reversal.
A psychological reversal exists when a person claims he desires to achieve a specific goal, but his actions and major motivation, as well as his results, appear to at cross purposes with or in opposition to attaining his professed goal. The person may actually seem to be striving diligently to achieve (in the area in which psychological reversal is occurring), but if you dig beneath the surface, you will discover that he is significantly or subtly sabotaging his efforts.
Psychological reversal occurs naturally and in all people at different times and to varying degrees. When you make "dumb mistakes," do something that is against your known better interests, persistently avoid and procrastinate, or repeatedly fail to resolve or overcome obstacles, chances are that you are impeded by psychological reversal.
Signs you may be psychologically reversed:
It is very common for people to become frustrated, confused, and even sanctimonious in the face of behavior that opposes common sense or stated intentions. The phenomenon of self-sabotage often carries connotations of character weakness or deception. It is tempting to conclude, "If you really wanted to succeed (e.g., lose weight, stop drinking, get healthy, finish a project, etc.), you would. Therefore, you must actually not really want to!"
Sadly, this point of view is inaccurate as well as hurtful and emotionally debilitating. There can be many reasons for not succeeding, but it is rarely for lack of wanting and trying. Setting aside real-world conditions beyond your control, you can focus and improve your own power and success by understanding correcting psychological reversal.
Though psychological reversal is a form of self-sabotage, it is not a subconscious "death wish" or an attempt to subvert or deny something you think you don't deserve. Rather, psychological reversal is a state or condition in which polarity is reversed. This is a very difficult concept for many people to understand. The mention of "energy flow" in the context of psychological constructs elicits skepticism and dismissiveness by traditionalists and those who are uncomfortable with intangibles. Yet psychological reversal itself is measurable and correctable, as are its effects on behavior, thoughts, and feelings.
Psychological reversal can affect attitudes, behavior, perceptions, and judgment. The brain and nervous system have organizational patterns and references for orientation mapping points, essentially. Psychological reversal is kind of neural disorganization in which reference points and orientation are scrambled, resulting in blockages to the energy flow along neural pathways. To conceptualize this, think of driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles by going north from San Francisco. Obviously, this is an inefficient way since Los Angeles is south of San Francisco. However, if you are reversed about this, you may think (and insist) you are traveling south when you are actually heading north and away from your destination. So, psychological reversal creates a glitch in the body/mind navigational system.
The following pictures give an idea of how reversal affects perception and, indeed, one's outlook on reality: