Humans can be influenced by what other people think of them. Their behavior can also be impacted by an individual’s own beliefs about themselves. If the individual predicts that they are going to fail at some endeavor then this will increase the likelihood of such a failure occurring. This is why positive thinking is viewed as important for those who want to achieve anything in life. It is particularly important that those individuals who hope to escape an addiction hold an optimistic view of their chances of being successful.
A self fulfilling prophecy can be defined as a type of prediction that causes the event to being predicted to occur. In other words the act of making the prediction changes the individual’s behavior in such a way that it causes the event to occur. This means that if the prediction had not been made then the event might not have even occurred. It is possible for these prophecies to have negative or positive results.
A self fulfilling prophecy can be made by other people or the individual themselves. If people assume things about a person it will impact their interactions with that person. The classic example of this is the teacher who predicts that one of their students is not going to do well in school. The teacher’s interactions with this student can cause that individual to believe that they are stupid – even if in reality they are the most intelligent person in the classroom. As a result of this the student begins to perform badly thus confirming the teacher’s original prophecy.
The individual can also create self fulfilling prophecies that impact their own life. For instance, if they predict that they are going to fail at some task it will change their behavior and make failure more likely to occur. If people believe they are going to fail they may not be willing to put enough effort into the project, and it is this that has caused them to fail.
Once of the most famous studies looking self fulfilling prophecies was conducted by Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson in 1968. They described the Pygmalion effect which shows that the greater the expectations that are put on people the better they will perform. The experiment involved telling teachers that certain students had higher IQs than others – even though this information was made up. The fact that the teachers believed that certain students had higher abilities than others meant that they interacted with these students differently. The end result was that those students who had been labeled as having a higher IQ later did better in tests.
The theory of self fulfilling prophecies can have important implications for people who are struggling with and addiction. It may mean that:
* If the people who interact with the addict hold negative views about them it may further push that individual into misery and despair.
* If people believe the addict is a hopeless case they might be influenced to adapt this role.
* If the individual decides that recovery is not an option for them they will not be willing to take the steps necessary to escape their misery. They remain trapped in addiction, and this just reinforces the idea that they are a hopeless case.
* It may even be that by predicting their descent into addiction the individual is helping to make it reality. They might increase their intake of alcohol or drugs in order to deal with the knowledge of their deteriorating conditions thus promoting further deterioration.
The predictions that the individual, or even other people, make about attempts at recover can have an impact. Such beliefs can mean that:
* If the individual believes that they are likely to relapse they may not see the point in putting enough effort into staying sober. Their lack of effort may then become the cause of their relapse back to addiction.
* If loved ones expect the individual to relapse they may not be willing to offer needed support and encouragement. The newly sober person might react to this lack of faith by becoming discouraged and confirming the prophecy.
* If professionals in the recovery community feel that the individual is likely to relapse they may react with this person in such a way as to increase the likelihood of this happening.
* If the individual believes that a recovery option is not going to work for them it probably won’t work. Their negative prediction will prevent them from getting the most out of any program.
* Negativity of any kind saps much needed motivation in recovery. If the individual does not have a strong drive to stay away from alcohol and drugs they will struggle.
* People can use their negative prophecy as justification to relapse.
* Such prophecies can lower the individual’s self-efficacy.
Self fulfilling prophecies can also have a highly beneficial impact on people in addiction and recovery because:
* If the individual believes that they are going to be able to escape their addiction it will increase their motivation to do so.
* Family and friends can boost the individual’s self-belief in recovery by also believing that recovery is going to be possible.
* Once the individual predicts that they are going to make a success of recovery they will be willing to put more effort into it. They accept that they are building towards a more successful future and that they will later be able to reap the rewards of their current efforts.
* If people in the recovery community predict that the newly sober person is going to be successful they may interact with this individual in a more nurturing way. These professional become willing to invest more time and energy into the individual because of their increased faith in that person.
Self efficacy is the belief that the individual has in their ability to achieve something. The higher the individual’s self-efficacy the more likely they will be to achieve their goal. If people have low self-efficacy it can be very hard for them to achieve anything because they will not have enough motivation. This is because when people have low self efficacy it also means that their motivation will be low. The individual who feels confident in their ability to achieve the goal will become willing to put in the necessary effort – they have faith that their effort will be worth it. In this way high self efficacy can create a positive self fulfilling prophecy. It also means that the individual will find it easier to ignore any negative predictions made by other people.
If the individual hopes to avoid negative self fulfilling prophecies they will need to increase their self efficacy. They can achieve this by:
* Spending time with inspiration people in recovery – particularly those who have already been successful at building a life away from addiction.
* Self efficacy can be increased by observing peers achieving the desired goal. It leads to the idea that if they can do it then so can I.
* An addiction therapist is skilled at increasing self efficacy by persuasion. They encourage the individual to believe in their own power to change.
* Those people who join a recovery fellowship may find that this increases their self efficacy. They will be surrounded by people who are on the same path, and the sense of camaraderie can be motivating.
* Self efficacy can be increased by small successes. If the individual achieves something small it increases their confidence to try for something a bit bigger next time.