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Sunday, 17 September 2000

Attention: A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, An Introduction

Written by  Sherri Mandell , Michael Tobin

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Attention: A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, An Introduction

In this drama, Sue unconsciously sets up a situation that confirms her expectations. She is convinced that Ethan will not give her what she needs: support, attention and understanding. But notice how Sue contributes to the negative outcome that she so much wants to avoid. This is what we call a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's the act of turning your belief into reality.

This is how she does it:

Before she begins to speak to Ethan, she creates a mental image of what her husband's reaction will be; seeing him rejecting her, hearing him discount her and feeling angry at him for what she perceives to be his lack of caring. After her mental rehearsal, it's no big surprise that the first thing out of her mouth is an attack. She's been gearing herself up for a fight for the last few minutes.

What Sue fails to recognize is that she's scripted the drama so that it leads to the expected outcome. She attacks, he defends and distances, exactly as she had planned it. Ethan is a perfect partner. He responds on cue with the same lines that he's recited in scores of previous situations.

This is the scene: Sue (34) is in bed. Her husband Ethan (33), a doctor, has been in the family room watching a video and ironing. When he comes into bed, she's in the middle of reading a journal she wrote when she was a teenager. Ethan comes in to bed and leans over, giving her a peck on the cheek. Then he reads the newspaper. They read in silence, but Sue is starting to boil. Finally, she slams closed her notebook.

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Last modified on Sunday, 22 January 2012 20:36
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Sherri Mandell

Sherri Mandell

Sherri Mandell has a Master's degree in Creative Writing and has taught writing at the University of Maryland and Penn State University. She is the author of the book Writers of the Holocaust. She has written articles for the Washington Post. She is married with four children

Michael Tobin

Michael Tobin

Dr. Michael Tobin has been a psychologist since 1974, specializing in marital and family therapy. He is the author of numerous articles on marriage and family relationships and is the founder of WholeFamily.com. He's  been married to Deborah for 38 years and is the father of four children and grandfather to five.

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