The simplest, easiest, and most effective thing that you can do to help yourself or a loved one conquer addiction is to change your expectations. You might be thinking, Amber, that's some woo-woo stuff. I'm going to explain to you exactly why and how that works. How can you use these scientific evidence-based findings to help yourself or a loved one overcome addiction?
I am a big believer in what you expect to happen, will probably happen. I don't believe that because it's some kind of magic wish for and get what you want kind of thinking. There's actual science behind this.
Research about expectations
To understand this concept, we need to go back to 1968. When two researchers, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson, ran some studies about expectations.
They wanted to find out if the expectations a teacher has about her students will impact or affect the student's learning ability. They set up this study, and they pulled these kids randomly out of a hat and assigned them to different groups. They told the teachers that these kids were late bloomers and expected to make more progress this academic year.
The kids had no idea they were in this study, and they didn't know anything about the expectations. In the head of the teachers, these students were smarter and going to do better. Guess what happened? The students did better. There was no difference in their learning levels and academic abilities compared to other students.
The only difference was that the teacher expected them to do better. Now, the teachers were instructed not to communicate that to the students.
Pygmalion and Golem Effect
This came because of what the teacher thought would happen, known as the Pygmalion effect.
If positive expectations can change an outcome for the positive, negative expectations can do the same thing. This is called the Gollum effect. Research does show that if you have negative expectations of someone in authority or a position above has negative expectations about their workers or their students or their children, they will get a more negative outcome.
How does this connect to addiction, and how you can use this information to help yourself or a loved one overcome addiction for good?
Four factors happen when someone expects something positively or negatively of someone else.
Factor number one is what he calls climate. The general climate of the classroom of the students in the study was warmer. Teachers, verbal and nonverbal responses to the children were warm, more positive, and comforting. They're subconsciously creating a better learning environment.
The second factor at play was something Dr. Rosenthal called input. Teachers that had a positive expectation of their students taught more in-depth. They did a better job of it because they expected that these kids could follow along and understand and that they were going to absorb this material quite well. Naturally, the teachers gave more material.
The third factor at play here is something called the response factor. When a teacher has a low expectation of a student, they're more likely to ask fewer questions of that student. They're more likely to accept less than superior answers to their questions because they think that's all that student is capable of. Conversely, if the teacher has high expectations of the student, they'll ask them more questions and provide them more opportunities to explore answers.
This leads us to the fourth factor, what Rosenthal called feedback. Not only did the teachers ask more questions, but it allowed the kids more time to explore the answers. They would help the kids along to find the correct answer. Whereas when you think they're going to do bad, you move on.
How can we apply the Pygmalion to help ourselves or a loved one conquer addiction? If you're following along with what I'm saying about this entire expectations thing, then I think it's not hard for you to take the leap and understand that someone else's subconscious expectation of you can impact your outcome.
The biggest problem with addictions is that everybody expects that people can't overcome them.
I'd like to challenge that. I see people beat addiction every single day. Not only do they beat addiction, but they become better than they ever would have been.
Getting your hopes up
Addiction is probably the most curable, fixable mental illness, and many pathways to get there and lots of solutions to explore.
But people don't expect it to work. You see this in the way people talk to themselves. We call it self-talk, and you see this in the way that family members, friends, or loved ones talk to people struggling with this problem. Have you caught yourself thinking or even saying things like, "You always screw up, you'll never get this, what's going to be different this time, you're causing all these problems for the family?"
We have these thoughts and worse. We say these statements all the time, and what do you think that does? It sets the expectation that the other person isn't capable of figuring it out. Not only do we expect it not to work, but we also don't even give them a chance to figure it out.
I truly believe that you find what you're looking for. If you are looking for a bad outcome. You're going to find it. It's called the Gollum effect. If you're looking for a good outcome, you're going to find it because you're filtering for the positive.
The easiest, most effective thing you can do to help yourself or a loved one overcome addiction is to change your expectations and change what you allow yourself to think. When you hear negative thoughts in your head, confront them, push them away, and find the evidence as to how that's not true.
If you have a hard time doing that, then surround yourself with people who've done it or families whose loved ones have gotten better because just hearing this changes your expectations through modeling.