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You think of doing something nice like helping your parent wash dishes, but right at that moment your parent asks you to do them. How'd you feel?
Atleast in your mind, you'd be saying “I was going to. But now that you’ve asked me to, I don’t want to anymore.”
This was a classic example of psychological reactance.
It is our knee-jerk negative reaction to being told what to do. We all have a negative mental reflex. It kicks in whenever we sense that our autonomy is being threatened.
This isn’t inherently bad—if you're too compliant, you're vulnerable to manipulation.
But psychological reactance can, at times, prevent us from doing things that we should do, sometimes even things we want to do. Most alarmingly, it can lead to self-sabotage.
That knee-jerk impulse of “Don’t tell me what to do!” can kick in even when it’s you telling yourself what to do.
This is common when you’re trying to make commitments and follow through on them by building a schedule . You may have scheduled time for something that you legitimately want to do—say, work out or read a book.
But when it comes time to do those things per your timeboxed schedule , you might feel a bit of reactance. Because, it doesn’t feel as though you’re deciding what to do. Rather, it’s you from the past giving orders to your present self. Ugh, who does that guy think he is?
Instead of flaking on commitments because of a knee-jerk feeling, you can change your perspective on the situation.
To disarm psychological reactance, by talking to yourself differently.
By changing the dialogue, you empower yourself. Now you’re in charge. You’re not being told what to do—you’re choosing to make time for something that matters to you.
Your freedom isn’t being threatened, it’s being exercised.
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