I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I have a friend who repeatedly espouses the glories of redundancy. Maybe that’s why some politicians stay on-message, regardless of the veracity of their statements. Of course, George Orwell and Hannah Arendt also commented on redundancy as persuasion, and not in a good way. I should emphasize that my goal for using redundancy and writing about the three-step emotional technique again has nothing to do with shaping your reality through political messaging.When I presented on positive psychology to a bunch of UM STEM graduate students back in August, 2022, I made it very clear that I was not advocating toxic positivity. Nevertheless, in one of the student evaluations, someone complained that all I was doing was telling graduate students to “Cheer up.” Oh my. Sometimes people just hear what they want to hear. That’s a problem with over-valuing “lived experience.” When we over-value lived experience, then everything is viewed through our own, usually narrow and biased, personal lenses. Adler called this private logic. Too much private logic is too much private logic. Although we should strive to value, learn from, and share lived experiences, we should also have a shared value of this thing called . . . wait for it . . . science!
The next time I presented to the UM STEM grad students (in January, 2023), I made an explicit point of emphasizing my “non-toxic positivity street cred” by beginning the lecture with a short lesson on the three-step emotional change trick (which, BTW, with inspiration from Alfred Adler and Harold Mosak, we created as a youth psychotherapy technique in the mid-1990s). You can even find our (with Rita) original three-step article here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J019v17n04_02 and a later book chapter here: https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2002-01308-098 and, of course, I’ve written about it on this blog, and have a youtube video demonstration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITWhMYANC5c, yada, yada, yada.
While presenting the 3SECT (which is what cool people call it) to the STEM students, there was a woman sitting toward the back. She had stationed her 8-year-old son still farther back, where he was sitting, head down, playing on her phone. I did the 3SECT thing, including the famous “And so I put my cat on my head” scene, emphasizing throughout, that the WHOLE reason for the 3SECT existing was because we should NEVER SAY CHEER UP to anyone, anytime!
The next day, I received the following email from the anonymous woman in the back (who generously gave me permission to share it here):
I was at your happiness seminar yesterday and was very disappointed I had to leave early. You may have noticed my son (who is 8) was sitting in the back playing a game on my phone during the seminar. I was delighted to find out this morning, while my 6-year-old daughter was having a meltdown trying to do her hair for school, that my son had been listening and absorbed your 3-step emotional change trick. He remembered the whole thing, and he asked his sister this morning if she wanted to learn it, but only if she wanted to change her own mood. He was clear that it wasn’t because he was trying to tell her to cheer up. He heard it all yesterday! Thought you might enjoy that little anecdote.
A few days later, she wrote:
We have gotten a lot of mileage out of your emotional change trick in the last few days.
I have to admit, I absolutely love it when people listen and get the message, but I truly and deeply love it EVEN MORE when 8-year-olds absorb messages while allegedly playing on a cell phone. I believe this may just be the scientific evidence (or is it my lived experience) I needed to validate that I am not and never have been a proponent of toxic positivity.
One other notable note. When searching (via Google) for my very own 3SECT video, I found that a counselor in Tennessee has copied one of my three-step blog posts and posted it as his own blog post. I was gobsmacked—with annoyance and flattery in equal proportions. If you want to read the blog post worthy of plagiarism (not the plagiarist’s version, which is the same, but my version that was so darn tempting that it literally caused plagiarism, here you go: https://johnsommersflanagan.com/2020/04/15/the-three-step-emotional-change-technique/
I’m ending now with a few core messages:
- Don’t say “cheer up” to anyone.
- Don’t get too over-focused on your own lived experiences, because, after all, everyone has their own lived experiences, and we should complement them all with scientific knowledge.
- Don’t plagiarize.
- If the person you plagiarized emails you, asking you to stop plagiarizing or provide a citation, don’t ignore that person.
- And, whenever appropriate, follow in the anonymous 8-year-old’s footsteps and spread the good mood – without saying cheer-up!
2 thoughts on “The Three-Step Emotional Change Trick, Revisited (Again) . . . with a side note on plagiarism”
Well, this is so cool. I would like to know who that copy-cat is, but nice positive frame :).
Thanks Rita Sommers-Flanagan . . . you are very nice!