Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

drawing of woman wrapped in blankets recovering from the stress and anxiety of her first sober thanksgivingThe concern that I have for my first sober Thanksgiving is that I don’t know what to do. Sure, there are the usual social norms and all of that, but this is an entirely new year full of new things. I have just started to get comfortable in my new surroundings. In the midst of that, I worry if I am setting myself up for failure through a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I am worried about many new things. For instance, I am not even a year into my alcohol-free life, and I am still working through what that means. I was initially going to write this the day after Thanksgiving. I wanted to write about what actually happened on Thanksgiving. But then I realized that I wouldn’t have the time to process how I felt about the day. That and I most likely will resemble the drawing that I made for this post – wrapped up in my blanket burritoing.

Instead, I decided to write more about the self-fulfilling prophecy. It is a concern of mine leading up to Thanksgiving because I am thinking about my triggers and coping mechanisms. Of course, those thoughts lead me to wonder if I am too concerned about things that have not yet happened. I had a drinking dream last week, and I felt awful when I woke up. I let myself down in that dream—cue anxiety.

Self-Fulfilling or Other-Fulfilling?

A self-fulfilling prophecy describes a prediction that causes itself to become real. There are two types of self-fulfilling prophecies. One is self-imposed, and the second is other-imposed. A self-imposed self-fulfilling prophecy occurs when my expectations influence my actions. Other-imposed is when someone else’s expectations affect what you do.1

When I started writing, I initially focused on self-fulfilling prophecies. The more I thought about it; I realize that self-fulfilling prophecies play a role in my actions. And perhaps that is part of what makes this journey especially challenging at times.

There are two parts to being sober. I am trying to figure out who I am so that I don’t fall into the same behavioral traps. Isn’t that part of the self-fulfilling prophecy? And then there is what others see in me and how they think I will act. Which, at its core, is an other-fulfilling prophecy. It is no wonder that sobriety can and is so daunting for so many of us.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy Conundrum

I had a dream the other night that I started drinking again. My dreams tell me that drinking vs. not drinking is still very much at the forefront of my brain. In my dream, I decided that I could drink under certain circumstances. I don’t recall what those were when I awoke from my dream.

I do remember that I had a couple of drinks in my dream because whatever circumstances that would allow me to drink occurred. When I woke up, I was disoriented when I awoke because the dream felt so real. Once I realized it was a dream, the disappointment that I drank in my dream – not even real life – hit me.  

My concern with self-fulfilling prophecy is that I will actually unconsciously create situations in which what I fear happens by trying to predict. I can’t cope, and then what? One is that I start drinking again. The second is that I spend the rest of my life being in stressful situations and then having to isolate myself after to regain my energy (and a bit of my sanity).  

I already believe that I will need to introvert burrito the day after Thanksgiving to regain my energy from the exertion of being around people and having to handle the triggers. It is what my drawing is. Me, covered in blankets, blocking the world out. Is that going to come true now that I have written it? I don’t know. And that is the problem of the self-fulfilling prophecy.

I began to wonder if I was rationalizing drinking by coming up with circumstances that I would permit myself to drink. And if I did that, would I unconsciously create those circumstances so that I could have a drink? When I would tell other people about my dream would that reinforce those criteria? I would feel almost an obligation to do what others would now expect of me. Therefore, falling into the other-imposed and self-imposed self-fulfilling prophecy.

Moving Forward – A Look-Back

What I worried about leading up to my first sober Thanksgiving is that I would become stressed to the point that I would drink. I didn’t so either I am happy to write. I think I handled the day reasonably well. I had my worry stone in my pocket, breathing, and grounding exercises. And most importantly, a time that we would be living so that I could decompress that night.

My other concern was that I would inadvertently end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy by thinking about my triggers. That didn’t happen either. I thought about those triggers and stressors to come up with the strategies to get through those moments. I had to think about those moments to prepare for them. I didn’t create a self-fulfilling prophecy at all.

If I hadn’t done that, thought about the different scenarios that would create stress for me, I would not have done so well. I know that. I prepared myself to be able to address those things as they occurred. And because I did that, I didn’t have the feeling that I needed to drink. Which I have to say was a pretty great feeling.

I also did not introvert burrito on my couch that night or today, the day after Thanksgiving. Again, I know that I would have a much harder time had I not thought about those potential scenarios and been prepared. I will continue to think about, worry about, and prepare for situations that I know are triggers for me. I am concerned about self-fulfilling prophecy as I was before, but I am still aware of it as a potential situation. And that is all I can do, have awareness.

Sources Cited

  1. Derek Schaedig. (August 24, 2020). Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and the Pygmalion Effect. SimplyPsychology.org. Retrieved November 24, 2020. https://www.simplypsychology.org/self-fulfilling-prophecy.html
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