Leaving ‘bah humbug’ behind: A psychological phenomenon
It’s a story that’s been celebrated for generations every holiday season. A cranky rich man named Ebenezer Scrooge learns the true meaning of Christmas, after a supernatural encounter on Christmas Eve. However, aside from the three ghosts and Tiny Tim, “A Christmas Carol” is the basis for an unexplored psychological phenomenon.
UNM Professor Emeritus William Miller became one of the first psychologists to begin deciphering the story behind it.
“I’ve always loved Dickens’ stories, and my question is, does this happen in real life? I’ve seen enough examples that this can happen to people. ordinary people“he say.
For Miller, this story, and the transformation Scrooge undergoes at the end of his emotional journey, represents something called quantum change.
“It was just a drastic change, but psychologists had no choice but to try to understand what they were going through,” says Miller. “But it’s a pretty impressive and well-documented change, so quantum change is the name I give to this because we don’t have a term for it.”
Quantum change, coined by Miller, represents a profound change in a person’s life and attitudes after a major life event. It is divided into two main developmental processes – the first coincides with the changes that come with aging and is done through gradual approximations.
“Type one change is what most of us do, two steps forward, one step back, etc,” he says. “In my own field of therapy, it’s the kind of change you see that people gradually move toward,” he says. to the lifestyle they want, as an escape from addiction.”
The second is completely different.
“Those are the people who, in just a few minutes or a few hours, have gone through a pretty big and lasting change in their lives. So I started asking, can we study this by looking at it?” something?” Miller said.
You may also have recognized such descriptions in other holiday classics—”It was a wonderful life” or “How the Christmas Game was stolen by the Grinch”. Miller said some autobiographies also describe changes throughout people’s lives.
“These people know they’ve changed. They themselves get no credit. In fact, the question they often ask is, why me?” he say. “Of all the people who have had such a life experience, why did I have this lucky experience of change? I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t earn it. I didn’t do it.”
However, 30 years later, he believes the psychology community has only scratched the surface of the problem.
“There’s really nothing going on with it anymore in psychology. I think it’s just that psychologists don’t know what to do with it,” he said.
Miller began research on the subject in the early 1990s. Pioneering thought has not produced much other analysis, he says, since a publication by William James in 1902.
“I can’t find any other psychologists who really understand this,” says Miller. “But when I read James, I thought, you know, this is something in the early 20th century that’s about a different kind of change that’s happened.”
Beginning in 1991, Miller sought to change that perception and then through a number of Qualitative research focuses on what’s behind “A Christmas Carol”, “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”: stories and experiences. The study was officially conducted 30 years ago, in 1992.
“We want to try to understand this very phenomenon and the best place to start is to hear stories from people themselves,” he said. “There are so many examples of these things in people’s life stories, but we haven’t realized that they’re tied together in some way. And there’s something about these kinds of experiences just happening. out to people for years.”
Miller and his team spoke to 55 people for hours on end. Many of these participants felt the same way he did: unaware that there was a way to identify what they were going through. Others were equally shocked to learn that there were others just like them.
“These people love that this happened to other people and they don’t tell anyone about it, or maybe just one or two people about it. Most of them have kept it to themselves,” he said. I said.
Although each of them lived completely different lives, they all agreed: things have changed. There are two main types of these quantum changes. Miller said one is insight-focused and has a sort of ‘ah-ha’ experience.
“Half of people are in one of the worst situations in their life,” he said. “They got to the end of the rope and then the rope broke. They knew that feeling was in the middle of that crisis and this happened all of a sudden.”
Other participants reported encounters with Scrooge, Grinch, or George Bailey. It was something mystical and inexplicable.
“The person knows something out of the ordinary is going on. No one feels like they’re doing this themselves but rather a passive experience of it happening to them,” he said. “Sometimes it comes with discoveries or experiences, but people with that kind of change say it’s not like coming to a conclusion based on your own logic. It’s more like something being revealed to the world. you from the field, like from the outside of deep benevolence experience.”
Miller also found that human values have also changed. What used to be most important becomes less important, and what used to be unimportant becomes prominent. Men’s and women’s values have also moved away from stereotypes about gender roles.
The study was published in 1994 and included in a long book “Can Personality Change?” Miller also published a new book called “Quantum Change” in 2001 with co-author and Albuquerque psychologist Dr. Janet C’de Baca.
“It was a great experience to do this research,” he said. “The real story is in the stories themselves.”
Miller believes that perhaps equally interesting is his 10-year follow-up study with the same groups. He found that their lifestyles, feelings and beliefs from the big change were still there.
“Indeed, change is not reversible,” he said. It still continues. So these are very stable experiences with certain common themes in the insights or revelations that people have experienced, even though these are very different people.”
Although references to Miller’s original work have popped up throughout the years, he thinks there should be more work on the subject.
“It just lay there and could sit there for another century,” Miller said. “It seems to me that this is really happening. Now it’s clear to me that it does happen, that people can change in fundamental and lasting ways for the better in just a few minutes. or a few hours. Should I care about that as a psychologist?”
For now, he hopes holiday moviegoers understand what they see on screen is more than just a hilarious fable.
“It’s something that’s incredibly hopeful—that people can change a lot of this magnitude. It’s not just fiction, it’s actually happening,” Miller said.
University of New Mexico
quote: Leaving ‘bah humbug’ behind: A psychological phenomenon (2022, December 23) taken December 23, 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-12-bah-humbug-psychological -phenomenon.html
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