Learn the Theory

This section of the site is designed to teach you about Reversal Theory.  Start right away at Domains and States (slides with audio).  Here’s a sneak peek:

Reversal Theory proposes that our motives can be organized into four categories (called domains).  Within each category (or domain), there are two opposite motivational states.  You are motivated by one state in each domain at any given time (so four states are active at once).  This figure shows the domains and states (click on picture for larger view).

Four Domains, Two Opposing States in Each

Four Domains, Two Opposing States in Each

Each state is associated with positive or negative emotions depending on the meaning you attach to it.  So, let’s say that I am writing this page while in Serious, Conforming, Mastery and Other states:  I am focused on the goal of finishing the page, I am trying to do it the correct way so the program doesn’t crash, I am focused on competency, and I primarily have my reader in mind.  I am accomplishing these tasks (my motives are being filled), so I feel calm and proud of the work I am doing.  When I do something wrong, I get frustrated, tense, and feel a little incompetent.  My motives are no longer being met; I want to achieve my goal in the correct way and I can’t.

Suddenly, my cat jumps next to me and nuzzles the keyboard, fur flying everywhere, making me laugh.  I suddenly “reverse” states – I am no longer focused on the goal of finishing the page, but rather the enjoyment of saying hello to the cat. I am now in the Playful state.  My attention also shifts to remembering when I first learned about Reversal Theory, which makes me think of nice friends and colleagues, and I find that I have suddenly reversed into Sympathy and Self states as well.  I now feel excited by the project and cared for by people (and a cat) that I love.

These are reversals.When we know about the states of Reversal Theory and how they work, we can learn to control our reversals.  Instead of emotions “happening to us,” we can actually create reversals in ourselves in order to create new emotions.  First you need to understand the states, then you can learn how to create reversals.   This training  site addresses both.

Next Step: Visit Domains and States (slides with audio)

Note: The Reversal Theory research community uses different terms for some of the states.  They call the Serious state the Telic state, and the Playful state the Paratelic state.  The Self-Other states are called Autic-Alloic, respectively; and the Rebellious state is frequently referred to as Negativistic.