The full title is Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change.
I was attracted to this book when the back cover asks, ‘What if there were a magic pill that could make you happier, turn you into a better parent, solve your teenager’s behavior problems, and reduce racial prejudice?‘ It then went on to say that there is no such pill but there is a new scientifically based approach called story editing that can accomplish all of this.
The word, scientifically based, is important in this book as the author laments that many social intervention programs like DARE and Operation Respect that had been rolled out in the US, although with good intention, had not been tested and in fact may have brought more harm than good.
Testing social intervention programs is very important because in his opinion using medical analogy, we wouldn’t disseminate new cures until we are very sure they work. Similarly, we must be wary of untested interventions rolled out by non-social psychologists. By the way, this applies to numerous self-help books in the market as well, like The Secret.
The most interesting read for me in the whole book is how the author pooh-pooh the book, The Secret. I am a fan and a sometimes practitioner of the law of attraction. Besides questioning the scientific explanation behind the law of attraction as a load of rubbish, he also points out that the book may also steer people away from effective solutions to their problems by suggesting that good health, love and riches are theirs for the asking if they think about them. (Eg: A woman in the book claims that she cured herself of breast cancer in three months without medical treatment by believing that she was healed.)
His story-editing approach is based on shaping our narratives in our minds based on three principles: changing people’s’ behavior by seeing the world through their eyes; these interpretations can be redirected, and lastly, small changes in interpretations can have self-sustaining effects, leading to long-lasting changes in behavior.
Research have revealed that there are three ingredients to happiness: meaning, hope and purpose.
Happy narratives give people meaning, hope and purpose. Doing a relatively simple story-editing exercises can shape out views in these directions, and more importantly, these are based on solid psychological research.
Using the same approach, we can also shape our kids’ narratives and become better parents in the process by being mindful of the narratives our children are developing about themselves.
The rest of the book focuses on comparison studies between current intervention methods and story-editing approach to social problems like teenage pregnancies, teenage violence, reducing alcohol and drug abuse, reducing prejudice and closing the achievement gap.
At the end, he recaps the major points and shows how we can use the story-editing approach personally in our everyday life.
Having read the book, I find it to be more suited for educators and counselors than parents or for personal use, since numerous references and examples given are from experiments tested on teenagers and college students rather than every day personal life.