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  1. #1

    Dr. Phil and Psychology (BETA)

    Dr. Phil & Psychology (BETA)
    by Ted Cascio, Psychology Today
    January 21, 2011

    More fun shelling Dr. Philistine.

    "The most critical choice you'll ever make is the one you make about what you're going to do with this. The past is over. The future hasn't happened yet. The only time is now." ~ Dr. Phil

    ...And the time is now, once again, Dr. Philistine, to take a buzz-saw to your vague, vacuous, hackneyed and/or often completely misleading advice. Yet again, we'll appeal to psychological research - Dr. Phil kryptonite - to separate fact from fantasy. In doing so, we'll have some good fun with our good friend and hopefully learn something that's factual, maybe even useful, along the way. Atop the ruins, we'll construct a better, more enlightened, perspective.

    "The only time is now," so I suppose we might as well get started. Except, I think we all know that in fact now is not the only time. The past and future "exist," at least subjectively. In recommending that we cast these temporal frames out of our conscious awareness, Dr. Phil ascribes scant, perhaps inadequate, utility to two out of three orientations we can adopt toward time, what researchers call time perspectives.

    To be fair, Dr. Phil's contention seems to be reminiscent of similar remarks made by much more reputable figures. Emily Dickinson eloquently asserted that "Forever is composed of nows," while the contention "One today is worth two tomorrows" is attributed to Benjamin Franklin, and no less than the venerable Leo Tolstoy wrote, "Remember then: there is only one time that is important--Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power." Such claims about the importance of the present moment are not all identical, and, in my opinion, all too often lack transparency and precision (not to mention empirical support). In any event, I don't want to understate the attractiveness of this point of view. Due to influential proponents of the "cult of the present," the inferiority of the past and future is now practically regarded as a truism, and it's thus likely that Dr. Phil is simply reiterating wisdom learned "at his mother's knee."

    But of course "intuitively plausible" is something very different from "evidentially supported." Let's now get down to the business of evaluating Dr. Phil's advice in light of the facts. What he seems to be saying is that it is better - more useful or adaptive - to focus on the present moment rather than spend time recollecting the past or simulating the future. There is research addressing the consequences of various potential outlooks on time, aka the aforementioned time perspectives (past-focus, present-focus, and future-focus).

    Of these three non-mutually exclusive time perspectives, we can safely infer that Dr. Phil advocates for present-focus to the exclusion of past-focus and future-focus. But Dr. Phil is wrong and I'll tell you why. First, the case for future-focus.

    Future focus is indispensible in order to function optimally because it is often necessary to defer immediate gratification in order to achieve important long-term goals. This principle has been demonstrated empirically many times, most dramatically perhaps in a study involving marshmallows (Mischel, Shoda, & Rodriguez, 1989). Preschool children were offered the opportunity to eat a marshmallow right away or, if they were willing to wait, they could have two marshmallows upon the experimenter's return (an agonizing 15 minutes later). Only about 30% of the children were able to delay satisfaction of their immediate inclination to eat the marshmallow for the full 15 minutes. That's not so shocking. What is more shocking is that many years later the children who had successfully resisted were doing better as adults (e.g., SAT scores 250 points (!!!) higher on average than the students who were unable to delay gratification). The key for our purposes is that, as you might expect, these gratification-delaying kids were future-focused rather than present-focused. Ergo, Dr. Phil is wrong.

    Second, the case for past-focus. Zimbardo and Boyd (1999) proposed a five-factor time perspective classification because it predicts a wide array of outcomes from GPA, to frequency of stealing, to friendliness better than the simpler three-factor model. These five factors are as follows:


    • Past-Negative ("I often think of what I should have done differently in my life")
    • Past-Positive ("I like family rituals and traditions that are regularly repeated")
    • Present-Fatalistic ("Often luck pays off better than hard work")
    • Present-Hedonistic ("When listening to my favorite music, I often lose all track of time")
    • Future ("It upsets me to be late for appointments")


    This line of research supports the conclusion that the ability to shift between time perspectives based on the demands of the situation is essential for optimal adjustment. Any time perspective in excess has more drawbacks than benefits. Further studies in this area suggest that the optimal time profile is:


    • Future - moderately high
    • Present-Hedonism - moderate
    • Past-Positive - high
    • Past-Negative - low
    • Present-Fatalism - low


    You'll notice here that past-positive is the leader among these alternatives. This is at least partly because keeping the past in mind gives you a sense of identity and perspective moving forward; something we all need. Once again, science strongly suggests that Dr. Phil is mistaken.

    All of this is not to deny that present-focus isn't also important. It frequently provides the requisite "oomph" necessary to make difficult improvements in one's life, forgetting past failures and minimizing the future struggles that await. But Dr. Phil is completely wrong to suppose that this means the other time perspectives lack value, and this misunderstanding on his part undoubtedly leads him to propose inferior, oversimplified solutions to life's problems.

    Hence, we're again forced to conclude that (say it with me) "Dr. Phil is an incompetent quack."

  2. #2

    Re: Dr. Phil and Psychology (BETA)

    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  3. #3

    Re: Dr. Phil and Psychology (BETA)

    He is always saying he is a Court Mandated Reporter, but doesn't he always corner the guest into accepting "his help" and/or he will be reporting the case?? l think he dramatises for the sake of getting good ratings. l think it is sad when someone does need help and if they are heckled or laughed at, Dr. Phil sits there doing nothing and that is not what l call a safe place to converse at all.
    Never be a Prisoner of your Past,
    lt was just a Life Lesson,
    Not a Life Sentence......

  4. #4
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    Re: Dr. Phil and Psychology (BETA)

    Daytime TV at it's finest. Surprising how the bigger a quack they are the more popular they are.
    As for those going on these TV shows it's surprising what people will do for 30 seconds of "fame" or is it 30 seconds of "lame"?

    It's like watching Jerry Springer do "psycho"therapy.
    Gary

  5. #5

    Re: Dr. Phil and Psychology (BETA)

    What I find most shocking is that Dr. Phil is engaging in nothing less than verbal abuse the way he puts down some of his "guests."
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  6. #6

    Re: Dr. Phil and Psychology (BETA)

    l totally agree with you and it should be added "for Entertainment Purposes only" before his show starts. There are people who swear by what he says and l just keep quiet. You are so right in his verbal abuse but also his threats to the people on the show...
    Never be a Prisoner of your Past,
    lt was just a Life Lesson,
    Not a Life Sentence......

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