Understanding the 3 P’s of Explanatory Style

When life gets you down, it’s quite easy to fall into a downward spiral. Once that spiral starts to hit you, it can be even more difficult to find an explanation of it. This is true whether you just lost your job, are going through a breakup or divorce, or struggling to succeed in a school setting.

This downward spiral is largely reliant on the way we view the world and the way we explain to ourselves why a particular event happens. Also known as explanatory style, this sense of self explanation is something we experience after a negative or positive event occurs in our life.

Whether negative or positive, explanatory style in Positive Psychology is largely broken down into three distinct categories — known as the 3 P’s of explanatory style. Understanding the differences and how to change your view of that event can have a positive impact on your life.

So, what are the 3 P’s of explanatory style?

The 3 P’s of explanatory style — Personalization, Permeance, and Pervasiveness — were made famous by a well-known Psychologist named Martin Seligman. They’re not just how we view the world, but they’re how we explain to ourselves why the world works in or against our favor.

Let’s take a closer look at each one:

  • Personalization – this is when people put a majority, if not all, of the blame on themselves. It’s when you see yourself as the problem without considering outside factors contributing to the problem.
  • Permanence – this is when people think that a certain problem will hold them back forever. It’s when you treat temporary issues or setbacks as life-long outcomes, which hinder your ability to adapt in the future.
  • Pervasiveness – this is when people think a problem in one area of their life will cause issues in every area of their life. It not only makes it hard to get over that initial problem, but it makes it impossible to grow outside of that issue.

For the sake of this article, let’s say you just lost your job that you’ve been working hard at for several years. It can be a challenging time for you and can easily cause you to fall into a downward spiral. Let’s use what we learned above to change the way we view our circumstances.

Changing the Way, You View Your Circumstance

Instead of assuming it’s because you’re not good enough or because you’re the problem (personalization), you should consider the fact that they didn’t have the overhead to keep you or that the company was struggling to make ends meet.

Instead of assuming you’ll never find another job or will have extreme difficulty getting back into the workforce (permanence), start telling yourself that you’ll find another job soon if you try hard enough at it.

Instead of assuming this event will cause you to fail at other things in your life, such as being a parent or going to the gym everyday (pervasiveness), start telling yourself that this event will only affect your work situation and won’t cross over into other areas of your life.

Terrible things are going to happen in your life, but it’s how you treat those situations and explain those situations to yourself that cause the most damage. If you’re having a tough time moving past these events and need more advice on changing your life for the better, contact me!

At Holistic Well Care Advisors, we specialize in helping others achieve the absolute best — whether you’re going through a negative or positive change in your life. If you need help in that regard, we’re always available and can’t wait to hear your story!