“I was going to, Dad,” she said. “But now that you’ve asked me to, I don’t want to anymore.”
It’s why, when you were a teenager and your mother told you to put on your jacket, you didn’t do so–just ’cause. Only later, as you heard your teeth chattering in the cold, did you concede that you should have taken Mom’s advice.
It’s why you bristle when your manager asks you to do a task, even though you know, when you think about it logically, that the task is critical.
Almost everyone has this negative mental reflex. It kicks in whenever we sense that our autonomy is being threatened. This isn’t inherently bad—if people are too compliant, they’re vulnerable to manipulation. But psychological reactance can, at times, prevent us from doing things that we should do, sometimes even things we want to do. Most alarmingly, it can lead to self-sabotage.
How? That knee-jerk impulse of “Don’t tell me what to do!” can kick in even when it’s you telling yourself what to do.