A self-fulfilling prophecy – what is it?

“Our doubts are always charged because we find what we assumed we would find” (Henry David Thoreau, American writer, and philosopher)

You must have heard that your grandmother, grandfather, or older aunt used to tell you that they were good-willed because their “dog cut the path” or they “found four-leaf clover” and that they were bad-tempered because their “cat cut off the path, and it means something bad is going to happen. ” Such and similar predictions would almost always come true, which would only further confirm their faith. After meeting the cat, her grandmother would surely either lose something or quarrel with her neighbor or have her lunch burned down… As she became nervous, worried, distracted, and very likely irritable after meeting the cat, the outcome is really no wonder, not?

We may laugh at grandparents and their stories and predictions, but if we are honest, we can certainly remember the situation in our lives when we mourn that we are unsuccessful and that nothing is going wrong. By doing so, we are actually giving the wrong and certainly over-interpreting of the situation we are in, thus encouraging certain behaviors that contribute to making the wrong initial claim, or indeed leading to failure.

When we make claims and beliefs that are exaggerated and wrong, those beliefs and claims become part of the situation they are referring to and begin to influence its further development.

So we ourselves, directly and indirectly, consciously and unconsciously, contribute to the realization of some negative prediction that frightens us, that is, a prophecy that ultimately only fulfills itself.

We don’t really anticipate anything but create our future behavior, opinion, mood. When these behaviors, emotions, or thoughts are realized, they are “evidence of our initial predictions,” thereby confirming our belief in the initial assertion, belief, thought.

A self-fulfilling prophecy could be defined as an error of thought, which then acts on our emotions and behavior. It is a psychological phenomenon that we find at the root of many emotional difficulties as well as difficulties in interpersonal relationships.

For example, do we think that a person or society is “against us” that prophecy will be fulfilled thanks to ourselves. Namely, because of our actions of especially repulsive behavior that is understandable and tailored to those or those who are “against us”, the environment will behave in the same way towards us. If, however, we believe that without someone we cannot/a friend, partner/, no matter how that person behaves towards us, we bring ourselves into a situation from which we cannot and do not want to believe that life without that person will be bad or worthless.

How many times have you simply felt like something was going to happen?

It sounds a little daunting when you remember how often you were able to predict many situations and events well. You had the feeling that the professor was going to call you, or that you would get the job you applied for, you knew that you would eventually make peace with a friend or partner. Or you met a person you liked and thought you would become great friends. After a while that happened. How? With your behavior, consciously and unconsciously, you have done your best to show that person how much you value them, how much you love them, and how much you want to socialize with them. With your influence you achieved what you wanted. It is a rule of prophecy that fulfills itself.

Fortunately, this psychological phenomenon is valid in the positive direction, not just the negative that we tend to use. If we say that we will succeed in something, our chances are increased. Therefore, if you really want something, if you decide to achieve it, if you expect to succeed, you will direct all your resources and potentials where you want to get. And that is where you will come. When you hear “The key is in your hands” or “Happiness is in your hands”, it’s not just an empty phrase. Each time we strongly believe in something, when we are confident in ourselves, in our opinions and feelings, we direct all our actions and behaviors to ensure that what we expect to happen comes true.


It is important to realize that we have a choice, that we have the ability to influence our own lives, and that the responsibility for ourselves and the realization of our own happiness lies with us. Then positive prophecies will happen to us.

“When you want something strong enough, the whole world will conspire to get it” (Paulo Coelho, Brazilian writer)



By: Renata Ćorić Špoljar, PhD, clinical psychologist


Disclaimer: This is unofficial translation provided for information purposes. Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center can not be held legally responsible for any translation inaccuracy.   

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