neurotic paradox

neurotic paradox

A term developed by O. Hobart Mowrer (1902–82) to account for the apparent paradox of why an individual would maintain a self-defeating, limiting symptom. Mowrer suggested that the punishment or self-defeating nature of the behavior is less aversive than facing the anxiety situation. Facing the feared situation is more aver-sive than the avoidance, thus the paradox. The tendency is a paradox because in the long run, defenses prevent overall optimal function and development. An example is avoiding areas of life (such as shopping, driving, being alone, etc.) that are self-defeating. However, avoidance, although self-defeating, is more reinforcing than dread facing the fear situation and getting better.