The conventional assumption in psychology is that our personalities consist of fixed traits that endure over time. The present book takes issue with this over-simple idea and suggests something much more interesting and surprising, known as Reversal Theory. This proposes that we tend to switch back and forth between opposing personalities in the course of our everyday lives. For example, sometimes we are serious and sometimes playful, sometimes we are conforming and sometimes rebellious. And we switch (reverse) backwards and forwards, from one to another, over time.
Our personalities are therefore dynamic rather than static and can even be self-contradictory. Personality is about the characteristic ways we navigate such change and contradiction: we are dancers rather than statues and dance to our own music. This can lead to puzzling paradoxes and problems but can also, handled appropriately, help us to achieve productive and happy lives, because it shows how rich in possibilities we all are. It has been said that Reversal Theory liberates rather than limits, and in this respect goes beyond most self-help theories.
Illustrated with case histories of well-known celebrities and historical figures, with the results of psychological studies, and with personal anecdotes, Apter brings the provocative ideas of Reversal Theory to life and is a highly relevant contribution to the contemporary psychology of motivation and personality. In the process he deals coherently with a variety of interesting topics including: risky sport, terrorism, domestic violence, art and humour.