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Posted by R. Berg on July 23, 2005

In Reply to: the pendulum may have swung too far the other way posted by Smokey Stover on July 23, 2005

: : What is the meaning of " the pendulum may have swung too far the other way " considering the word " but " which I think causes it means vice versa of last paragraph

: : SCHLENKER: "Much of the research showed that excuses can actually produce beneficial consequences in the sense of salvaging self-esteem, making people feel better, maybe even allowing them to keep stronger relationships with others. Because it's a lot nicer if you make up an excuse, for example, for missing a lunch date or turning somebody down than if you say 'I didn't want to go out with you because I didn't like you' or 'I missed the lunch date because I had better things to do.'
: : "But one of the things that my colleagues and I felt was that the pendulum may have swung too far the other way now. Indeed, you now see in the psychology literature recommendations that, in essence, therapists help their clients generate excuses to make them feel better, to try to focus them on why perhaps some of their problems are not really their fault, they're not bad people."

: I suppose Mr. Shclenker is some sort of psychologist. He is talking about trends in counseling or psychotherapy. Encouraging people to lean on excuses is a trend; discouraging them would be a trend the other way. In this field and in many others, trends swing back and forth, just as a pendulum swings back and forth. As to which way the pendulum swings, or the trend is going, the "other way" is presumably the opposite of whichever way the writer presumes is current, or has designated as the standard from which the "other way" deviates. In the excerpt that you quote, I don't think that Mr. Schlenker makes it entirely clear which way is the "other way," the direction in which the pendulum has swung too far.
: Pendulums, most visibly those in "grandfather clocks," are supposed to swing back and forth in only one plane. The same is true of whatever trends are suitable for the pendulum metaphor. If you have three or more possible trends, the pendulum is out. SS

The pendulum comment makes sense if we add an assumption that Schlenker disapproves of therapists' providing excuses to clients. (Maybe he thinks it's bad therapy.) First paragraph: psychological studies have found that excuses have some benefits. Second paragraph: excuses have become too popular; therapists are using them inappropriately.

The topic is attitudes toward excuses in general. Over time, the pendulum has swung between two extremes. (That's what pendulums do.) Once, excuses were thought to be wrong in every situation. Then research found something good about them. Now, as a result, the pendulum has swung too far the other way, and excuses have a better reputation than they deserve.

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