Fake It Till You Make It
The other night I was watching this movie called “The Sphere.” It was an OK movie that was taken from an OK book; it had some decent actors in there. I think they were trying to somehow tap into the idea that “our thoughts create our reality,” or something along those lines. This, of course, has been written about since time immemorial, but in the movie they had to introduce the idea through some alien spacecraft found at the bottom of the ocean.
What was interesting was that they had this huge laboratory way down deep underwater, all the way down deep, and the conditions on the bottom were completely calm, no matter how bad the conditions were on top. At some point in the movie, there was a need to communicate with the surface, but there was this huge storm brewing, and it was a question whether or not their communication ship would be able to get to the specific point or not. But deep down underneath the surface, it was just as calm and smooth as ever. No matter how rough and disastrous it seemed on the surface, down deep was always calm and stable.
Of course, when the so-called alien sphere started with messing with people’s heads, it became not so calm, until they figured out it was there own fears that was messing with them. Every character happened to see something that represented their worst fears. They figured that the alien sphere was somehow tapping into their fears and projecting them out around them. A nifty metaphor for the idea of creating our reality, good or bad. Whatever is internal will create the external, and whatever you see on the external is a reflection of whatever is going on internally.
I remember reading a discussion on an Internet form regarding seduction. They were discussing the efficacy of one “guru’s” method of acting a certain way around women. One particular camp seemed to be arguing that if you acted a certain way, you’d get a certain result. Like obviously if you smile at people, you’d much likelier get a smile in return than if you didn’t smile. But the other camp was arguing that exhibiting behavior that isn’t natural is “fake” and won’t work.
I guess an analogy would be to walk around forcing yourself to smile at people when you aren’t in a good mood, and see what would happen. It would be an interesting experiment. Start off with four groups, two happy, two unhappy. Then half of each group would smile at everybody for a day, and the other half wouldn’t. So you’d have half of the happy people smiling, and the other half forcing themselves to not smile. And the half the unhappy group would not smile, and the other half would force themselves to smile.
Here’s how I think the results would pan out:
The unhappy group that didnâ€™t smile would remain unhappy, as only a small percentage of people would smile at them. And those that did, the unhappy group probably wouldn’t notice, since they’d be too busy being unhappy.
The unhappy group that forced themselves to smile would likely have a higher percentage of moving from unhappy to happy, as they’d probably get some return smiles, which in turn might make them happier.
The happy group that didn’t smile would probably have a tendency to become unhappy, as even though they were happy, they wouldn’t get any smiles from people, and that might cause them to feel sad.
Then of course the happy group that smiled, would likely increase in happiness, as their smiles would elicit return smiles, thereby increasing their happiness.
I believe that the two groups that acted in congruence with their true feelings would amplify their true feelings the most. The unhappy group that didn’t smile would become even unhappier, and the happy group that smiled would become happier.
But I also think that both groups that acted incongruent with their feelings might actually shift their feelings to be in congruence with their actions, to a certain extent. After a while, the happy people that didn’t smile may become unhappy, matching their feeling with their outward behavior. While the unhappy group that forced themselves to smile might become happy, matching their feeling with their outward behavior, despite it being forced.
The bottom line, then, is that congruent behavior that matches your internal state will amplify your internal state. But a consistent behavior that is incongruent with your internal state may be enough to change your internal state, until it becomes congruent with your internal state. Form follows function, and function follows form.
Of course, this is only one kind of congruence, and it’s assuming quite a bit that is probably impossible in real life. In real life, you can have some parts of your outward behavior that is congruent with your internal state, and some parts of your outward behavior that is completely incongruent with your internal state.
And of course your internal states maybe congruent themselves, leading to a mismatch of external behavior. You may be happy to see an old friend, on the one hand, but on the other hand a little nervous since the last time you met you got into a big fight. Or you may run into a girl or guy that you just started dating, but happen to be on a date with somebody else.
One thing that most success gurus preach over and over again is that the best way to reach your goals is to act and communicate as congruently as possible. If you have a goal to lose weight, but you eat ice cream every night, that’s not very congruent. If you want to become financially independent, but work over your credit cards, that’s not very congruent.
Incongruent behavior can be the result of subconscious conflict as well, and can often times be misinterpreted. If you are a guy, and you really like a certain girl, but are terrified of rejection, you may exhibit some less than useful interpersonal skills whenever you’re around her, making you come across as socially inept and unattractive. She may interpret this as you not valuing her very much. You may want to ask your boss for a raise, but are afraid of getting rejected, so you don’t put too much congruent effort into your proposal. Your boss will think that you may not believe you don’t really deserve the raise, and subsequently reject you, giving you the fear you feared most.
The old adage, “fake it until you make it,” can be helpful in situations like this. Just like in the above thought experiment with the smiles, you can lead your inward state by your outward behavior, providing you keep it up enough.
Just like a kid on swing, by moving your body in the right motions, you can some pretty big amplitude after a while.
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