The “As If” principle

Action Figure. This image is CC0!

Today’s post is a book recommendation for Richard Wiseman’s “Rip it Up. The Simple Idea that Changes Everything”(I know, second time Wiseman). This recommendation is an addition to my earlier post about the relation betweeen and attitude.

Wiseman summarizes a host of studies how changing behavior has an effect on your psyche, mind, and mood. It is a fascinating collection with topics like:

  • How actively smiling improves your mood.
  • How speed-dating match rate can be increased from 20% to 45% with a well-designed conversation setup.
  • How emotions like fear or joy come after, not before a bodily reaction, but after it, caused by the interpretation of the body signals.
  • How the same bodily reactions, like a rising heart rate, can cause a positive emotion as well as a negative one.
  • How phobias can be cured with a systematic approach without psychoanalysis of the roots of the fears (a deviation from the root cause elimination principle of Lean Self which can and should not be ignored).
  • Why it is better for anger control not to live anger out but instead to try to act as if you are not angry.
  • How to stop smoking and lose weight.
  • How persuasion works and how to motivate people.
  • How to improve your self-confidence (important for true self-empowerment).
  • How to reduce the feeling of guilt.
  • Tricks against procrastination.

At the heart of all this lies the “As If” principle, dated back to hypotheses of William James, a philosopher and psychologist of the 19th century. If you act out as if an emotion exists, it can become reality.

Interestingly, this sounds a little like wishful thinking, but we are talking about psychology here. If you dream of a castle in the clouds, it will not come into existence. However, if you consciously manipulate your own feelings following the “As If” principle, this is different. Because you start to act, not to dream.

This is why self-help gurus of the wishful thinking kind may be successful from time to time. They coax people into an “As If” mindset. If these gurus knowingly manipulate using “As If” or just do it accidentally, I do not know. Maybe somebody not inclined to scientific thinking can best be helped by these approaches. Nevertheless, telling somebody first how the manipulation works is the more truthful approach from my point of view. So, forget about law of attraction, positive thinking, and what else may be around. Just act “As If.”

Coming back to my example of making the bed you could say: by acting as if I liked it, I grew into liking it.

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