Val is a life-long student of unexplored human potential and many challenges that self-honesty throws at us on that path.
You must be the person you have never had the courage to be. Gradually, you will discover that you are that person, but until you see it clearly, you must pretend and invent.
-- Paulo Coelho
Behavior - Mind Connection
One of the most beneficial discoveries I have made on my relatively long, and somewhat studious life, certainly was this one about our behavior affecting our emotions -- just like the more familiar opposite is true, namely, emotions affecting behavior.
I instantly put it to the test, and I was overjoyed with results, after practicing it for a while. It must have been entwined with some other of my practices, because only today I realized, in retrospect, how it must have been it, which was the key trigger of the whole positive change in me.
As I realized at the time, it was not only that we were expressing our emotions through eighty-plus facial muscles, our posture, depth and rhythm of our breathing, with tone of our voice, and what we were saying -- but we could also do it intentionally, in reverse order, to achieve positive emotions, attitude, and consequently the whole mindset.
It just dawned on me, that, if we touch any part of the body, our brain instantly registers it, so, I expanded that fact to the field of our acting, the "quality" of which must also affect our brain's perception of it.
You can try it right now, if you wish. Make a big smile and hold it, while sitting straightening your back, with your chin up, then opening your arms wide as if you wanted to embrace the whole world.
In that position take some slow and a little deeper, regular breaths, resembling those of a sleeping person, minus snoring, lol, followed by some silent belly laughter -- you know the one when you do those spasmodic, short belly shakes normally done with laughter, but now without any sound louder than breathing.
Now, doesn't that make you feel on top of the world, as a winner in a big game of life?
If it doesn't, it only means that you would have to practice it more. Especially so, if it is making you feel silly and phony while doing it, because then it indicates a certain emotional stiffness in your emotional repertoire.
The whole saying of "fake it till you make it" has a lot of validity. Your jerk of a brain is so used to not having motivation and so used to not deriving pleasure from fun.
-- Robert Duff
Someone may argue that we need all our emotions to be complete human beings, not merely the happy ones -- and I would agree. The point of practicing production of positive emotions is not to keep them at all times, but to make the nervous system lean toward that kind of emoting, which I like calling "emotional climate".
So we are talking about intensity, duration, and probability of certain emotional responses. Compare it to an actual climate, where we have something like mostly pleasant temperatures, with a lot of sunshine, with some short-lasting showers, but without any violent thunderstorms, hurricanes, you know what I mean. How is that for "being a complete human being -- the pleasant way"?
You got what I am talking about? No such practice can deprive us from feeling sad, but that doesn't have to expand into a depression. And we can still be displeased with someone's behavior without keeping a grudge, or while getting a flat tire on the way to work, which doesn't have to make us say: "My life sucks...why me...it's always something happening to me, if not this, then some other crap!"
Emotional tension means that we are constantly on guard, ready for the crap to happen -- meaning in our metaphor -- that we have to always carry an umbrella, or extra jacket in the car, because "we can't trust the weather".
Once that we know that we can trust our emotional equilibrium "no matter what's going on", that defensive mode pretty much disappears.
Let's, for a moment, visit our cellular level of functioning, to see what wonderful changes happen there, thanks to that new emotional climate.
Our cells basically have two major modes of functioning -- that depending solely on what signals they are getting -- from our emotions -- about how safe is the environment.
As we drop our defenses, our cells thrive, recuperate, heal, divide, and do all those actions of health and vitality -- figuring that the "world is the safe place to live".
On the other hand, when we are tense, our cells pretty much minimize all those good activities mentioned, and go into defensive mode. I am not a cellular biologist to give you a list of what exactly that means, but whatever it is, it's not good for your health, for your immunity.
But I know that tension downregulates the expression of good genes, which creates less than desired situation with our overall vital markers.
Fake it till you make it! Act as if you had all the confidence you require until it becomes your reality.
-- Brian Tracy
When Happier Means "Phony"
When we start practicing this combination of bodily behaviors -- smile, posture, breathing, tone of voice, and mostly good stuff to be said -- it's more likely than not that we initially feel phony like that proverbial three-dollar-bill.
It's natural to have a resistance to change, since that played-in status quo in our personality makeup won't leave so willingly. But also, if it was not for that resistance, we would be changing our personality traits like we change shirts, pretty soon not knowing who the hell we are.
This feeling of phoniness will persist for a while, until we manage to simply accept it as something that has proved to us to be beneficial. At that point it will start feeling natural to us, just like this present emotional climate is feeling.
One crazy thing in all this is that our default, inborn emotional climate is exactly the one that we are trying to achieve -- but has been sabotaged by life long negative beliefs, thoughts, impressions, and attitudes.
In that sense, we are only practicing to "become who we truly are", and there is nothing phony in that -- just not habitual.
When I was a chain smoker many years ago, to me it became "natural" to light up first thing in the morning with my strong Turkish coffee. Then it was equally "natural" to have one as soon as I sat in the car. And then, at the job it was a torture to wait for the coffee break, for me to "naturally" have a couple of cigarettes in a row to make it up for all that pausing.
Now, how crazy that "natural" was indeed.
And it's not any less crazy when we "naturally" have daily predominant crappy moods, and then resist to something that will make us feel better, for feeling better doesn't come natural to us.
Likewise, when I quit my smoking addiction in a cold-turkey fashion -- and I did it the same way with my coffee and beer -- I felt phony those first few weeks, life just didn't look right.
Until it all became the most "natural" way for me to be.
Fake it till you make it. Just Make it.
-- Jesse Peterson
Let's Make the Change Happen!
It was one of those ancient army leaders who said to his friend in the middle of a fierce battle: "One day it will be nice to remember all this".
So, why not put that Mona Lisa smile on our face and with our body act for the rest of the day as if this is the day of victory -- the day to remember a battle as if it's already over.
When I was quitting my smoking habit, I was tricking my mind by behaving like a non-smoker does -- and non-smoker wouldn't have a smoking habit to defeat, anything to crave, right?
I was acting as a non-smoker -- not fighting a smoker in myself. Walking tall with a chin up through some truly testing times in life made me overcome those obstacles with incredible ease, because I was not fighting anything, but in advance enjoying the desired results.
We become whatever we practice, folks, and the same is true about our emotions.
How else could we possibly practice happiness but by acting as if we already are that happy person. Said Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Nothing succeeds like success".
We may keep playing smart asses and parrot all those positive affirmations until we turn blue, but our body only understands the language of our behavior. That's from where it picks directives how to feel.
Complaining to others about our tough luck, moping around with a tense face, shallow breathing, tense shoulders and stomach, making all those unnecessary, nervous motions with our hands -- we are sending a clear signal to our nervous/hormonal axis that we expect only crap from our emotions.
Then the body obliges us like that genie from Aladdin's magic lamp. Says it: "Yes, master, your wishes are my commands" -- and all those good neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, endorphin, gamma-aminobutyric acid, and oxytocin (yes, I know that crap without just copying, lol) simply don't show up at the party.
So please, don't keep reserving that "as-if-smile" only for those occasions when someone with a camera tells you: "Say cheeeese!"
© 2022 Val Karas