Daniel and I had a long conversation last night about lying to yourself. There are times when this is actually, truly, a good idea. Really. “Acting as if” – the structural basis of most programs for habit change- is just lying to yourself. You are not afraid, you can cope without alcohol or cigarettes, you believe in yourself, you value yourself. These are all just “lies” when you begin the project of “acting as if.”
In no small part, our conversation was prompted by the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Great read. Read it.
Of course, really, how do you lie to yourself? The is the question I kept asking Daniel. How can you believe one thing, and willfully override it with another aspect of the same self?
I like to use food and eating examples because I understand them. They are also a complicated tangle to solve if they develop into an issue, because there’s no such thing as going cold turkey with food. Health is exemplified by knowing intuitively what to eat and when, not by following a meal plan. Food and eating are concrete yet complex, so I want to use them as a metaphor for solving thought problems- which tend to be much more abstract and squishy.
The best lie to tell oneself regarding food is this: I can choose to eat the right foods for my best health at the right time, and when I have eaten enough of them I will stop eating because I no longer want to eat.
Clearly, anyone who struggles with eating doesn’t believe this lie. But “acting as if” requires convincing some part of yourself that you are willing to suspend belief, lie to yourself, and behave as if you believed that statement.
(I fully remember not being able to even begin working that lie, because it seemed so fraudulent and false. Now, it’s a belief and fully, totally simple for me. It took about 12 years to go from not believing it to living it with total ease. I would like to solve the next set of issues a little faster….)
So, I’ve been trying to design the optimum lie to counter anxiety.
“I am safe, courageous, and fully trust myself, my skills, my decision making, and my own worth. I make choices that reinforce my own value and security, and I know how to design plans and strategies that allow my to fulfill my dreams. I follow my plans and actualize my dreams.”