Sunday, 12 April 2015

William James " As If " Theory

            "If you want a quality,  act as if you
                       already have it. "
             Philosopher, William James 1884

Any one who reads this blog will know that I'm passionate about consciousness and how we can become more conscious .
For as long as I can remember I have wanted to understand ' how we tick , why we tick , how to tick differently ' in other words how to take control of our lives and direct them rather than be unconsciously tossed by external events.
To this end I have studied dare I say hundreds of 'Self Help' books. None of which have been a waste of time, some resonated and inspired, some I put down to experience and all have 'enlightened ' or awakened in some way.
William James is often quoted and his teaching never fails to inspire. Presently I'm reading 'Rip it  up' by Richard Wiseman  ( a big thanks to Mallow library for their constant supply of new reads that jump out at me when I call in there ).
Richard Wiseman takes us through the modern research that confirms William James '   theory of  "As If". William James had postulated that any emotion is entirely the result of people observing their own behaviour. Seen from this perspective people never smile because they are happy but rather always feel happy because they are smiling.(or to use James more poetic way of explaining his radical hypothesis: " You do not run from a bear because you are afraid of it, but rather rather become afraid of the bear because you run from it."
James never tested his theory however Wiseman introduces us to much of the modern research that confirms James theory.
In the 1960s Stanley Schachter's work at Columbia University  showed that the way people interpret their bodily sensations determines which emotion they feel. Depending on the context the same thumping heart can be seen as a sign of anger , happiness or love.
We can all be manipulated by external stimuli and even allow those stimuli to control our emotions but by learning to become more conscious we can take back our control and direct our thoughts and emotions in  more positive productive ways that allow us to have more energy and enthusiasm for life.
Wiseman's book is easy to read, with cool exercises to try and plenty of interesting research, in other words a a total inspiration for ' Self Help ' lovers like me.


PS, One of his self tips which I already use is to Smile as if you are already really happy, do this regularly through out your day and you Will Feel Better and Happier. 

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