"People don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed." ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
"Perhaps our eyes need to be washed by our tears once in a while, so that we can see life with a clearer view again." ~ Alex Tan
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an intervention used by health professionals, primarily psychologists, to increase positive behavioral change in clients by encouraging modifications in thought processes and mindset. In the 1920s, Alfred Adler, an Austrian psychiatrist, developed a therapeutic strategy of “role play,” assisting his patients in creating and exploring alternative scenarios to dysfunctional behaviors. Adler called this therapy “acting as if,” and encouraged his patients to begin to act as if they were already the person they desired to be. They enacted this through a combination of inquisitive exploration and self modeling, accompanied by the therapeutic support from Adler. While the origins of the aphorism “fake it until you make it” is generally unknown, it would appear as though its humble beginnings were birthed from the early pioneers of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy practices, such as Adler.
“Fake it until you make it” appears to be a catch phrase coined by the self-help movement, with the best of intentions. It came into being right at the threshold, when self-help began to swiftly drift towards the crowd-pleasing trend of trying to understand the principles of the Law of Attraction. While the exact first use of the term is unknown, it was made overly popular when Rhonda Byrne’s, The Secret, emerged in 2006. In her book, Byrne writes: “As you make-believe, you will begin to believe you have received.” Throughout the book, she encourages people to act as if they already have everything that they’ve wanted, alluding to the notion that being in a state of gratitude will move them into a life where they have the tangible items and experiences they have so desired. There is one huge problem with all of this, a tool is only as effective as those using it, and those using it will only be effective in its implementation if the tool has been rightly taught, and both concisely, and clearly explained. Unfortunately, the masses reading this best-selling book, and watching the accompanying film were left hanging out to dry with yesterday’s laundry. The book and film introduce a powerful topic into popular culture, a topic that had previously been ignored by the crowds — the truth that we do have a lot more control over our reality than we give ourselves credit for. While introducing a sense of such personal responsibility for perceived experience was a blessing, it also happened to be a curse. The book was insightful if you were already familiar with the principles, otherwise, it was vague, ambiguous, and offered its flocking followers no tools on how to implement its theory effectively. Additionally, it became widely misunderstood and applied, being worshipped, as things often are, for all the wrong reasons. When you introduce the idea that you can have and deserve any material object you desire in the world, to a shallow and materially-obsessed consumer society, you have the recipe for a huge disaster — one we currently find ourselves in. Here we find ourselves, living off credit and pretending on social media that we’ve “made it,” while internally feeling hallow, empty, and betrayed. We betray ourselves continually, by lying to ourselves in order to appease the popular trends, and feel artificially important. Yet, the cycle continues. We do this while hiding in the shadows of our consciousness, frail, frightened, and completely lost, with absolutely no idea who we are, what we’re doing, or where to begin in finding ourselves. Destitute. Alone. Scattered. Lost.
"Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." ~ John F. Kennedy
You see, Adler used role play as a tool to transform the ways in which his patients felt about themselves, this allowed them to frame themselves differently, which in turn allowed them to alter their behavior. As a psychiatrist, he introduced this technique and then guided his patients on the path to evolution and personal accomplishment. After all, Adler wasn’t teaching his patients how to pretend to be successful, he was teaching them how to feel successful. His methods weren't some ploy to dream up a Lamborghini miraculously showing up in the driveway, he was teaching his patients how to embody the characteristics of the person they wanted to become, a version of themselves they could look up to. Adler helped his clients to uncover the virtuous traits they already possessed within themselves, and bring them to the forefront of their individual experience. This therapeutic process builds confidence, it actually enables clients to stop lying to themselves about how incapable they are, helping them to recognize their personal power and responsibility in their lives. This stands in stark contrast to the current state of the world, which seems to have lost all genuine confidence behind the mask of social media, and outwardly projected facades. We lie to ourselves and the world daily, while losing all confidence in our character, under the guise of personal development, skillfully sold the self-help lie of “fake it until you make it.”
John Burroughs famously writes a simple phrase that contains within it a truth that can't easily be explained, “Leap and the net will appear.” This saying is frequently quoted in the self-help sphere, and while it is a lovely and reassuring reminder to be brave, it is necessary to remember the importance of context. Burroughs was an American author, essayist, and naturalist, who spent most of his time immersed in the magic of the natural world. Burroughs writes, “How many thorns of human nature are bristling conceits, buds of promise grown sharp for rant of congenial climate,” recognizing that it is our misguided wants that often lead to our unfortunate obsessions with our own sickness. As a man that lived a simple life, he embodied a harmony with his thought, his word, and with his actions. A man that lives with such congruence in character does not know a life of undisciplined inconsistency, he has eyes that see rightly to the truth of our perceived existence. For a man like that, it is easy to see why such noble livelihood would naturally elicit the appearance of a net upon the virtuous leap.
"No one is more hated than he who speaks the truth." ~ Plato
The problem now is we want things and we don’t know why. We want things that, in all likelihood, we don’t even want, it’s just that somewhere along the line somebody convinced us we needed these things to fill the internal void of our perceived inadequacy. You see, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works to change the individual internally, it is used as a tool to free people from the unhealthy conditions of their habits of insecurity and self deprecation. The act of role play in such scenarios has inherent value to the individual; it has the potential to change the way in which they see themselves, alter their perceptions, and cultivate a positive internal climate from which they have the opportunity to flourish. It was never meant to be taken out of context and abused to feed our insecure and socially accepted consumer-induced narcissism. Our emotions are the energetic signals that tell the truth of our current internal state; we cannot feel unsuccessful while projecting a mask of “put together” on Instagram and expect to genuinely feel good about ourselves. We just can’t. You see, that may get you comments, likes, and manufactured compliments, but none of it will land for you, you won’t trust it or believe it. The truth is, no matter how it feeds your addiction to external approval and the desire for acceptance, ultimately you will reject it, because you know that it isn’t true, and therefore can’t be genuine. We can only accept what we are truly open to believing about ourselves. So, in a “fake it until you make it” society, where the majority of people are faking it, we are focusing on an effect and supposing that artificially manufacturing a different one, will somehow alter the causing agent within us. In other words, by projecting an outward image that we think says something important about us, we presume we will somehow embody the characteristics of discipline that our greatest heroes practice daily. This unfortunately, will never be the case. It is only genuine feeling that has the power to change us, for genuine feeling possesses within it, a truth. And truth, has the power to perform miracles.
"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty." ~ Thomas Jefferson
In our short attention-spanned, social media-obsessed, immediate gratification, and consumer-crazed minds, we want the outward image of success to make ourselves superficially feel better. We want this without having to get our hands dirty and actually do the internal work that is required to get there. We have mastered the art of the outwardly “put together” and well-structured facade, while we deny ourselves the success internally, and we do this by denying the truth of our current state of being. I can’t emphasize enough, you cannot live in the disharmony of incongruent choice, thought, projection, and action whilst feeling confident in the content of your own character. These are inherently mutually exclusive. If we continue to lie to ourselves, whether we aware of it or not (most of the time we aren’t) then I promise you, our lives will not feel fulfilled and meaningful — regardless of what we post on our “story.”
We strive to be so happy all the time, so much so that when we aren’t we think that we suffer from depression. The truth is that some people are depressed, a lot of people, some more than others. Sometimes depression, depending on the severity, requires the assistance of prescription medication to assist in getting a handle on things, there’s nothing wrong with this. However, it is important to note that these medications are meant to provide a temporary scaffold, to help us with the stamina required to reach places in our lives that need our attention. Life will always present challenges, moments and sometimes periods of grief will overwhelm us, the aim of life is not to avoid this. As Jordan B. Peterson says, the aim in life is not to be happy, it’s to live a life of meaning so that the inherent nature of the suffering of life is worthwhile. But, before I go on a tangent about the function of depression as a biochemical signal in our lives, meant to show us where we need healing, I’ll stop before I get ahead of myself, and save that topic for another time.
"The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence." ~ Charles Bukowski
So, what role has the digital revolution played in all this? A huge one. Technology continues to accelerate and expand exponentially, and, socially we can’t seem to keep up. With the introduction of the smart phone — essentially supercomputers that can fit in our pockets — and access to immediate information through the worldwide web, our incessant desire for better and more has undoubtedly increased while our attention spans have shortened, significantly. We want it all now, and we haven’t the patience to handle any delay or hurdle that so rudely dares to encumber our way. In this society, plagued by instant gratification, we’ve lost the grit required to be able to significantly shift our lives. We say that we want that Lamborghini, and yet, we unconsciously choose to ignore all the ways in which we’re preventing ourselves from getting it. We do this, partly, by willfully choosing to deny the incongruence and disharmony that blankets our lives. We shrink into the shadows of our minds. Fearful. In hiding. You see, we say we want it, but when it comes to doing the internal work necessary to change into a a different version of ourselves, one that has that Lambo, we do something both entirely common and completely unconscionable — we pretend that we’ve already done the work and get frustrated at life for its inability to match our efforts. Do you see the narcissism yet?
"People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent." ~ Bob Dylan
We’ve become so lost, outwardly and materialistically preoccupied, that we’ve forgotten we are conscious beings, and I hate to break it to you (actually I don’t), your consciousness does not reside outside of you — it permeates your very being. The problem is there are truths in a lot of what’s out there, but often they’re half-truths — people trying to sell books that match the market of popular opinion — big reward for minimal effort. The people preaching to you about how you can change your life through the implementation of the practices they superficially outline in the work they share with you don’t make the information accessible. What I mean by this, is they throw some knowledge at you without any acknowledgement of the tools required to access that knowledge and therefore turn it into something useful. Quite simply, this is called extremely poor teaching practice. You read the book, attempt its application, and then blame yourself internally, for your life’s continued lack of luster. This is a vicious cycle of the classic self-fulfilling prophecy, we often create what we fear most through our thoughts, actions, and choices in life — all in an attempt to prevent what we inevitably usher in. You don't only need the knowledge, you need the tools required to access it, and the follow through (even when it’s tough as nails) in order to give implementation its due diligence. So, what’s the solution? Honestly, I don’t know, that’s far beyond me. There are several solutions, some of which I think I’m aware of and others so unbeknownst to me that they haven’t even begun to scrape the outer crust of my consciousness.
"Thinking is difficult, that's why most people judge." ~ Carl Jung
I can’t tell you the exact way, or chart the perfect path for you, and I certainly can’t walk the path for you. What I can do is remind you that the answers always lie within, and help to guide you in asking the meaningful questions. What I know for sure is there is no shortcut through the living of life, no way to pluck out and hoard what you see as “good” while skillfully avoiding what you judge as “bad.” There are rights and there are wrongs, there are paths that are constructive and promote the essence of life, and there are paths that are destructive and undermine the lavish roots of living. While it is true that everything in life is subjective in a way, because of the subjective nature of our perceptual reality, it is also true that we lie to ourselves on a regular basis without holding the awareness of this fact. So while your experiences change based on your level of awareness and acceptance of yourself, that in no way threatens the truth that there is an objective reality of which you may not yet have the eyes to see. A reality where life is meaningful and worth its suffering, where the right path isn’t always chosen, but it is always sought. In this reality the truth can be felt, and is never denied, as we make the choices necessary to free ourselves from the shackles of our minds, and come out of the caves to see the brilliant light of day. To err is human, but I’m a firm believer that this is no excuse to justify your being a complete a**hole. So please, be aware of your errors, acknowledge them, forgive them, thank them for the lesson and bless them on their way. Have courage, and be brave. The question is not whether or not truth exists, the question is whether or not you’ll begin asking your own questions and make the choice to seek the true answers. Seek the truthful road, it guarantees your freedom.