Thursday, January 24, 2008

What Faking it Til You Make It Really Means

I get that blank look from people when I assign the behavioral task, Fake It 'Til You Make It. The blank look is fear of confrontation, usually, fear of a situation you know you have to face.

You know that you have to rise to the occasion, that you really should face a problem, a person. And your therapist and everyone else is saying that you have to Just Do It.

But how can you just do it if you've never done it and you're afraid you'll look like an idiot if you do?

The classic example is making the call. Say someone owes you money. It's your employer. And you know he knows that he owes you money. But he's been getting away with it because you haven't been able to confront him on it.

So your therapist says, Just get on the phone and don't confront. No need to be angry.
Just assert, meaning explain the facts nicely and reiterate that you haven't been paid yet.

Then nag. (My spin on this intervention). Keep calling. Call every day until you're paid, perhaps twice a day, until someone in management says, "Would someone kindly get this guy off my back? Just PAY him!"

This is still very hard, even doing it without anger, for many people. It's still hard to pick up the phone, and especially hard to do it every day, to become a nag.

I'll say, try to make it like you're just repeating facts, like you're reciting multiplication tables. Rote, no emotion. But to you, bringing forward the facts feels impossible. You're a little shy. You don't like asserting. So how do you fake it 'til you make it THEN?

It's not easy, but I think you have to make it fun. You have to raise the serotonin in your brain by seeing this as play, not work. And the way to do that is finding the other you, the other person inside (you have MANY you hardly even KNOW). The one who can do it.

People like to focus on the people inside that they're more familiar with, the ones with the faults and deficits their parents introduced to them as children (yeah, I get to bashing parents sometimes, as unpoplar as that is; this is one of those times).

But there is a person inside who is probably very angry at the self for not asserting, and angry at the other person for taking advantage of the person who doesn't assert. This other self is someone we can call The Advocate.

Or the Hero. This person wants justice in the worst way. This person isn't known as you, not yet, since no one, not even you, has ever heard from him except in fantasies. But this advocate resides in the wish department of everyone's psyche. The advocate, the hero, really wants you to be that person who opens up that mouth and gets you what you want.

You also want to get to know the actor. Yes, another one of the people in us who occasionally gets trotted out to play, but not nearly often enough. There's a potential actor in everyone, and this actor needs attention. You have to let the actor flex a few muscles now and again. You need the actor here to help the hero do her stuff.

This ISN'T faking it. These are real selves tucked in your brain.

Think of any movie, any television show with a leading character who tells it like it is even if no one wants to hear it. Someone like Marie, on Everyone Loves Raymond. (A whole post in and of itself, right?) Or think of ANYONE else who asserts that you can relate to, especially if that person makes you laugh. You want to act like that person. Keep that person in front of you.

We all have a little Homer inside of us. (Maybe not the best example). Act like your role model would act in the situation. Pretend to be righteously indignant. Deserving.

Aren't you?

Larry David, on Curb Your Enthusiasm is a good example. He's always asserting himself, but to a fault. He would return a torn shoe that he wore for 11 months and 28 days to Nordstrom. If you try to be like Larry you'll fall short, most definitely, of being as obnoxious as he is. You're not made of the stuff of cringe.

If you try, however, to be indignant, you'll be heard.

You don't have to be a Martin Luther King, a holy man. But we can say he inspired the idea. It was his birthday this week, and you observed it, right, so you maybe can learn from him. Have a dream. Make it so.

Once you feel a little righteous indignation, the next step is to bring out the hero and behave as righteously indignant. There is nothing to lose here.

You say, "Hey, I think you forgot to pay me for those six hours that I worked on Thursday doing inventory. When do you think you'll get to that, anyway?"

And when you do that, do you know what that other person is thinking, feeling?


Way to go. You just brought out The Cop. You'll make a great parent.

copyright 2008, therapydoc


Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I have a corollary motto-- "smile until you mean it." When I am feeling blue, or antisocial, or just blah, I want to stay in the house and impersonate a hermit. Instead, I force myself to get dressed and go out and socialize. The activity and interaction inevitable cheers me up at least a bit. Likewise for any other behavior. Acting like you are something leads people to believe you are, and you begin to believe it yourself.

therapydoc said...

And the real kicker is, you're not acting. You just think you are. You're being perfectly real.

Anonymous said...

i laugh when you say this as mine little hero who tells it how it is in my dreams is a very intelligent interesting guy i knew in college among other things....and question what if i am afraid of the cops in my dream as i dont want to know all that is going on (to me)

Jay said...

I put this to use today. Patient said "Everyone else thinks I really have it together". I said "Well, that person they see is also a part of you. It's just as real as the part of you that feels overwhelmed when you're alone". Seemed to be helpful.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, this is a really neat idea. I'm going to explore this idea further, I like the possibilities!

Curiosity Killer said...

I'm totally ok for being a beotch when it's necessary, but it's really the delivery that I fall short sometimes and sometimes resemble Larry David. Ok - assert, question, then nag. Got it. :)

Anonymous said...

(blank look)

therapydoc said...

translated it means, Yikes?

Anonymous said...

persistence is the key to getting what you want.

shrink on the couch said...

I like using "fake it til you make it" with couples. When they're trying to rekindle. Smile, act like you're having a good time and before you know it, you just might be. But this is a good reminder, to use it for building new social skills.

AnnD said...

I like this post. I should have liked it for my therapist-side but I liked it more for my Ann-side. Ann is very passive. But, I'm getting much better at being assertive. Maybe it's an age thing!

therapydoc said...

For some people, there's power and confidence, authority with aging.

But not everybody.

Liza on Maui said...

Could you have written this post for me? I like it :)

Patricia Singleton said...

"Fake it til you make it." is something that I learned in Al-Anon. That is how I learned to face my fears. Each time got easier until I wasn't faking the courage. It had become a part of me.

porcini66 said...

The more that I read your blog, the more I think that you know me from somewhere. I absolutely LOVE this idea that it isn't FAKING it! It isn't! It is simply allowing yourself the full range of emotional affects that you have inside. But for the longest time, I thought that it was phony - something that was hugely frowned upon as a child.

I know that I learned to be very, VERY careful as a child (strict, unpredictable mom, VERY strict, emotionally unavailable dad and plenty of sexual abuse all the way around...). I learned to be so careful that I never allowed any part of myself show that wasn't carefully rehearsed, planned, though out, intellectualized and theorized well ahead of time. The idea that I am simply flexing different muscles and that it's not faking is so incredibly helpful!

I've spent a while now learning to be free from the past, and I feel very blessed. Your blogs are such a grounded and healthy reminder of the tools that I have at my disposal. Thanks so much for writing...peg

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