Tuesday, 31 July 2012

96/111 - Rip It Up by Richard Wiseman

I bought this book also very recently, as it was new and on offer, and I have wanted to read some of Richard Wiseman's stuff for a while now, but have never gotten around to buying any of it. I was also quite interested in some of the ideas that it explored.

This book is part self-help and part pop-psychology, and it was really interesting and also quite difficult for me to grasp because it turns quite a lot of ideas about our behaviour and the way we feel on its head. Ordinarily, most people will go about their lives thinking that the way they think influences the way they behave and the way they feel. For example, if you want to feel happy, think happy thoughts, imagine yourself as a happy person and visualise yourself as happy, and then it will follow that you become a happy person. However, what Richard Wiseman is suggesting is that the opposite is true. If you want to be a happy person, then behave like one. If you act happy, with a spring in your step, and smiling to yourself (even if you don't feel happy) then it will follow that you feel happy and become happy.

For me, this was quite difficult to get my head around because it seems quite unnatural and even a little false. I'm not sure that I could go around smiling even though I'm not happy in order to feel happy. However, the experiments that Richard Wiseman references all show that this can be acheived. He calls if the 'as if' principle. As in, if you behave 'as if' you're happy/confident/sexy/in love/powerful, THEN you will feel that way. So you have to ACT in that way. As an example, he says that if you want to feel more confident and powerful, then act as if you are already that way. Stand up straight, clench your fist for resolve, keep your chin up and look people directly in the eye. If you behave in this way (or in a way to would think a confident person behaves) you will then feel more confident as a result. He also uses the example of actors in films who have to act as though they are in love, and then end up getting together/having affairs in real life.

I found this idea really interesting, and in the book there is a series of exercises you can use to apply this principle to your own life. I'd like to try some of them to see if it does have an effect, because if so, then it's really fucking simple and you can create whatever personality/mood for yourself that you desire. However it also seems that it could be quite difficult. At one point, he talks about how we almost have two people within us. We have one which interprets the signs around us, and we have another person which makes up a narrative about those signs. For example, am I cold because I'm shivering, or am I shivering because I'm cold? It's really difficult to understand, however it's very tempting to take on board and try.

We'll see how it goes.

I found the historical parts more interesting than the self-help-y parts, mostly because I enjoyed reading about these ideas in practice and how they turned out for the people involved. Fascinating and confusing stuff.

Next: What I Do by Jon Ronson

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