New Thought Editorials > Faking vs. Acting


Autumn 2008

Faking vs. Acting

"Assume a virtue if you have it not." "Fake it till you make it." From Shakespeare and before, on down to New Thought, we have been exhorted to be wolves in sheep’s clothing, to pretend to be something we are not but may aspire to become. Sometimes it works; sometimes the wolf becomes sheeplike. Most of the time, we revert to our former wolfish, chickenish, or piggish behavior. What makes the difference?

Psychoneuroimmunologist Nick Hall has been involved in cutting-edge research in both psychology and medicine. He is also well known as a consultant in the business world, running a ropes course for high-level executives to teach them how to handle stress and to triumph over difficult and unexpected conditions. Nick explains that what works is not faking, but acting; more specifically, Stanislavski Method acting in which the actor strives to live the part so completely that he becomes fully identified with it. Nick defines acting as "a process through which you can elicit a true emotion." Although acting is a verb, for his purposes it describes an optimal emotional state in which the desired behavior has become part of implicit memory; in other words, once installed and practiced, the new behavior has become automatic, not conscious. It can carry you through an emergency just as fire drill training can carry you through a real fire.

These newly learned behaviors can be thinking, doing, or feeling behaviors; what often matters most to us is the feeling behaviors, the emotions that need to come to the fore during tough times. We need states of consciousness that support us in "keeping on keeping on", that remind us to remain calm and God-centered, that whisper that the darkest hour is just before the dawn. We need to work in tiny increments to install these helpful states in ourselves, to take baby steps until we become proficient at walking our talk. We need the mental self-discipline to practice holding such emotional states long before we find ourselves in crisis mode.

Depth psychologist Alfred Adler was a big fan of philosopher Hans Vaihinger, specifically, of Vaihinger’s philosophy of "as if". Act as if it were impossible to fail; act as if you were already the person you seek to become; act as if your life now contained the abundant prosperity that you seek. There is a genuineness in as if that is lacking in fake. This should be starting to sound familiar: a particular state of consciousness attracts more of the same, pulls to you from the storehouse of the universe the things that you continue to hold in mind with a sense that they are already yours, as if you already possessed them. This can only work if they are not larded with little thoughts of "but this is impossible", "but it’s hopeless", "but I could never do that". You have to be bathed in the peace and joy of having what you really want, of feeling as if your dreams had already come true, or at least were definitely on order and on their way to you. How are you going to feel when the cavalry arrives and saves the fort, or the rains come and save the crops? The practicing method actor becomes the chair, the pencil, or the light bulb; becomes the character she seeks to portray. The famous husband-and-wife acting team of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne practiced by assuming their stage characters so completely that they lived their roles in their daily lives in and out of taxicabs and restaurants, much to the amusement of bystanders.

Vital though the intellect is, it cannot substitute for the emotional state. This does not mean a state of maudlin emotions; it means the pure feeling that we experience when what we want is a perfect match for what we have, when we hit the bull’s eye, win the lottery, or behave magnificently and correctly in a difficult situation. Yesss! It brings an inner state of joy, yet also one of confidence and calm, a state in which we are attuned to God’s leading and God’s wisdom. The intellect plays a vital role in gathering information and reasoning out the steps to take before we let go and let God give the increase.

It’s time we stop faking and start acting. Rehearse for success, dwell in your desired state, act as if it were already here. The Prize Patrol just rang the doorbell, and you are ready to let them in.