One of the things about Aristotle that has been bothering me lately is his negative attitude towards a lot of things. Some time back I wrote about the “helpless child syndrome“, lamenting over the fact that Aristotle appears “incapable” of doing things whenever I am around. Although we’ve managed to address that issue somewhat, I’ve noticed that his general outlook towards life is very negative.
Here’s a typical scenario with Aristotle:
Me: We’re eating at “insert name of restaurant”
Aristotle: I don’t like it.
Me: How do you know you don’t like it? You have never eaten there.
Aristotle: I know I won’t like it.
It was a similar response when I asked him to try Monster Tennis. He kept insisting that he wouldn’t enjoy himself. After a lot of cajoling, he finally went and discovered he really liked it.
I realise that certain characteristics are inherent in an individual. According to studies cited in Brain Rules for Baby, temperament is something that you cannot change – a child who is born anxious will always remain anxious. Yet, after reading The Creativity Post – You Become What You Pretend to Be – I can’t help but wonder if it is such a loss cause after all. If Salvador Dali could “pretend” to be an extrovert until he really appeared to be one, then surely some inherent characteristics can be changed.
Perhaps the case of Salvador Dali is not a good example because he made a conscious effort to change. What about an individual who has no inclination to do anything about his attitude? Well, it appears you don’t have to “believe” to change. In fact, you don’t even have to be aware of it to change. Simply altering your facial expression without conscious thought about the emotion you are feeling will suffice because the change in your posture affects your physiology. Here’s a case in point from Psychology Today:
The CIA researchers in a further experiment had one group of subjects listen to recordings of top comedians and look at a series of cartoons while holding a pen pressed between their lipsBan action that makes it impossible to smile. Another group held a pen between their teeth which had the opposite effect and made them smile.
The people with the pen between their teeth rated the comedians and cartoons much funnier than the other group. What’s more, neither group of subjects knew they were making expressions of emotion. Amazingly, an expression you do not even know you have can create an emotion you did not choose to feel. Emotion doesn’t just go from the inside out. It goes from the outside in.
That gives me hope. If I simply told Aristotle to smile even though he didn’t feel like it, he would give me 101 reasons why he couldn’t smile. But if I made him do something that resulted in a smile without him being aware of it… ah, now that could work.