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The As-If Principle

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  1. What is the as-if principle?
  2. All four methods of archetypal field-work are based upon the as-if principle.
  3. What happens when we use the as-if principle?  
  4. We can use the as-if principle in many ways.

What is the as-if principle? This principle says that we can create outer circumstances by acting "as if" they are already real; for example, we can be happy by acting as if we are happy. While the principle might seem to be based on superficial, "magical" reasoning, it does have some validity when it is used in accordance with the dynamics of spirit, archetypes, and archetypal fields.

All four methods of archetypal field-work are based upon the as-if principle. These are not four separate phenomena; they are part of our overall experience within a unified archetypal field which encompasses our thoughts, images, energy tones, and actions.

  1. In the as-if principle, we commit particular actions, "as if" they are our natural, spontaneous behaviors.
  2. In self-talk, we generate particular thoughts, "as if" they are our natural, spontaneous thoughts.
  3. In energy toning, we generate particular energy tones, "as if" they are our natural, spontaneous emotions and feelings.
  4. In directed imagination, we generate particular images, "as if" they are the natural, spontaneous images of our imagination.

What happens when we use the as-if principle?

  1. We implant new elements into our archetypal field. When we act as if, we are not merely "going through the motions" as though we are a physical machine; instead, we are being creative in all aspects of the archetypal field -- generating not only the physical motions, but also the thoughts, images, and energy tones which correspond to that physical action. These elements are implanted into the archetypal field, so that the mind can use them as a reference when the archetypal situation occurs again and the mind asks itself; "How do I tend to respond in this type of situation?" For example, if we act as if we are confident in an archetypal "challenging situation," the thoughts, images, energy tones, and physical habits of confidence will be available to be used as the mind's reference points when we are in another "challenging situation." In that example of "courage," the elements might include:
    • Thoughts that "I do my best in every situation" and "I am capable of handling challenges" and "life supplies me with the resources to prevail because I am doing what life's intuition is guiding me to do" and "I enjoy the stimulation when I am in challenging situations" and "I am successful because I allow life to direct me and empower me."
    • An energy tone of courage and expansiveness rather than fear.
    • Visual images of ourselves standing brave and dignified. These images might derive from:
      • Our directed imagination. We visualized a fictitious scenario in which we were brave.
      • Actual sensory data which we recorded as memories during the occasions when we were courageous.

  2. We create physical effects. While we are acting-as-if, we are literally creating the environment of the person whom we are pretending to be; for example, if we are acting as if we are a responsible person, we are paying our bills, flossing our teeth, and fulfilling our other obligations. Thus, in the physical realm of life, we truly are the responsible person who is depicted in these observable behaviors. (Of course, this is an incomplete view of ourselves; beneath the observable behaviors, we might have many contrary thoughts, emotions, images, and other psychological forces.) In this sense, the as-if principle transcends methodology; instead of using techniques and therapies as intermediary steps to change us into a particular type of person, we simply proceed to "be" that type of person immediately.
  3. We create psychological effects. We might generally believe that our psychological processes cause our behaviors; in other words, we act a particular way because we are thinking particular thoughts, or because we are experiencing a particular emotion. However, to some extent, the reverse is also true: if we commit a particular action, the physiology tends to generate corresponding thoughts, imagery, and energy tones; this phenomenon occurs because our psychological phenomena and our outer conditions are all part of the same archetypal field in which the elements resonate with one another regardless of whether they are "outer" or "inner" elements. (In Unlimited Power, Tony Robbins says, "If you change your physiology -- that is, your posture, breathing patterns, muscle tension, facial expressions, gestures, movements, words, vocal tonality -- you instantly change your internal representations and your state.") For example:
    • We are happy, and so we smile. However, the reverse also occurs: we smile, and so we are happy -- because smiling literally increases blood-flow to the brain.
    • We are alert, and so we have good posture. But if we are not alert, and we arrange our body-parts into good posture, we tend to become more alert -- because of, again, increased blood-flow to the brain (and perhaps other factors, such as the reduced amount of stress in the spine).
    • In experiments, psychologists discovered that emotions might indeed be associated with particular body positions. In these experiments, the psychologists asked people to generate an emotion such as fear and to move into a position which depicted fear (perhaps with a protective "cringe"). When the people were asked to stay in the "fear" position while generating other moods (e.g., happiness or love), they had difficulty in creating those moods from that position.
    • Physical disciplines are used in some religious paths to generate particular states of consciousness. Those paths include hatha yoga, tantra, and others. In many religions, we kneel to express (and invoke) humility when we pray.
    • If we may accept anecdotal evidence from the musical play, The King and I, we can note that the character "whistles a happy tune" when she is afraid. And then she discovers that she is no longer afraid.
  4. We create physiological effects. As stated previously, the physiological effects can include blood-flow (when we smile, and when we have good posture); the effects reciprocate in a cycle with the psychological effects, such that our smiling makes us happy, and our happiness makes us smile. Depending upon the type of actions which we commit when we act as-if, we also affect our heart rate, breathing rate, metabolism, muscle tension, and other factors. For example, if we act as if we are relaxed, our muscles tend to relax.

We can use the as-if principle in many ways.

  1. We can perform the new behaviors. We commit the physical actions of the character whom we want to be (while we generate the corresponding thoughts, images, and energy tones).
  2. We can change our physical appearance. To create an outer image which more-accurately expresses our true self, we might alter our clothing (e.g., wearing tailored clothing instead of tattered blue jeans), our jewelry, our hairstyle (perhaps with a wig or a beard), etc. Women can experiment with their makeup, accessories, etc.
  3. We can change our lifestyle. We can change our hobbies, our recreation, our choice of food, our career, our selection of friends, etc.
  4. We can change our personal physical environment. As-iffing encompasses more than just our behaviors; we also create the environment of this new person. This environment can include our home decor (e.g., furniture, carpeting, wall decorations, knick-knacks, etc.), our neighborhood (i.e., moving to a better part of town), etc. We select these objects as though we are an actor selecting props for a play.
  5. We can select different environments when we leave our personal physical environment. When we go out for entertainment and recreation, we might, for example, buy theatre tickets instead of football tickets, if the environment of a theatre suits our new as-if identity.
  6. We can change our speech. We adopt the speech patterns which express our new self. These patterns include our vocabulary (particularly our jargon and slang), our accent (such that we might discard the Texas drawl which is not appropriate for our new image), our speech rhythms (which can be faster or slower), the pitch of our voice (which can be higher or lower), our non-verbal "speech" as expressed in our body language and our hand-gestures, and other factors in our communication.
  7. We can acquire the skills which are required in the portrayal of our new character:
    • Personality traits. For example, when we act as if we are a confident person, we might register for a public-speaking class to practice our as-if behaviors.
    • Social skills. For example, if we want to act as if we are in a particular group of people, we learn that group's etiquette, jargon, and social rituals.
    • Technical skills. For example, to act as if we are a member of a group, we might need to learn how to play golf, or how to ride a horse.
    • Specialized knowledge. For example, the group might expect us to be knowledgeable regarding classical music and fine wines.
  8. We can do some role-playing. These scenarios can be enacted in various forms:
    • Real-life situations. We might spend an afternoon in an environment where no one knows us, and thus no one can "correct" us: "Why are behaving that way? That's not you (i.e., 'that's not the behavior which I traditionally associate with you')." As we play the role of our new self, our actions are not an autonomous, solo performance in some type of vacuum; instead, we need to participate fully in this new character -- responding to people and situations as if we truly are the person whom we are portraying.
    • Cooperative situations with friends. We can tell our friends that we are changing ourselves, so that they will not be surprised or confused by our new behavior; on the contrary, we can ask them to support us by responding to us as if we are the person who is represented by the role which we are enacting. For example, if we want to act as if we are a generally happy person, and we react to situations with our soul's natural joie de vivre, our friends will say, "Yes, there are many things to be happy about; I enjoy sharing my time with someone who likes to see the positive side of life." (Of course, a true friendship does not demand that we are always exhibiting any particular trait such as happiness, but friends do try to elicit pleasant traits in one another.)
    • Scripts. We can acquire scripts from a play or movie or television program, and then play the role of a character whose qualities we want to practice in ourselves; our friends can play the other roles. (Scripts are available at libraries and on the internet.) Instead of using a written script, we can simply mimic a character whose traits we want to cultivate; we would follow along with the television program (or the video), repeating the character's actions, words, imagery, and energy tones.
    • Fun activities. We can explore other roles at various social events:
      • Costume parties. These events include Halloween parties, Mardi Gras, etc.
      • Computer environments. "In cyberspace, no one knows that you are a dog," according a well-known cartoon (from The New Yorker?). People play make-believe in chat groups (where no one knows whether we truly are the millionaire whom we claim to be) and in computer games (in which we can be a military hero or a villainous monster).
      • Children's games. In a structured game or in spontaneous play, kids pretend to be Superman, or a cowboy, or another type of person.
      • Fantasy games. For example, we can be a wizard in "Dungeons and Dragons."
      • Sexual role-playing. To add some spice to our as-iffing, we can enact our new role in a sexual scenario. For excitement and novelty, many couples do some imaginative role-playing; for example, they might arrange to meet at a bar and pretend not to know one another. In their adopted persona, they meet, talk, seduce one another, and go home for a wild fling with this "stranger." For as-iffing, we can select a trait which we want to develop, and then fit it into a character who will go to our home as a stranger where our spouse will greet us as though we are that character; we can say that we are there to repair an appliance, or take a survey, or sell a product. We practice our as-iffing while these two strangers gradually change the scenario from a business encounter to a sexual one.

  9. We can use rituals. In some rituals, we act as if we have a quality which we want to have.
  10. We allow the new character to take on a life of its own. At first, we are self-consciously enacting an alien role -- carefully choosing our words, images, energy tones, and actions. But as we become comfortable with this character, it starts to become "real" to us; it becomes who we really are. Now, instead of moving this character as if it is a marionette, we allow it to express its own organic logic.


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