Post No.: 0050
A key thing to understand about human psychology is that, because of the brain’s cognitive ‘associative machinery’ and the way it works with links and associations – correlation is intuitively treated the same as causation for our system one (our fast, automatic, effortless subconscious or unconscious intuitions). In psychology, cause and effect are often bi-directional.
This is a problem when we intuitively confuse correlation with causation in many contexts but in some contexts it can be exploited to our furry advantage – to feel happy, do as happy people do e.g. we smile when we feel happy and can feel happy when we smile, we care about what we love and tend to love what we care about, we’re generous when we feel grateful and can feel grateful when we’re generous, we accept the things we like and tend to like the things we accept, and we attend to the present when we feel secure and comfortable about the past, present and future and can feel secure and comfortable about the past, present and future when we attend to the present.
This instinct can be exploited to our fuzzy disadvantage too though e.g. things that are the part look the part but things that merely look the part can be erroneously believed to be the part too, we may forbid what we desire and can desire what is simply forbidden, or when we do work we get paid for it but a hobby can start to feel like work (as in less fun) if we start to get paid for doing it.
So psychologically, ‘cause’ causes ‘effect’, and often ‘effect’ can cause ‘cause’ too. For instance, happy people are kinder, and kind people are happier; the same with thankfulness, cooperativeness, sociability and feeling/being energetic – all are effects of happiness, as well as causes of happiness. And because of ‘associative coherence’, we rationalise our actions and decisions to make them coherent with our intentions and feelings to alleviate any ‘cognitive dissonance’ (thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and/or actions that are inconsistent or contradictory with each other) e.g. if we autonomously cooperate with someone, we’ll rationalise that it must be because we like them (or at least don’t dislike them); or if we’re smiling, we’ll rationalise that it must be because we’re happy. We can therefore intentionally exploit our own system one associative machinery in a positive and powerful way! Woof!
Although again, this can be exploited to our (or at least society’s) disadvantage too e.g. if we neglected someone unintentionally then we may rationalise afterwards that they didn’t deserve it anyway – rationalisations for performing immoral acts that cheats know are immoral can help cheats to sleep at night (e.g. rationalisations like ‘if I didn’t do it to them then they would’ve done it to me’ or ‘everyone’s probably doing it anyway’)!
Our present state of mind greatly affects how we evaluate our overall happiness in general so fake it to make it – smile if you want to feel happy (the ‘facial feedback effect’). Cognition is embodied – we think with our bodies, not only with our brains e.g. we smile, which reinforces our happiness, or we recoil, which reinforces our disgust. So ‘effect’ can often psychologically cause ‘cause’ and then reinforce the ‘effect’ in feedback. Of course don’t grin maniacally – unless that is how you naturally smile when you’re happy(!) Walk with an upright posture to feel young, or walk with a slump if you want to feel old.
These smiles and positive body language can also make others react to you better, thus improving your happiness levels further (or more genuinely if you like). It should be pretty obvious that people are more likely to be kinder and nicer to someone who smiles. Happiness can be contagious, leading to a positive feedback effect amongst a group. (A caveat is that hanging around happy people when one isn’t happy can be counterproductive if one engages in social comparisons i.e. in this case, thinking that one must be defective or something bad for not being happy when everyone else seems to be happy.)
So although (outside of our minds or if we give something more slow, effortful system two thought) correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation – because of the way our brains work, correlation is essentially treated as causation to our fast system one intuitions (e.g. if we’re financially comfortable or grateful then we may give to charity, and if we give to charity then we can affirm or confirm our relatively comfortable financial position and gratefulness). We also rationalise our behaviours to make them coherent with our intentions and feelings to relieve any cognitive dissonance (e.g. if we smile then we rationalise that it must be because we’re happy).
So in this context of happiness and psychology – fake it to make it :D!