Friday, February 12, 2010

Diplacement Theory

Over the past week or so, we've been digging into the basics of the Option philosophy and it's application to unhappiness. Option is a moving-away from method. We start with whatever it is we're unhappy about, we look it straight in the eye, we take it apart and ferret out the root belief that is causing it, and then we change the belief. All of this is based on moving away from unhappiness, not moving towards happiness. Option is quite effective at this.

Another approach to unhappiness is to simply conduct activities and pursue beliefs that make us happy. We humans have a great advantage over the gods in that we're finite. In order to do any one thing, we have to give up some other thing. Believe it or not, even our unhappiness is finite in nature. Every ounce of unhappiness is an ounce less of something else; every ounce of something else is an ounce less of unhappiness. We can view happiness and unhappiness as a zero-sum game; in the end it all nets out.

Now all you foo-foo types who see happiness as endless, limitless and infinite, just hold on for a minute. Viewing happiness and unhappiness as finite (as a trade-off) is good news. Because they're both finite, we can eradicate unhappiness simply by displacing it with happiness.

Right Tool for the Job
One of the things I've talked about before is the phenomenon of, "If all you have is a hammer, then every challenge looks like a nail."

This phenomenon occurs quite frequently among those of us who enthusiastically put into practice the Option philosophy. Option is great for isolating and breaking down our beliefs that cause unhappiness and then rebuilding them in a way that no longer causes unhappiness. However, Option is not particularly good at making happiness bigger. If you want to displace unhappiness rather than breaking it down, you'll need another tool.

Specificity and Generalization
The reason Option is not particularly good at making happiness bigger is that, by design, Option makes things smaller. The lynch pins that hold Option together are clarity and specificity. We start with a big unhappiness and we break it down into smaller and smaller parts driving towards clarity and specificity. While the big aggregate unhappiness is difficult to get your arms around, the tiny components are much easier to manage.

This is the essence of what makes Option work. All the rest (the questions, the model of stimulus-belief-response) are just a framework to help us get to clarity and specificity.

However, making things smaller doesn't work very well if your goal is to actually make something bigger. That's why, if you've ever tried to use the Dialogue to build up happiness (optimism, positive outlook), it probably hasn't worked very well: certainly not in its pure form.

So, if you want to use displacement as a way to become happier, then you'll want to use something other than Option to do it.

Playing to Your Strengths
The approach to making happiness bigger is basically inverted. Start with something small that you really love, that you really want to do, that makes you happy, but that you don't do or feel you can't do. Call up some positive beliefs about what you want to do and make them bigger. Since specificity breaks down beliefs making them smaller, specificity isn't the way to go. Instead, you want to become more general in order to expand your beliefs.

Now, if you're good at unhappiness, you're undoubtedly good a vague generalizations. I just know that you've said things like, "Sigh... I'll never get past this" or "Why does this always happen just when I'm..." or "I must be the world's worst..." If you're an unhappiness aficionado then using vague generalities should come completely naturally.

All you have to do is re-target your generalizations from your unhappiness producing beliefs to your happiness producing beliefs. Rather than deciding to believe that you could probably lose a few pounds someday, maybe... decide that you're going to become the healthiest most fit person in the world. Rather than trying to get over your self-consciousness and fear of making presentations, decide that you're going to be the absolute best speaker and presenter in your entire company. Making your beliefs big, bold and general is the essence of becoming positive, optimistic and happy.

Since we're displacing unhappiness, once you've come up with your big, bold, generalized happiness fueling beliefs, spend at least as much time thinking, writing and talking about them as you did your unhappiness fueling beliefs.

Once you've built up some really big, generalized positive beliefs about what you want to do, you can bring specificity back into play in order to discern how to get from point A to point B. Remember, if you want to break things down into easy manageable chunks, Option is great and specificity is the key.

However, here's the kicker. As you get small and specific in terms of your action plan, you want stay big and general in regard to your beliefs. You want to dig into the nitty-gritty details of how to get where you want to go while maintaining really inspiring generalizations of how easy, wonderful and great it's all going to be.

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