Saturday, February 8, 2014

id Whisperer

Using Haidt's model of intelligence and motivation, how can I influence my "inner elephant" to change old habit patterns?

This "inner elephant" is our inarticulate cognition that directs nearly all our activity. It handles spacial awareness, visual processing, autonomic functions, emotions, and all those things we call "unconscious". Haidt has turned my understanding on its' head. No only is my inarticulate side at least equal to my reasoning, it is running the show. Wherever my elephant heads, that is where I go. My reasoning side is left to chatter away to explain and justify my behavior. At times my reasoning may influence my judgement and intuition, but that is rare.

So if I am undertaking a new habit, I must engage my intuitive side in the process, convincing my ID that this is a useful, charming, and helpful change. It is now dazzlingly clear to me why trying to "tough through it" or beat my self in to submission has limited effect. As soon as my attention is diverted, my elephant is running away!

Also turned on its' head is my old image of ID as dark, mysterious, sexualized (thanks, Freud!) and slightly troubling in its' unknowability. An intelligent and friendly elephant I can relate to. This inexpressive side is not mysterious; it's me!

With these new revelations, might I find new ways to team up with my intuition/ID/elephant, by communicating in a language that it understands? After all, we have horse whisperers and dog whisperers who have dedicated themselves to understanding creatures with an alien and highly physical communication. I am always impressed at how quickly my daughter builds rapport with a dog, by being highly observant and providing a consistent message. Less chatter, and controlled body movements.

I have the added advantage in that I am speaking not to an alien form, but myself. My morals and judgements feel right, because they are my own.

On top of all this, affection is important. Love ourselves and all we've accomplished and give ourselves all the reassurance that new things are possible. Here's a rough list of ways I might communicate with my inner elephant.
  • Read confirming authors and have imaginary conversations with them. 
  • Write Haidt about the implications of his model to instigate permanent habit change. I would also like to describe the connection with coach Wooden's style, who instinctively taught his team that self-esteem comes from integrity. 
  • Make posters.
  • To get moving, chatter less, move more. Move the body, change the demeanor for the few crucial minutes to the new activity. I only have a few moments as my reasoning side is so disractable.
  • Afterwards, chatter, reflect after on the positive outcomes, feelings, texture of the new experience. Use a little Buddhist mindfulness to anchor the new experience. 
  • Find others of like mind for encouragement and support (mind's preference for consensus).
  • What if I am an iconoclast, forging new pathways?
  • Using my power of rhetoric, bring new converts alongside.
  • Never try and beat my will in to submission. Rather, use gentle encouragement. Recall positive outcomes in the past. 
An example:
I see a re-occurring pattern of declining energy through the week, culminating in an extra-hungry Friday, as I try to use food to increase my energy levels. What might I try to break this pattern?
  • Self-care Thursday night? But I did that with no noticeable effect.
  • I did recall the positive feelings from the increased exercise, and attempted to duplicate it by exercising at home. Three sets of stairs instead of five (my knees were making crackling noises). Ten minutes instead of twenty on the lifecycle. 
  • Dry popcorn on hand to get past the initial hunger?
  • Caffeine in the morning? Two cups of green tea?