Faking Positive Emotion?

What are fake positive emotions?

There are those who are concerned with faking positive emotions.  I guess that faking positive emotion means that when you are not feeling positive and you act like you are “just fine,” then you are faking.  I do that all the time because most of the time when people ask me, “how are you?” they don’t really care and are just being polite. So I say, “just fine.”  So do you.

There are, for sure, times when faking positive emotion is not good for you.  You have to decide when that is.  The most significant time that you don’t want to fake positive emotions is with yourself. You don’t want to fool yourself into believing that you feel something that you don’t, so knowing your own emotions and then deciding what you want to do with them is very important.

There are studies that show that one’s own non-verbal behavior not only communicates to others, but it communicates most to ourselves.  How we are behaving can directly affect how we are feeling about ourselves.

There are a lot of times when I behave on the outside differently than how I feel on the inside.  If I didn’t I couldn’t ever get through boring meetings and superficial cocktail parties.  I pretend and fake a lot of times because the people around me don’t need to be subject to my negative feelings.  I am polite when I would like to tell people to “take a hike.”  I am courteous to those who don’t deserve it.  I smile and try to be nice to people who aren’t so nice, even when I don’t feel it.  So do you if you learn and practice a degree of civility in your life.

I do these things because I have decided that my negative feelings aren’t going to rule my world.  I also know that there is great power in “fake it till you make it.”

I have learned that “being real” isn’t letting every negative feeling I have hang out in everybody’s presence.  Moods do not rule me and I have learned that I have the power to change them, even the power to keep from getting into them in the first place.

We have a tendency to think that if we have negative feelings, that these are the REAL feelings.  That is not true.  Negative feelings can come from many things including genetics, a limbic system designed millions and millions of years ago to get us out of danger, and from the ways we grew up experiencing how those around us handled difficult situations.

Positive emotions aren’t fake just because we have decided to use them instead of giving into and acting out every negative emotion.

Like everything else, positive emotions have to be learned.  We have learned with every minor and major trauma in our lives to feel positive emotion less and less.  It takes an active practice to learn to use positive emotion whether we have a reason to or not.

It is not necessary to deny a negative feeling in order to use a positive emotion.  In fact, a negative feeling can be a cue to practice feeling a positive emotion.  A lot of time, when I feel negative emotion, I use it as a cue to go to gratitude.  Many people have learned to go to a negative emotion as their default setting. Don’t let that happen to you.  You have a choice.

Each morning I spend time feeling five emotions: gratitude, peace, hope, joy and love.  I don’t only “think” them, but I “feel” them each for 2 minutes. In doing so, I tell my brain to go there during the day.  More and more these emotions become a default setting.  On a scale of 1-10, if 10 is big, these emotions aren’t always big, but they are always present on some level as a kind of default setting.  Because I have called these emotions into being doesn’t make them “fake.”  Rather, it makes them a predominant choice in my life.

We can lose the capacity to feel positive emotion because we leave it to the events of life to tell us when we can or should feel them.  You can feel positive emotion anytime you wish, on command and immediately, if you have practiced yourself there, and it’s not fake.

We have a gym of hundreds of exercises for shaping, toning, and growing positive emotional muscle.  It’s called the Emotional Gym and it builds strong positive emotional muscle with immediacy. You do not need a reason to feel joy, and you are not being fake when you decide to feel joy rather than to wallow in your own negative emotion and make others miserable as well.

Positive emotion is learned –not just when you were a kid, but it is continuously learned as an adult– a young adult, a mid-life adult, a senior adult. It is never too late to learn to use positive emotion “at will.”  

There is nothing fake about it, and “fake it till you make it” is a wise discipline of civility and personal growth.

About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute