You, are an illusion

Uppdaterad: 12 jun 2019


In the cave of Platon the reflection on the wall is a projection


In school I was never one of the physically strong guys, but there was one game where almost no one could beat me; armwrestling. Telling this story to my wife a few years ago I also told her about how I first learned that I was really good at this game. I was maybe twelve years old and at a family gathering. My uncle told me that he could teach me the secrets of armwrestling. The trick, he told me was to let go just a little bit and in this position you’re able to lock your arm until your opponent gets tired and then use all your force to win.

Naturally I asked my uncle if I could try it out on him and he agreed. I used his trick and locked my arm until I was convinced that he was tired enough. Then I made my move, using all my force and all my power to get his arm down. And I succeeded!

Telling this story to my wife I realised something for the first time. I was I child and my uncle was a strong grown man. There was no chance that I really could have beaten him. He must have let me win, but played the part so well that I was convinced. Nonetheless, being convinced gave me confidence and of course my confidence also affected the other guys in school so that I actually could beat them.


There is a saying that every person is at least 3 different people:

  • The person you imagine yourself to be

  • The person other people imagine you to be

  • The person you are


Multiply this by every person you meet and you will soon realize that there seems to be no absolute version of you, there are many different ones depending on the situation, the social context and your state of mind.


Any sentence about yourself that starts with “I” reveals your image of yourself, and rest assured that whether it is true or not, it will affect your reality. If it is a sentence that limits you it is called a limiting belief.


“I am an extrovert, I enjoy interacting with people”

“I am an introvert, so I prefer being by myself”

“I’m not the kind of person who does things on the spur of a moment”

“I am at my best under pressure”


Most personality trait statements are about an ability, and abilities can be completed and changed. There is no contradiction in being able to enjoy interacting with some people in some situations, and preferring to be alone or just observing in others. It is fully possible to switch between being task-oriented and people-oriented or analytical and focused on results. You can be great under pressure, and still learn to plan and structure things in advance.

If a statement is about your gender, size, appearance or physical properties it only describes part of you, because you are more than your physical form and shape. Whether this can be a limitation or not depends on what you do about it and in what context you do it.


When it comes to “disorders” we agree that there are many mental health conditions that can require medical intervention, especially when a person becomes a possible danger for themselves or people around them. One reason for this can be that they perceive the world very differently, and at the same time the ability to perceive the world differently is the very makings of an artist and visionary.


When the identity of a person is tied to an ability or disability it can become a limiting windshield through which the world appears. When a symptom is resolved a personality can change. We have experienced the resolution of generalized anxieties, post-traumatic stress, obsessive compulsive disorders, lifelong fear of sleeping alone, irritable bowel syndromes, phobias, chronic debilitating pains and even some allergies, often in less than 2-3 sessions. For those who experience this the question will arise “what else about myself that I thought was fixed am I able to change?”.


Any ability, trait or behaviour has to be evaluated in specific social circumstances. Our point is that besides medicating unwanted symptoms and accepting our currently most predominant personality traits, many of the underlying behaviours and triggers can be rewired and completed with more abilities. We have found that it can happen fast, and that you can do a lot of it on your own.


A test of a child’s view of themselves has been to give them a piece of paper and to ask them to draw themselves. If they draw a small person in the corner or if they fill the whole paper is thought to be an indication of how they view themselves in relation to the world. It may be, but only in that given moment. How would you draw yourself right now?


Tip: It has been shown that if we address ourselves in third person with our first name, in a situation we find challenging, it is easier to face that challenge. Instead of saying internally “I am in trouble right now, what am I going to do about it” we can say “Jane, you are in trouble now, what are you going to do about it?” or “Joe, you have an elevated heartbeat, what is that about?”.


That, is a change of behaviour that may change your behaviour.


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Institute of Behaviour Design

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