How can we use experiments to challenge the ego trap?

Making a big lifestyle change can come with a lot of trial and error and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But the fear of failing, and in particular failing publicly, stops many of us from even trying.

How can we overcome this huge obstacle?

Hear from Dr. Doug Lisle as he explains the concept of the “ego trap” and how you can use experiments to challenge it, test the waters and observe the changes for yourself. He also reveals an important mindset to have for a successful experiment.

 

Transcript

Dr. Doug Lisle:

The big use of the whole concept of experiment is a very direct and open challenge to the ego trap. So the ego trap is the feeling that I’m not so sure I can do this. And it would be reasonably expected by my village that I could, but I’m not so sure that I can. And even if I do this, I’m not so sure that it’s going to work. So therefore I’m going to opt-out of this thing. So the ego trap is a very insidious anti-achievement force inside human affairs. It’s, you know, it’s basically, it seems evil, but the truth of the matter is it’s necessary in order to have people not do things that could cause them great embarrassment and sadness loss in the village. This is why guys don’t go up to the cute girl at the dance and ask them to dance.

You know, the bold good-looking guys that, you know, have asked her last week and they went, they said, yes, they will do so somebody will. But the truth is, is that there’s going to be a lot of boys at that dance that aren’t going to do that. And they’d like to, but they’re not going to do it. Why? Because if they ask are likely to get rejected and that they get rejected, it’s going to be seen, it’s going to be seen. It’s embarrassing. It’s a status loss. Okay. The very same thing is true about why, your fancy co-ed in your English class won’t submit a poem for a contest. Okay. Same thing, ego trap. So the ego trap is a very potent force to try to stop us from doing things where we don’t think we’re going to be successful, but the world would reasonably think that we would be, and thereby we evade the possible status loss of failure.

This is a pretty serious business. It’s a major force in human affairs. It’s underappreciated by the world. The only large-scale attack on the ego trap as a concept has come from Carol Dweck with mindset theory. And quite frankly, she doesn’t understand the dynamic very well. Although, she has some intuition about it, but her interventions are not effective. Okay. The, so what this is, so it’s a little different than she thinks. She thinks of it as a mindset. It’s not a mindset. This is status defense. That’s what it is. This is not an internal mindset. No, this is a social, psychological phenomenon about worrying about the status that I’m going to lose. If I’m not able to do something when other people would reasonably think that I would do it if they knew I was up to it. So if they are observing that I’m in a direct ego trap, if they are imaginary observers of my efforts, i.e. I’m supposed to be running an experiment on doing a new diet, but you’re, you are aware with the notion of an internal audience that you are being watched.

So whether or not anybody else is watching or not, and your internal audience has the expectations of your performance, that would be consistent with your, your estimate of what you think other people would think you were capable of doing. So your internal audience is effectively your village. It’s your sister and brother-in-law and your husband and your teenage son about what they would think you would be able to do if you decided that you were going to try to do this. And if you would think that they would think that you should be able to do it, if you try then that is the bar that your internal audience expects. Meanwhile, you may have a different part of your brain, which we’re going to call you. You may believe that you are not so likely to be successful. So as a result, the bar is actually set too high.

And so the ego trap now runs the cost-benefit analysis and says, we’re not doing this. Wait till tomorrow. We’ll think about it then. Okay? The concept of an experiment is to try to attack that paradigm by saying, we don’t know whether or not this is going to be worth doing. We don’t know if we’re going to be successful. We don’t, we’re basically telling the village, I don’t know if I’m capable of this or not. And I don’t know if I’m going to find that it’s worth it or not. I’m just going to take a look at this to try to get some more information and see what I can learn. That is almost by definition, Carol Dweck’s growth mindset. So that’s what she tries to get conveyed. But what she’s not understanding is what we’re fighting is we’re fighting the threat of status loss.

She sort of knows that, but doesn’t have, doesn’t have it accurately identified. So that’s why we have the concept of experiments. So the reason why you talk yourself out of the experiments is usually going to be ego trap. Okay? So, so that, that’s why, when we look at this, this is your adaptive unconscious, not quite buying into the entire spirit of the ego trap of the entire ego trap process and experiment, because then you’re, it’s sniffing a latent expectation that is out there that is higher than we care to challenge. So my attitude is sooner or later, we have to suffer enough, okay? About whatever self-indulgent or self-destructive thing we’re doing, we have to suffer enough that one day, our mind says, okay, it’s time we try, okay? You know, if some young guy so embarrassed to ask girls to dances, and he goes to every dance, his sophomore year, he goes to 25 dances and never asked anybody.

And he goes to 25 more, his junior year doesn’t ask anybody. Sooner or later in that senior year, the time, his clock ticking down on him, like, are you really going to go over 75, these three years? Somewhere in there, it’s like, Hey, what do we have to lose finally? Okay. And he may get cornered in by that set of pressures where finally his internal audience says, Hey, we don’t know what the heck’s going to happen. Just try and we’ll live with the result, whatever it is. So sooner or later, when you are finding yourself, failing out of experiments, there could be multiple reasons, but the most likely reason is that your adaptive unconscious has adopted as its internal audiences stance that it expects you to be successful and use this experiment as a ruse to pay the golden brick road to outstanding performance for the rest of your life.

That is oftentimes what is sitting there. Okay. And I want to directly talk people out of that. I want to change the nature of what you are seeking when we run experiments. So let me explain the subtle and important and critical shift in the nature of experiments that I devise. I am not out to have people find out how good it feels for you to do this and how much weight you actually lose if you go for 30 days and walk, forget it. I’m not interested. What I’m interested in you discovering is the nature of your own self-esteem mechanism and how it works. That’s really important. Self-esteem mechanism is the interaction between your internal audience and your esteem meter.

The esteem meter is a device that senses what other people think of you and causes you to have feelings as a result. Okay? So when other people send you compliments that look authentic, it feels good because you feel happy and accepted, when they send you insults that look like they’re, you know, in some way, however those are sent, you feel defensive, angry, rejected, and you might feel depressed that depending upon what the circumstances are. So, good feelings come from acceptance, and positive feedback, bad feelings come from rejection and negative feedback.

Reasonable. It’s just like burning your hand on the stove versus a scoop of peanut butter. One of them is a positive thing for your survival, one of them’s a negative thing and your emotional responses are nothing other than analogous dependent pleasure with respect to mostly with respect to esteem processes, interpersonal processes between people so that the self-esteem mechanism is the mechanism whereby the internal audience sends signals to the esteem, mater not other people. So the internal audience exists as a virtual reality device to help guide your efforts, to try to orchestrate behavior patterns that are likely to be successful when other people actually see them.

So your internal audiences, this is like Santa Claus. You know, it knows when you’ve been sleeping and awake and it knows whether you’ve been bad or good, it’s watching you. It effectively, in many instances, it’s effectively your conscience or a moral assessment device.

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