wellbeing-brand-logo

Inspired living

Self-psychotherapy can give better advice


Man in consultation with therapist

Credit: iStock

They say you will see it when you believe it but how transformative is the power of the mind really? Could you, for instance, transcend your everyday level of understanding and insight just by visualising yourself as one of humanity’s great thinkers? That is what a new study set out to test and the results may surprise you.

Whatever we now think of many of his theories, Sigmund Freud still stands as the father of psychoanalysis and most people would be aware of who he is and what he stands for. In this study subjects were asked to wear high-tech virtual reality devices (a headset and sensors) and were immersed in a virtual room where there was a duplicate representation of themselves along with Sigmund Freud. The subjects could alternately be in the avatar representing their own body or in the body of Sigmund Freud. The movements of the avatars were perfectly synchronised with the subject’s real movements which produced a powerful illusion of embodiment.

In the first phase of each the subject was her or his self and described a psychological problem to Freud. Then the subject immediately entered Freud’s “body” and replied to his/her self giving advice. The subject returned to their own body to hear the advice which was their own voice but delivered in a lower pitch. This exchange could go on for as many turns as the subject desired.

All in all this suggests that at some level, when you really believe that you are someone else, it is as if you "channel" that person and can become possessed of understanding applicable to that person and beyond your normal level.

Then in another experiment Freud was not involved and the subject just asked and answered questions of themselves.

By comparing the two experiments the researchers found that people gave themselves much better advice as Sigmund Freud than they did when they were themselves. This benefit however was almost completely eliminated when the body movements were not synchronised with those of the avatar.

All in all this suggests that at some level, when you really believe that you are someone else, it is as if you “channel” that person and can become possessed of understanding applicable to that person and beyond your normal level. Maybe it is not so much channelling Sigmund that is happening here but for a moment getting away from your own limiting beliefs about what you know.

Of course, achieving the level of embodiment of this experiment is not easily done but imagine if we could all talk to ourselves as Jung, Gandhi, Mother Teresa or any other wise soul for a while; what might we achieve then?



 

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.