Teaching people to be beautiful and strong
How to teach people to be beautiful and strong – by Mark Tyrrell
We're all beautiful, are we not? Well, er... no, actually.
Like it or not, there are universal standards for male and female beauty. And - most unfairly - standard notions of 'attractiveness' may be hardwired in the brain. It's been found that even very young babies tend to stare longer at faces widely considered attractive by adults. (1)
But it gets worse! Beautiful and handsome types get preferential treatment. From the courtroom, where the beautiful people are deemed more honest and trustworthy, to the movies, where the handsome and pretty are portrayed as braver and more determined than the rest of us.
Many of us (despite protesting loudly that it's wrong) will still attribute positive characteristics, such as intelligence and honesty, to physically attractive people. Without even realizing that this is what we are doing.(2)
Tall men and slim women earn more money.(3) Well-muscled men have more sexual partners. (4)
Appearance shouldn't matter so much. But it does.
Inner beauty is more important!
But we're all beautiful on the inside. Aren't we?
Well, to tell the truth, I don't really know what that means. But it sounds... good.
'Inner beauty' is a phrase constantly tossed about in self help manuals and on chat shows. We all nod and agree that this is what really matters. As we've been trained to do.
Except that no one tells us what this 'inner beauty' actually is. I guess it means qualities like determination, kindness and wisdom. Which are certainly very nice qualities.
But other than blindly repeating platitudes about inner comeliness, how can we genuinely help people feel the confidence that true physical attractiveness inspires?
You should see my avatar!
You might find this hard to believe. But it makes perfect sense:
If you have an online avatar (a virtual representation of the physical you) such as people have in interactive games like Second Life, how that avatar looks can affect not only how confidently you behave in the game but also how confidently youfeel and behave in the real world. (5)
It seems that when we feel attractive and/or physically powerful, we will feel - and therefore act -as if we are (even if we aren't).
And that, in turn, will affect how other people respond to you. This is not just kowtowing to the culture of appearance. It's using it.
It's about getting people to;
- experience what it feels like to feel physically attractive or powerful
- transfer those feelings of confidence to their everyday life.
In this way the short can feel and act 'tall' and the less conventionally attractive can get to feel beautiful.
It's been found that other players in virtual reality games give beautiful and tall (especially tall male) avatars special treatment. (6)
So how can you use this for clients?
Using virtual reality in therapy
The great news is that we all have access to our very own virtual reality. It's called hypnosis.
We can help our clients inhabit their inner hypnotic avatars by;
Asking them to describe how they'd like to feel in a given situation then how that feeling would make them look.
Hypnotically rehearse them looking and feeling that way in the situation.
For example, one woman who was being bullied at work wanted to go into the office feeling 'ten feet tall'. Hypnotically experiencing this was, for her, a revelation.
Helping them hypnotically temporarily inhabit and become someone whose appearance they admire for the duration of a situation they've found difficult.
One woman imagined being Audrey Hepburn on an upcoming date she was nervous about. A young boy imagined being a much-revered muscular action hero in anxiety-provoking times at school.
Then suggest they can keep all the 'inside qualities' of that person.
Beauty may be only skin deep - but we can use it to go deeper.
(1) Rhodes, G. (2006). "The evolutionary psychology of facial beauty". Annual Review of Psychology 57: 199-226.
(2) Dion, K.; Berscheid, E.; Walster, E. (1972). "What is beautiful is good." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 24 (3): 285-290.
(3) The study, carried out by London Guildhall University, found that short men and plain or overweight women are taking home thousands of pounds less in their pay packets than their colleagues. This study was extracted from the wider National Child Development Study which tracks the lives of 17,733 people.
(4) William D. Lassek, Steven J.C. Gaulin, 'Costs and benefits of fat-free muscle mass in men: relationship to mating success, dietary requirements, and native immunity.' Journal of Evolution & Human Behavior 30 (5) 322-328.
(5) N.J, Yee, J. Bailenson, N. Ducheneaut, 'The Proteus Effect: Implications of Transformed Digital Self-Representation on Online and Offline Behaviour.' Human Communication Research 36 (2009): 285-312.
(6) N.J, Yee and others : 'The unbearable likeness of being digital: The persistence of Non Verbal Social Norms in Online Virtual Environments.' CyberPsychology and Behaviour 10 (2007): 115-21.
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