Bullshit slogan of the day:
Fake it ’till you make it
Translation: Go against your basic instinct to avoid what seems like a lot of crazy, religious hocus pocus. As ridiculous as this nonsense appears now, stick around and you will soon fall into the role of a proper AA.
One of the more common persuasion tactics used by an old-timer, is to use him or herself as an example of someone who ‘thought they knew it all’, failed, and eventually came to see the light. Example:
“Yeah, I was a lot like you. I didn’t want to do these things, either. I thought I knew it all, and those who had been there before me were stupid – and guess what? I failed, and I failed because I didn’t want it badly enough. Not until I decided to do whatever it takes to sober up, did I start to change. So I held my nose, followed the program, and soon I ‘got it’, and it started making sense. Do you think you are different? Do you think you are special? Hell, maybe you are, but I doubt it. Until you decide to do whatever it takes, like I did, you are going to wind up in the same place. You don’t like what we are telling you? Fine. Do it anyway. It doesn’t have to all make sense to you now. Eventually you’ll get it.”
The key in mind manipulation is to make sure there is a captive subject, and a problem in AA is that most people will leave the group within a short time period. Fake it ’til you make it is simply a stall tactic designed to give the newly recruited alkie time to “get it”, and “getting it” does not mean a person comes to greater understanding of what the dogma means. “Getting” AA is simply overlooking certain realities, which is essential in maintaining the cognitive dissonance necessary to advance in the program.
In literary terms, it is called “suspension of disbelief”, but it can – and is – applied to all of our real lives. I was at a Blue Jays vs Red Sox game a couple of days ago, and toward the end of the game, while my team (the Sox) was losing, I did what any rational baseball fan would do — I turned my ball cap inside out. So did the other Red Sox fans sitting around me, and I listened to a guy behind me (a Blue Jay fan) explain to his girlfriend the the use of a “rally cap”. To her, it was ridiculous, but to him it made absolute sense, and I’m fairly certain that if our roles would have been reversed, and his team was losing, he would have been sitting there wearing his own rally cap. I am both a baseball fan and rational person, and nobody – nobody – is going to dissuade me of the idea that a rally cap is effective; or, that it looks stupid. I’ve been conditioned through years of baseball watching to see its power, and to ignore the times when it doesn’t work. Sitting next to me was my wife, who a few years earlier I had to beg to put on her rally cap for the very first time, back when we were dating and she was just learning to be a fan. She thought, like that gal who was sitting behind us last weekend, that it was stupid. Now, she “gets it”, and if our team is down late in the game, her rally cap goes on without a word from me. Sitting with an inside-out cap on feels dumb at first (unlike the 12-steps, it actually helps to be drunk at the time), but with time it becomes as natural as spewing out an AA slogan. A rally cap is as much a part of baseball as the taboo of telling a pitcher he is throwing a no-hitter (which jinxes him), and if you get caught telling a pitcher he is throwing a no-no, and he gives up a hit, the other members of the team will blame you for the hit – and they will believe it.
Human beings can be persuaded and conditioned into believing some crazy things. More often than not, when an AA is persuading a newbie to believe in something, they aren’t being disingenuous, even if they considered what they are now preaching bullshit in the first place. One of the more well known psychological experiments was the Milgram experiment, in which participants were persuaded to give an increasingly higher voltage shock to people who they believed had a heart condition. This, despite the fact that they knew what they were doing was wrong. With each increment of higher voltage, the participants were able to give the shock with less questioning of the rationality of doing so. This comes from our basic human flaw of thinking in irrational terms, and comes from the same place as learning to wear a rally cap, or believing an invisible angel sits on your shoulder in an AA meeting.
Another famous psychological experiment was the Stanford prison experiment, where students played various roles within a prison. In this experiment, these students were literally faking it, but soon they fell into the roles assigned to them, lost touch with reality, and quickly showed the darkest characteristics of human nature. Those playing the ones running the prison subjected those playing the prisoners to torture and degradation, and “group think” became the norm. It became so bad, that the experiment was shut down within a week. I think about this experiment often when I think of AA, because I have seen people fall within the various roles of the fellowship, and conduct themselves in a manner similar to how some conducted themselves in the Stanford prison experiment. Like AA, those who participated in this experiment were average, everyday people; and, like AA, the conditions were conducive to bringing out the worst that human nature has to offer. Anyone ever hear this from an AAer?:
“Sure, AA has some bad people who abuse and manipulate others, but so does the rest of society. Any group has its share of these people, not just AA.”
Sure you have. It’s the standard line of rebuttal. It is also horse shit. AA is unlike the rest of society, because AA creates an environment that makes normal people do abnormal things, much like this Stanford experiment. The unwritten hierarchy and manipulation tactics bring out the sadistic and crazy in otherwise normal people. This, coupled with AA’s habit of seducing the courts for for felons, and bringing in society’s normal percentage of certifiable crazies, makes for one krazy kocktail. There is a much higher percentage of nutcases and sadists in AA, to where it is the norm, not the exception. Think about it – have you ever heard someone say, “I’m sorry you had that [shame, manipulation, lies, 13th stepping, etc.] happen to you at your Toastmaster’s meeting. Perhaps you should find another group”? Of course not, but Toastmaster’s has its share of society’s crazies and bullies and assholes. The difference between them and AA is, they have a normal percentage, and a normal social environment.
How would you react to someone, after telling of a horror story at Toastmasters, telling you that they, too, had to find a meeting the was the “right fit” for them? One that didn’t have the sadistic old-timers and manipulation tactics of the other Toastmasters groups, and they recommend you do the same. Obviously, that would be absurd, but AAs do this all the time. AAs want a free pass and different rules. Someone telling you in AA to “fake it ’til you make it” is someone who themselves has faked it until it all seems normal, and they have become jaded to the absurdities of the fellowship. Now they are asking you to do the same – to fake like you don’t see the elephant in the room, until it eventually becomes as much of a part of the room as any piece of furniture. Faking it puts the onus on you to rationalize and pretend. Don’t join clubs where you have to fake it, people. Be real.
Here is a pretty good rationalization of this nonsense from a blogger:
“Fake it till you make it” isn’t about putting on an act out of fear; it is about having the courage and perseverance to practice new, uncomfortable, yet empowering behaviors that are self-respectful and self-loving with the intention of becoming the person we want to be. “Faking it” in this way takes tremendous determination because we’re stretching beyond our comfort zone of thoughts and behaviors that have kept us safe but confined. This kind of change requires an act of faith—often of the leaping variety.
If we act out of fear, “fake it till you make it” becomes just another excuse for being inauthentic. Based on an intention to be our best self, however, this same behavior will help us awaken.