03/30/2013 09:53 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Call Me Crazy


Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

I watched Jon Ronson's TEDTalk about psychopaths and it both scared and also comforted me. Firstly, it reminded me of my running list of things that scare me. I call it my Shivers List: Airplane turbulence, mannequins, the phone ringing at 2 a.m. when my kids aren't home, dark alleyways with a stranger walking behind me and Christopher Walken, to name a few. Also when swimming in deep water, I always hear the Jaws music playing in the privacy of my brain, even in a backyard pool. Jaws ruined night-time skinny-dipping for me for life, just as the book American Psycho stifled Manhattan yuppies' one-night stands back in the '90s. So now I have added psychopaths to my Shivers List, since Mr. Ronson calculates that about every 10th person you encounter is a psychopath. What's so scary about that? Well, psychopaths are the worst kind of scary; evil that is disguised as goodness. It is among the most difficult disorders to spot. The psychopath appears normal, even charming, like David Berkowitz, aka Son of Sam. But underneath, they have no conscience, which makes them manipulative and criminal. Here's another scary part; they can be violent and are usually untreatable. They are fascinating, as long as they don't live right next door, but if they do live next door, you probably won't know it... until it's too... late. Like I said, shivers.

Now, remember, I am an aerobics instructor, not a psychiatrist, but in general, crazy people don't scare me. Actually, I like crazy people. Crazy is a word people have called me in front of and behind my back and they meant it in the most complimentary way. I was flattered. Crazy can be good! Show me a person that doesn't have at least one indicator of a mental disorder from the DSM manual and I will show you the most boring person on the planet. And it's a scientific fact that crazy people are better dancers, the crazier the person, the better the dancing. Thus the term, dancing like a crazy person. It's a compliment.

But Mr. Ronson's talk was not all shivers. He comforted me when he described a man that wanted to plead insanity for a crime, so he started acting like a crazy person. He started faking it. But guess what? The doctors then determined that if you have the ability to fake that your brain is "going wrong," then that is in fact an indicator that your brain is going wrong. Which led me to wonder if the inverse is true: that maybe we can fake that our brain is "going right" by faking being positive when we really feel negative, by smiling when we feel like crying, or by making ourselves go to the gym when we yearn for the couch, then (hopefully!) that is a sign that our brain is going "right." Which backs up one of my favorite fitness mottos and one that I apply every morning to get out of bed, which is "Fake it til you make it."

Faking it is an extraordinarily important part of my daily life. Faking it is a topic I promote and preach about to my exercise students at my gym. I tell them that getting to the parking lot is the hardest part. Look down at your feet, move your right foot forward, then move your left foot forward, then just keep doing that. When you fake a better thought, your cells in your body are tricked into following suit. We can choose to think thoughts that are sad, false and self-limiting (or psychopathic)or we can look up at the sky in amazement or crack a stupid joke in the Starbucks line or go into your son's room when he asks you to come look at something funny that the dog is doing.

Maybe we can fake that our brain is "going right" by faking being positive when we really feel negative, by smiling when we feel like crying, or by making ourselves go to the gym when we yearn for the couch, then (hopefully!) that is a sign that our brain is going "right." - Penny Love Hoff

Personally, faking it has been my survival tool this past year, which was filled with a list of heart-break and despair: divorce, a newly silent and empty house with my three birdies all flying out of the nest at once, with a twist of menopause and a foreclosure on top. If I had not made myself put my happy face on every single morning, and arose quickly out of bed, pulling up the bed covers while they were still warm, I, too, would be in the Broadmoor psychiatric hospital.

Yesterday, I could've won an Oscar for Faking It. I awoke with an aching, more particularly broken heart than any day this past year. I felt betrayal and abandonment in bed with me and it was not my idea of a great threesome. Despair is an emotion I rarely feel, but yesterday morning, it said, "Scoot over" and climbed in bed with me and these other two knuckleheads. Then there were four of us, arms of all kinds wrapped tightly around me.

Somehow, I don't really remember how, my feet moved me beyond the bed covers, only through some grace of God. Then, The Show began. Water splashed on face, hair and teeth brushed. Toast. Coffee. I looked out my window and was shocked to see that the sun had amazingly come up over the horizon, even on a day like this. I felt the miracle of that.

Next it was right into work, to my gym which is my second home. today was our beach ball spinning theme class complete with beach ball volleyball, sun shades of every kind, sun hats and a bikini or two. "I'd like to thank The Academy" for this performance.

After that, it was "Do not pass Go, Do not collect $200" and I did the right foot, left foot thing directly to Divorce Court for The Day that I'd been alternately expecting as well as dreading for the past year and a half.

As we sat together for the last few moments as a married couple, we watched the court cases before us and it was a comfort hearing how divorce can be done in a much worse way than the way we did.

As the judge called our case, I felt the 'Making It' part of 'Faking it' recede with each step towards the witness stand. Making It was backing away from me. I was not sure I could do this.
As the judge hereby declared our 26 year marriage over -- 23 of which were magnificent -- still, I am proud to say that Faking It was the only way I survived this day.

Except for a few moments on the witness stand,where I could not fake it. Names of children were being read and birth dates, too. Days on which I myself had given birth were being confirmed. Names, one by one by one, echoed out into the room and hung there. Read aloud by a judge, I could not breathe, these were the three names we had chosen for our children, our greatest legacy of our marriage. As the names of our babies were confirmed, I nodded three times, once for each jewel. Yes, Your Honor. Yes. YES. We were the first to hold in our arms, the bodies to which each of those names belonged. I could not move and the room froze like a snapshot, my throat ached in the way it does; a warning that my tears are on their way. I had to stop and hold my face in my hands as he pronounced US over.

So what saved me from the tears that were on the Express track from my throat? I'll tell you. What rescued me in that courtroom when I started to cry, was looking up, across the courtroom and seeing my newly former husband smiling softly at me. He was faking it too! And in a no-words-needed way, which has always been his way, he silently told me without words, "You can do this. Watch me. I can look strong for you, so you can fake strong and make it through this." His smile told me to do what Nike advises for other, lesser important struggles in your life, "Just Do It"

So I did. I borrowed his courage and reached down deeper than I've ever had to reach.

Yes, Your Honor.


Other than those few seconds, I am proud to be a faker. We did it. I did it. I faked it and it was my lifeline.

I am a big believer that if you can fake the right thoughts, (right thoughts, not necessarily true thoughts) that you can then believe the right beliefs. From your beliefs unfold how you live your life, so in the trickle-down theory in my world, I can change the character of my whole life by improving what I choose to think about.

Epigenetics is the science of how our environmental signals select, modify and regulate gene activity so that our genes are constantly being remodeled in response to our life experience. Attention promotes changes on a subatomic level, which simultaneously affects the atomic level, which then has an impact on the molecular level, which then determines whether or not you have a good day.

Our bodies are made up of approximately 50 trillion cells and each of those cell's lives is controlled by our physical and energetic environment, not as much by our genes. So understanding on a scientific level how cells respond to our thoughts and perceptions illuminates our path to personal empowerment. "You are what you think," should've been in the Bible.

Call me Pollyanna and I won't be insulted. In fact, it would be a huge compliment. I am going to fake it 'til I make it.

Call me crazy.

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