Misattribution Games

As we’ve discussed before, I’ve gotten pretty good at misattributing a cause to an effect – mostly due to the fairly complex nature of nature and my willingness to apply reductionism rather than take the time to fully understand my world.

Time to have some fun with that… using intentional misattribution.

Turning Cause and Effect on Its Head – the Misattribution Games

Let’s start by looking at the word “because” – in English, the word “because” joins together cause-effect relationships. Something is so BECAUSE something else is so. Some action occurs BECAUSE something else happened or is so:

Effect –> BECAUSE –> cause.

The underlying belief is that I can determine THE cause by observing AN effect. The inverse holds true, too: that I can determine outcome from cause (a known action will result in a known outcome) – BECAUSE I do a certain action, I know what SHOULD occur.

I had a sort of death grip on my cause-effect relationships – my “shoulds.” I needed something stronger than a wish to break them.

In the following games, I challenged my most treasured and sacred cause-effect (if this then that) relationships, exposing them to my conscious awareness and no longer operating quite as automatically. And I had some fun while I was at it.

The Misattribution Games serve as great frustration busters. They were particularly useful to me when I’d find myself experiencing stuck thinking – such as writer’s block, inability to communicate with others effectively, frustration with some life issue, or unable to attain a goal despite taking appropriate action. I’d use a game when I’d notice myself saying or thinking, “I MUST be doing something wrong – I just don’t know what it is.”

First things first.

  1. I acknowledge that awareness is not the same thing as resolution.
  2. Playing with misattributions will not in itself necessarily change anything.
  3. Who I am determines what I do, while what I do does not determine who I am.
  4. If you hear a voice inside you that says something akin to, “This is dumb!” or “This is ridiculous and can’t possibly work!” ask yourself, “This is dumb because…?” and to that response add, “…because…?” to elicit your defenses. Then play one of the games and see where it takes you.
  5. You may become triggered (have a negative emotional reaction) to one of the games. If so, seek professional psychological assistance – you’ve struck gold big-time. Make the most of the strike.
  6. If while doing one of the games you feel physical sensations, acknowledge the sensations by naming them (ex: “I feel a pressure in my left temple.”) and measuring their intensity on a scale of 0 to 10 with zero meaning no sensation and 10 meaning unbearable (ex: “I feel a pressure in my left temple at an intensity of 5.”) Repeat the game and check sensations again. Allow whatever sensation comes up to be okay – acknowledge and measure it (refer to item 5 in this list).

Game 1 – Real Effect, Unrelated Real Cause

This is the main misattribution game. The intention of the game is to intentionally manipulate the cause-effect relationships (shoulds) I’ve held so sacred. By breaking up these unholy alliances, I’d open a window into what ELSE I might consider instead: Alternatives! Options!

Every time I’d hear myself say or think the word, “because” – I’d create an unrelated joiner to it. A joiner is the ending to a sentence – the part that comes after the word, “because…” For example, if I were to say, “I’m going out tonight.” I’d add, “because that door has a knob.” – completely separating my logical sequence of cause and effect. With practice this fun and often comical game became a powerful therapy all by itself.

Game 2 – Specific Real Negative Effect, Unrelated Absurd Cause

The concept of this game is to mess with my rationalizations and excuses for negative behaviors. Every time I’d notice that I was doing something that did not support my goals, I’d exchange my rational and reasonable excuse for my behavior with a new rationalization in the form of, “I’m doing this negative behavior because of some absurd or impossible reason.”

For example, “I’m eating this cake because green gorillas are purple this time of year.” In this exercise my job was to make the joiner absolutely as absurd and impossible as I could imagine. I’d only use this exercise when I had done something I knew I should or should not have done. After playing this game for a while, even my more “reasonable” excuses began to look just as absurd. Tip: keep it in the DO/ACTION logical level.

Game 3 – Specific Real Positive Effect, Unrelated Real Material Cause

This time, I’d feel the frustration of taking appropriate action that SHOULD have resulted in me achieving my goal, but not realize the expected and intended results. My cause-effect relationship is not working as I expect it to. So, since it’s not working as expected anyway, time to inject some fun into it and see what happens.

Every time I’d notice a “should – but” relationship – “That should have worked – but didn’t!” (especially when I’d find myself doing the same thing again and again because it SHOULD work) – I’d formulate an illogical reason for the disconnect in the form of, “I am experiencing this because of some unrelated yet real observation.”

For example, if I was seeking to drop some pounds and after dieting and exercising for a week, I stepped on the scales and read the same weight I read last week, I might say to myself, “I still weigh the same because there is a window in my kitchen.” (rather than that my diet and exercise program that should have resulted in a weight drop but didn’t).

In this game my job was to create a true yet logically unrelated joiner to my frustratingly ineffective action (what does a kitchen window have to do with my dieting, exercising, or dropping some pounds, for example?).

Game 3 Variation – Initiating the Confirmation Bias

Sometimes I want to use my own confirmation bias to energize my misattributions. This is the basis of a hypnotic suggestion called a convincer that takes the form, “I am succeeding because of this completely unrelated thing/action.” For example, “I love and appreciate myself today because there is a book on that shelf there.” OR “Each breath I take confirms the truth: that I love and appreciate myself.” The attribution thinking error being exploited here – the truth of one thing CONFIRMS the truth of another.

Yes, there is indeed a book on that particular shelf – the fact of which confirms its attribution as evidence that I appreciate myself. After that, I might look for further “evidence” that I love and appreciate myself – ex: “…and the grass was wet this morning. And the sun came up again. And my feet still reach the ground.” EVERY observation then adds CONFIRMATIONS to my affirmation of my love and appreciation of myself. This game gives affirmations a super-injection of motivational and placebo-effect energy.

Then What?

To reinforce and energize these games I’d document my experiences in a journal. The overall goal of these games was to get me to pay attention to my cause-effect relationships – to mess with them – and in the end, challenge them. I don’t want to let them just “be” – rather, I’d check my “evidence” against adult reasoning:

My “If’s” do not necessarily relate to my “then’s.” This is not necessarily because of that. I could be wrong.

As I played the misattribution games for a while, I began to loosen my death-grip on my sense of reality as it should be, and started me wondering what reality might be instead. I’m still wondering.

How did you fare with the games? Leave us a comment below.

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