My Sarcastic Series is a set of videos on my YouTube channel where I teach people a number of different things from becoming nervous in front of any audience to becoming miserable and being a bad leader. In each video, I outline steps which you need to take in order to make your life worse and point out what ‘other people’ would say when advising you in the positive.
The idea behind the series is to grab attention and get people to experience important messages in an entertaining way. I was hoping to make it a refreshing take on personal development advice in a world where so many coaches and trainers appear on camera in a serious way telling us the secret and answers to life.
I put a disclaimer (which I hoped wasn’t necessary) to outline that the videos were sarcastic. Still, occasionally, people didn’t get it. I had one or two ask me why I was teaching people to be nervous or sad or stressed. They didn’t get it. But is there merit in what I was doing. Well, science suggests yes.
Studies have shown that exposure to sarcasm enhances creative problem solving; It has been shown to stimulate complex thinking and attenuate the otherwise negative effects of anger. Fundamentally, however, the main reason I use it is the same reason I suggest the tools of sarcasm and parody and irony can be highly effective against facing our problems and problematic thinking. It comes down to what I call ‘sarcastic positioning’.
Sarcastic positioning means positioning a certain character with a set of undesirable character traits. You make a person a buffoon by expressing their thoughts to the world and making those thoughts silly and ridiculous. You position them as an idiot. In many ways, this is about borrowing ‘stupidity’ the same way that, in reverse, you borrow ‘credibility’. When you use an expert as a source to prove your point or you use a celebrity as a source to make your product look cool, in this case you borrow a stupid idiot as a source so that you can make your suggestions and thoughts seem ridiculous.
You see here is what I think sometimes goes wrong with traditional forms of challenging negative thinking. We try to be positive and use affirmations… but our negative inner voice still speaks to us and criticises our attempts to boost ourselves. We try and ignore the negative yet as we do so, it gets louder and louder to grab our attention. Basically, when we think ‘negatively’ often we are doing so in an effort to protect ourselves. Our negative thoughts aim to point out what we need to watch out for or that we need to lower our expectations so we don’t become disappointed. So, negativity tries to serve us. Inevitably, it doesn’t serve us very well despite its efforts and our own attempts to quash it fail to be useful.
The beauty of borrowing ‘stupidity’ is that we get to tackle the negative ideas head on. Instead of ignoring them or forcing them out of our head, we acknowledge them… and we start associating them with things we don’t take seriously. When we start seeing the negative as ridiculous, we stop believing it. We start opening our minds to a new way of thinking. So, when we address the negative worries about what might happen when we speak to an audience… and we make it as ridiculous as it is… it is hard to take those ideas seriously. We know of them… we just don’t believe them the same way we used to. To me, this is the key.
Negative thoughts are not a problem. It is our repetition of such thoughts and our belief in such thoughts that are the problem. When we stop believing in them, we can start believing in something far more wonderful…. ourselves.