Why Self-Improvement Tools Are Often Magic

And your beliefs affect you big time

As a kid, magic fascinated me. Not the wave a wand and “hey presto,” a rabbit pops out of the hat kind. We all knew that bunny had been uncomfortably lodged in the magician’s sleeve, pants, or a hidden compartment — as you can guess, I really never found out the truth. And that sexy woman in a sequined leotard was not really sawn in half.

That form of magic didn’t appeal. I was interested in witchcraft. Lotions and potions. Incantations whispered over candles when the moon was full. I did little about my fantasy other than read books, though.

Later, the fascination wore off. It’s not that I considered white witchery mumbo-jumbo: Indeed. I could see it held promise. It’s just I noted any form of magic is a mere tool to an end. It’s something you grab hold of in order to set your mind as you wish. (And doing so might change your fortune as it alters your behavior).

A love potion, and correct me if I’m wrong, won’t force that hot babe you see on the tube every day to fall into your arms. Magic doesn’t work that way. But it might give you the confidence to smile at the one you fancy and get the ball rolling. Voila! You might pull a rabbit from your hat. Perhaps you’ll be a hit and go on a date.

And self-help tools are the same. They work with the principle of magic, much of the time. If you believe for certain dancing under the full moon dressed as Minnie Mouse will help you adopt a Walt Disney mindset, it will. Guess how I know…

(Just kidding.)

Some self-help tools, of course, have medicinal properties. I don’t really mean those when I speak of magic. What I speak of is the power of belief to alter your mindset, and potentially physiology.

I recall a hypnotherapy session. This time, I was in the patient’s chair. Not because I had a problem to solve. It was my turn. A classmate, since we were studying together, took me to a past life. Was it really a past life? Maybe not. But my mind came up with a feasible scenario.

If I had been Cleopatra, my memories of a previous existence would be more suspect. Plenty of people profess to having been her, which makes the notion unlikely. I was not Cleo. I was a woman who jumped off a slow-moving train (phew) in the rain, only to be chased and shot (phooey) in the back of the head by someone, obviously, unpleasant.

Of course, the mind conjures up all manner of stories when left to roam, and my imagination’s well-lit. Whether the story is true, isn’t as interesting as what my mind did to me during the session.

“Crikey,” my classmate said. “Look at your arm!”

It was covered in a red rash.

“Just like a pig,” she said. “As it waits to be turned into bacon.”

“A fear rash?” I asked (I’ve no idea if she was right. I don’t know a great deal about pigs. Apart from I like them. And I’m a vegetarian. So, I don’t eat bacon.)

And as I contemplated the long patch of scalding red blotches, my hand went to the back of my head. There dwelled a coin-size swelling, right where the shot would have entered, had it been real.

It was clear the mind is powerful. With the right tools to foster belief — hypnotherapy, spells, affirmations — we can change ourselves. We can gain courage, improve skills, and boost self-esteem. Or we can get a rash and a lump as though we’ve been shot.

The placebo effect, and the nocebo effect whereby we create negative expectations that cause a reaction are real. And that’s magic with startling consequences, if you think about it that goes beyond self-help tools.

If you imagine eating certain foods will make you ill, there’s a good chance they will. And if you believe watching TV’s bad for you, the same goes. It will affect you negatively.

Now and then I check my beliefs to see whether they are (sane enough) useful. If they aren’t helpful, they’re not self-help tools, so I get rid of them. There’s no point in me waving a wand to achieve my goals. I don’t believe in that kind of magic. But there are plenty of other kinds of magic that affect wellbeing too.

Independent content creator, ghostwriter, author https://tinyurl.com/y2cgqhgv mental health advocate, and poet. bridgetwebbber@outlook.com

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