Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Regarding Confidence

So not Monday. Again. "Magick Tuesday" seems to be turning into a thing as of late. I have another project that I've been spending time on here at Augoeides that I think you all will like, but I'm not announcing it just yet. That may mean my Monday post will be delayed for a few more weeks, but such is life. There are only so many hours in the day, right?

One of the original assumptions put forth by chaos magicians is that belief powers magick. There are a lot of reasons to think that this isn't true, and it probably arose from the Christian idea of "faith" accomplishing all things. But what is true is that doubt will wreck your magick pretty quickly. You might read that and wonder what the difference is, since belief and doubt are basically opposites. The difference is this - once you believe in what you're doing, you can't "believe more." That is, once you have banished all doubt, you're as coherent as you're going to get. This means that a better way to think about the "belief" idea is to treat doubt as a kind of resistance that you overcome with successful practice.

An important related point is that psychoanalytic models of magick - like the "psychic censor" model found in early chaos magick - are nonsense not just because they are psychological and magick is bigger than psychology, but because psychoanalysis itself is a very, very inaccurate model of cognition. That's why in controlled experiments it performs no better than "sham therapy." There is no "unconscious mind." The brain does some unconscious processing, mostly in the form of running autonomic systems and conditioning loops, but that's all there is. No "repression mechanism," no "psychic sensor," no "unconscious self" that has its own agenda.

A more accurate model of cognition treats it as the interaction of three distinct systems - thinking, feeling, and conditioning. The thinking system is also called the declarative mind. If I ask "what are you thinking about?" your answer will be based on what is going on in your thinking system. The feeling system produces emotions. If I ask "how are you feeling?" your answer will be based on what is going on in your feeling system. Those two systems basically represent "the mind" as we usually understand it.

The mind is actually quite flat. It's not the tip of some giant iceberg of "repressed material" and it's the only mind you have. For example, Freud's whole model of trauma is fundamentally wrong. If you look at actual patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, you find that the problem isn't that the trauma is "repressed" - i.e. the patient is unaware of the trauma and can't consciously think about it. The problem is usually that they can't stop thinking about it, which is why it causes distress in the first place.

The conditioning system is the "wild card" in all this, because it can trigger thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that override the objectives of the conscious mind. We form conditioning loops throughout our lives, and loops that are formed in childhood can be especially strong. But none of that has to do with an "unconscious mind" with its own thoughts and goals. The conditioning system follows something like four rules total, and they can easily be simulated by a short computer program. This system does not "think" or even process information short of circumstance and reinforcement recognition.

This is in fact the whole problem with conditioning. It keeps signaling to the other systems that you should repeat any behavior for which you were rewarded in the past. It changes very slowly precisely because it can't "think" on its own. To change it, you either have to exploit the same rules that created the loop in the first place, or use some more direct method like magick and/or meditation. Consciously understanding what the loop is and where it is coming from does little to diffuse its power. All it means is that you will recognize situations that trigger it more readily.

At any rate, I've been over a lot of these points before and nothing has come up in my magical work that would make me rethink it. It really is the most straightforward and effective way to think about the mind and its capabilities. It also is why, among all therapy methods, only cognitive-behavioral therapy performs any better than sham therapy. My hypothesis and that of many other therapists who use the method is that it works as well as it does because it is more effective to address conditioning as conditioning without treating it as some sort of complex cognition.

Now I'm finally getting to the main point of today's article. Confidence is the key to accomplishing many things in life. It is so important that a whole industry of motivational speakers and self-help gurus have grown up around it. Most of the people in that industry have the ultimate bootstrap jobs. They tell you that you should listen to them because they're so successful, but what they're successful at is being a motivational speaker or self-help guru. Some of them have had success in other fields, but usually not to the extent that they claim in their official materials. After all, if you're already a huge success, why bother with a self-help gig in the first place?

So what these people are is confidence artists - and I mean that in a literal sense, not a criminal one. They are in fact artists whose primary medium is confidence itself. No matter what these folks are pitching, the important thing is that you believe it. A person who feels like they're armed with a magical "system" for accomplishing whatever they want will be confident enough to take risks in pursuit of their goals. And for the kind of people who would pay one of these folks in the first place, a lack of confidence is a big obstacle to accomplishing almost anything.

There is no effective "system" for starting a business, making sales, getting dates, or whatever. Not really. All of these things are basically powered by faith - your belief in what you are doing can affect your attitudes, your behavior, and your body language in ways that help you get what you want. Of course, most people still don't really succeed because this stuff is difficult from a statistical standpoint, but some will and that's where all those "testimonials" come from.

Now that may be a depressing take on the self-help industry (which is what it deserves, really), but it's very good news for any magical practitioner. It means that you can be your own confidence artist, and use your magick to make your own confidence. The best part is that doing it for yourself means that you aren't out a bunch of money that doesn't do much of anything besides make some wanna-be guru a little richer. And understanding that you can do this for yourself, whenever you want, opens a lot of doors.

Here's an example. Last summer we did the first Via Solis Elixir Rite for Leo, "the power of training wild beasts." Since you can use that power to manipulate conditioning, I went ahead and put forth the intent to "remove all conditioning that is preventing me from being a successful author." Now, to be clear, I'm still not that successful an author, but... overnight it felt like I became outgoing, engaging, interesting, and just a lot more confident dealing with people.

For those of you who only know me from the blog here, I'm not an extravert. I'm fine most of the time sitting at a keyboard typing away, or doing ritual work by myself or with a small group of people. I'm a fine public speaker in that I don't get stage fright, which is helpful, but I don't think on my feet that well. Part of why I like writing it that it gives me time to think about what I want to say. But following the ritual I was better, if by "better" one means "extraverted."

And that, in fact, is what you need to be if you want to sell anything. Following the ritual I presented on Heptarchial Evocation at the National OTO Convention (which, to be clear, was going to happen before I did the ritual) and everyone loved it. I sold a whole bunch of Enochian books and got on the radar of many of my fellow magicians. My online sales strategy still needs a lot of work because my websites and social media platforms barely move anything, but in person I was able to be pretty good at it.

Some of that has faded now, almost a year later, and I find myself getting apprehensive around people again. But I still have been going to events all over town and reading my fiction. People seem to enjoy it, even though the writing community here in town is a little insular and I can't say that I've made that many sales. The point is that without doing that magical operation I might not have done any of it nearly as well, and now I know that if I need a boost I can always do another Leo operation and expect it to work.

And really, that's better than going to a motivational talk, or being out a bunch of money to some motivational self-help type. We really can do everything they can do for ourselves, and I can't think of very many things that would fill me with more confidence than that.

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Alex Scaraoschi said...

So the effects of that elixir have lasted almost 1 year? That is great to know. Perhaps a talisman for that purpose would have the same effects, and with the same intensity. And you could cook up another elixir every now and then to get an extra boost. It seems that the effects of my Sagittarius elixir are still pretty strong too, which is amazing, given that the effects of my elemental elixirs last between 3-5weeks.

Scott Stenwick said...

A talisman would be another good way to anchor the effect. There's still a lot of experimentation to be done with these rituals, and they're quite effective already.