I’ve confessed in a few earlier bluejayblog posts that I used to be hooked on self-help books and auto-hypnosis tapes. Like many people, I wanted a pleasant, ideal way to pull myself out of the rough, personal problems I’d been struggling to solve. It wasn’t until I’d gotten it through my head that this was an airy-fairy approach to life. I was just spinning my wheels by relying upon wishful thinking.
The phenomenon of wishful thinking is a touchy subject. It might manifest in the case of a Major League Baseball pitcher needing to wear his “lucky pendant” for each game. More troubling is when wishful thinking becomes a symptom of an underlying mental illness. The mental illness symptom lies outside the scope of this blog post, so I’ll set that aside for the professionals.
During my college years, I tucked a “quid” (British Pound Sterling coin) into a small pocket of my wallet for good luck. I’d briefly think about the coin whenever a quiz or exam came up for a class. I knew the belief in the good luck charm was irrational, but I derived comfort from this irrational belief anyway.
Prior to the final exam in the Algebra 201 course, I visualized my lucky quid; then I settled into the test. I “knew” that a good grade would be the result. Later, in my apartment, I wanted to rub my lucky quid, but it was missing from the wallet. I felt my face flush with heat and worrying thoughts about the exam filled my mind. I finally surrendered to the possibility that Algebra 201 was a goner. Two days later, the test results were distributed. The bright “A” at the top of the first page came as a pleasant surprise. I realized that I didn’t really need to keep my lucky quid in order to live my life.
My friend Jorge used to deeply believe that our tragic, deeply flawed world will be saved by beings from another dimension in another world. Jorge told me about a “teacher” who claimed that she personified an entity from the Pleiadies. She and other “representatives” of her “consciousness world” had come to enlighten and save the Earth. Jorge confessed that he found these “teachings” to be very comforting, believeable, and wonderful.
My friend said that one cold, rainy night, he took a walk through his neighborhood. It suddenly dawned on him that we don’t need anyone to come down and save the World. The Earth doesn’t need aliens or anybody else to come and save us. The World is alive with intelligent people who already have the knowledge and wisdom to save us from ourselves. We only need to set aside our wishful thinking and then listen to what we already know. There is no need to believe any fantastic tales. We are free to take comfort in the fact that we can physically create our own heavens without the need to wish them into existance.
Jorge said that his dreams and visions were beautiful and provided some measure of inspiration for action. He realized that he had his own “airy-fairy” castles in the sky. The time had come to finally let them go and work on his real life. He had to become more practical and clear-headed about what he was working towards and understand what he was escaping from by habitually indulging in wishful thinking.
We both agreed that we have wasted great portions of our lives living in illusionary mind states. We both also remembered the feelings of liberation when we learned to protect ourselves against the fuzzy-headed intoxication of wishful thinking and day dreaming.
An important caution, we learned, is that remaining free of magical, wishful thinking is a process and not a destination. The beautiful haze of illusion and fantasy can drift into our minds unannounced. After a few moments of enjoying the fog, the time comes to brush it away and refocus on life with resolution and purpose.
Jorge and I shared more examples of magical and wishful thinking from our lives. We noted that, earlier, we had finally adopted skeptical approaches. Doing so had immeasurably improved our lives. Jorge said, “I don’t have to believe you. I don’t have to believe anyone else. I don’t have to believe myself. I can choose to be free of all that.”
Jorge remarked that we probably became friends because we both grew into happy pragmatists who can enjoy flights of fancy. We understand that our fantasies are fantasies. We’re both aware of our squishy, ambiguous cores. We laughed until we hyperventilated.
Jorge and I recovered our breaths then changed the subject.