Score Keeping and Magical Thinking

I win, you lose. I’m right, you’re wrong. I’m strong, you’re weak. I have the power, you don’t. I’m worthy, you’re not. This is the game we play with ourselves and others both internally and externally. We have been programmed to believe that our win must be someone else’s loss and that our loss must be someone else’s win. It can be both a psychological and physiological impulse to quantify a gain for another in terms that speak to a loss for ourselves. This is an imaginary concern. It is what psychologists describe as “magical thinking”.

I win, you win. I share, you share. I give, you give. You’re right, I’m right. I have power, you have power. I’m worthy, you’re worthy. This is the reality. The problem is that the cultural paradigms that have been ingrained in our psyche are incongruent with this truth.

A few individuals have discovered throughout the course of history that you can convince people to commit to great sacrifices if they believe they will have an advantage over another if they do so. If people feel there will be some benefit for them if they surrender what they believe to be mutually beneficial goals and joyful courses of action that are inclusive for all, they will submit to all manner of self-defeating behaviors. This is how powerful authority figures convince soldiers to fight. Soldiers must believe that they must surrender a mutually beneficial course of action for a greater purpose. It’s a lie. It’s a magic trick that keeps working on the masses, and the very few magicians that know the trick continue to have an ace in the hole that keeps Trumping our reason and common sense.

We all have an innate fear of powerlessness. This fear has created various systems of scorekeeping to ensure that our power can be quantified for all to see. Its truly amazing to see the various ways we pick up on the state of someone else’s imaginary power chips. Income, cars, looks, championships, education, property, friends, clothes, likes, and houses. These all have value in and of themselves, but there is no escaping the underlying subtext of what they say about how powerful we are within our society. They tell others how much respect we are worthy of. It is often believed that without proof of these imaginary power chips we will be abandoned or unloved. Without these power chips, we do indeed end up feeling powerless.

This is the magical thinking that the magicians of the world have led us to fall for. The reality of this does not exist without our participation. Whenever we choose to marginalize a person for our benefit, we play the imaginary power chip game. Whenever we allow ourselves to believe that another person can humiliate us for not having enough power chips, we play the imaginary game. Whenever we believe an advertisement that tells us we must buy something because of what it will say about us to the rest of the world, we again fall for the trick.

We fall for the trick whenever we fight for our “side”. We fall for this trick whenever we subscribe to the thinking that the other side must be wrong in order for our side to be right. We begin to keep score and try to ensure that we never yield to an opposing view, because of course, imaginary thinking makes us “wrong” if we do. If the other side is ever right about anything, then that makes us wrong. If they ever win something, we lose that thing. It becomes like digging a hole in dry sand. The best metaphor for this form of magical thinking is indeed quicksand. Everyone ends up sinking the more they fight. This happens within society as well as our most intimate relationships.

If someone must lose for you to win, that means that at some point the other person must find a way for you to lose so that they can win. The moment one side makes progress, the other brings them down. Perpetual sinking. Perpetual loosing. Perpetual disempowerment.

We have to let go of this form of magical thinking. We have to stop falling for the magic trick that keeps us docile and easily manipulated.

Quicksand is a real thing. People can get caught in it, and it can be difficult to rescue such a person because we can sink with them if we are not careful. There have been well-studied methods for dealing with such a situation and the most widely accepted bit of advice is this: don’t fight. The more you thrash and try to escape the quicksand, the faster you sink. The more you think you have the power to fix the situation yourself, the more powerless you become.

Your best option is to sit still and wait for someone who is on stable ground to pull you out. This is how you maintain your power. Through patience and humility, you must understand that you need someone else to survive.

Winning means letting go of the magical thinking that you have the power to control your fate. You don’t. Human beings need each other. We need each other’s cooperation and support. If it is not there at the time we need it, thrashing and writhing will still only cause us to sink further. We must be humble and patient. We must accept help when its needed, and we must be ready to help others when we are called upon. This is reality. Win/win is the truth, everything else is just magical thinking.





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