‘The big education for me is that civilisation is fragile and can be destroyed in a heartbeat' - Jeremy Brade, former peacekeeper in Sarajevo.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The power of belief

Michael McIntyre's autobiography 'Life & Laughing' contains an extraordinary episode, one that may have played an essential part in his becoming a world-famous success as an entertainer.

His mother, a teenager who met his future father when the latter was holding auditions, went into a psychic bookshop in Kensington, London, shortly afterwards, to have her fortune told by a Tarot card reader. The reader was shocked at the cards and called in his colleagues:

'What is it?' my mother asked.
Her original reader spoke: 'You are pregnant.'
'I'm not,' insisted my mum. In actual fact she was, but didn't know it yet. [...]
'You will have a son,' continued one of the other readers who had been summoned. 'He will be world-famous, everybody will know his name, he will do wonderful things. He is special.'
The rest of her reading contained equally far-fetched information about her future. 'You will have many children. You will live in an old house for five years, and then you and your husband will be separated by seas and by death. That will be £6.50, please.'

All came true. Michael, mostly a very poor student (from disinclination) and who failed to apply hmself in his one year at Edinburgh University because his sights were set on other things, suffered years of failure, rejection and semi-success in stand-up comedy before marriage and new fatherhood lit a fire under him so that he worked flat-out and suddenly made it to the very top.

McIntyre says he is not at all superstitious; but would we know of him today if his mother hadn't always believed in his special-ness? What if she had criticised and castigated him for his many shortcomings and failures, instead?

It reminds me of a young boy - maybe 12 years old - I met when I was teaching at a children's home. He was intellectually curious, especially about Romans, and showed signs of originality as an artist. After I had left there I was invited back to the home's Christmas celebration and was introduced to him by a member of staff, to whom I said, 'I know X, I'm expecting great things of him.'

The boy didn't speak, but flushed. I am certain he will never forget this passing remark. I hope that such an expression of belief in him will light his way as he grows up.

The power of words, of another's faith in you.

13 comments:

Paddington said...

How much of that encounter was filled in after the fact? Memory is very malleable.

Sackerson said...

As I understand it, the encounter was repeatedly recalled throughout M's childhood.

Paddington said...

I guarantee you that it was embellished over the years, with specifics added.

Sackerson said...

Does that invalidate the main point?

Sackerson said...

JD comments:

The power of belief is stated quite clearly in Mark 11:24

And your comment to/about the boy X would be, for him, priceless because you planted a seed of self belief within his mind (not his brain but in his mind; there is a difference) https://www.ukhypnosis.com/2009/06/17/emile-coues-method-of-%E2%80%9Cconscious-autosuggestion%E2%80%9D/

Sackerson said...

JD adds:

Just found this anecdote here - https://www.yourdailyshakespeare.com/2020/06/08/the-world-upside-down/
Jimmy Moglia is unbelievably verbose and rambles on interminably but he does come up with gems such as this tale -

"The Persian Avicenna (Ibn-Sina) wrote “The Canon of Medicine”, a medical encyclopedia in 5 volumes. It was the sum total of all medical and psychological knowledge available at the time of its publication (1025 AD). It was used as a standard medical textbook through the 18th century in Europe.

"Psychology played an important role in diagnosing and curing – we could say it was consubstantial with the practice of medicine. Avicenna treated the subject also in another work, “The Book of Healing.”

"And here is an example, a reported ‘case-study’. A prince of Persia had melancholia and suffered from the delusion of being a cow. He would moo like a cow, crying “Kill me so that a good stew may be made of my flesh,” and would never eat anything. Avicenna was persuaded to treat the case and sent a message to the patient, asking him to be happy as the butcher was coming to slaughter him. The sick man rejoiced. When Avicenna approached the prince with a knife in his hand, he asked, “Where is the cow so I may kill it.”
The patient then mooed like a cow to indicate where he was. He was then laid on the ground for slaughter. When Avicenna approached the patient pretending to slaughter him, he said, “The cow is too lean and not ready to be killed. He must be fed properly and I will kill it when it becomes healthy and fat. The patient was then offered food, which he ate eagerly and gradually gained strength, got rid of his delusion, and was completely cured.

"How relevant may be the Avicennian case study to the current dynamics of the pandemic I will leave it to my possible and patient readers to decide."


Planting the seed of self belief once again; autosuggestion can work wonders. I should have added previously the example of Mohammed Ali whose mantra was "I am the greatest!" which he repeated endlessly to everyone as well as to himself to the point where he dispelled all doubt from his mind. It certainly worked until one too many blows to the head left him 'punch drunk' He should have retired gracefully before that happened.

Paddington said...

As wonderful as these cases sound, people who have studied the 'power of positive thinking' find that there is no 'there' there.

For every kid who is motivated by a positive word to do something, there are many motivated and convinced to do things that they do not have the talent for. Show business is littered with such hopefuls, whose lives are miserable.

Sackerson said...

Motivation doesn't guarantee success, but demotivation almost guarantees failure.

Paddington said...

I used to say, "Give it your best try."

As for demotivation, a lot of successful people were told they couldn't do something, and said "Screw you!"

Sackerson said...

Re the last: but what percentage?

Paddington said...

Perhaps the ones who had the talent and drive to begin with. Looking at my limited success, it was due to a great deal of work. Nurturing me or encouraging me would not have helped much.

Now, when I say discouragement, I do not mean constant beating down. I favour giving people some realistic feedback.

Sackerson said...

Quite. There's a world of difference between being challenged and being propagandised into losing your self-belief.

Sackerson said...

JD adds:

Trump and his parents attended the church of Norman Vincent Peale, the author of The Power of Positive Thinking, and Peale officiated at Trump's first wedding to Ivana.

Peale's book was of course merely a restatement of one of the oldest ideas in history, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emerald_Tablet

The power of belief can be employed for either good or evil which is why it has always been hidden and denied by those who knew the secret. Very complicated subject but it is alluded to in lots of fairy tales.