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When Self-fulfilling Prophecies Occur and When to Embrace Belief


You've probably seen those time travel movies in which there's a prophecy of grand destruction early in the film and the team needs to do everything they can to stop it. What ends up happening much of the time is the team themselves ends up bringing the prophecy to life through a series of actions meant to stop it. The desire and panic to avoid the event ends up causing the event. This is a Self-fulfilling Prophecy. And this isn't just a movie thing, it's something we do subconsciously all the time. This sociopsychological phenomenon happens when someone expecting or "predicting" something comes true because the person believes it will, which influences the person's behavior to align with fulfillment of the belief. We're "predicting" our future because of what we've told ourselves, what may have happened in the past, what we've been told about our potential, our believes about other people, and accepting the challenges we face as permanent inevitabilities. These beliefs, certainties to us, influence our actions to prove that we were right all along. And we do love to be right, even in the face of destruction. In simpler terms, we create our own future because we "know" what's going to happen. And we "know" because we believe it, not because it was true. For example, if I'm expecting or "predicting" that my partner may cheat on me, my behavior towards my partner is going to influence my partner's desire to cheat by being paranoid, untrusting, insufferable, pointing out any potential threats, not having the bandwidth to tend to the relationship and pushing my partner away. I'm creating consequences or conditions based on what I believe about this person or the situation. At some point I've told myself and continue to reinforce that this person is going to leave me or cheat on me. And through my own actions, as a result of my belief, they'll eventually attach to someone else who doesn't believe these things. Conversely, because this phenomenon is not an inherently negative one, if I believe that I deserve happiness and expect a happy relationship then I will do everything in my power to make it so, including leaving someone who isn't meeting my expectation. Again, we're not "predicting" the future, we're putting better energy into a more positive expectation for ourselves. In bigger picture terms, if we have a prejudice towards a race, gender, creed, etc in the assumption of intelligence...avoiding them will not give them a chance to prove their actual intelligence, which will continue to reinforce our belief. It's easy to reinforce our own assumptions. W.I. Thomas was the first modern sociologist to discover this phenomenon in 1928 and stated "If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences." Essentially saying that by choosing to believe something we unintentionally influence our and/or other's behavior to manifest what we expected or feared since in our mind it is true. This isn't much different than having self-motivation or self-confidence and achieving a goal. You set a target and stick with the target. This translates to loads of examples that we experience every day. If we believe someone is creepy, or strange we may behave strange and distant, reinforcing the uncomfortable feeling regardless of what they say or do. If we wake up believing we're going to have a terrible day then we may ignore anything positive that happens and amplify the negative. If you need to deliver a speech and expect for it to go terribly then why practice and prepare? It becomes no surprise to you when you stumble, mumble, and fail to hit your marks. If we believe the limits of our personalities then we will do everything we can to reinforce those beliefs by searching for or creating evidence for it. Many INTPs assume they can't or shouldn't connect with others, for example. And while many examples expressed in books and movies tend to be tragic, a Self-fulfilling Prophecy is not limited to negative outcomes. A belief in one-self can manifest positive outcomes of a situation. If we believe that everyone has something interesting to offer, we spend time getting to know more people for who they are. If we expect financial success for ourselves we persistently learn and make choices that reflect that vision. If we believe in our ability to perform well then we properly prepare, roll with the punches, and give our best performance. If we believe that people are more than stereotypes and limits then we will allow for more opportunity for ourselves and others. We bend reality to reinforce what we believe or expect and prove ourselves to be right by making ourselves right in the moment even in the act of avoiding it. We're not avoiding global warning, we're building a clean future. Building a clean future has the positive effect of not destroying the planet. Avoiding a negative future is not the same as a creating a positive one. Avoidance is often non-specific. It's anything but "the thing" which makes "the thing" our focus as opposed to something positive that is specific. Going towards positive beliefs and "predictions" isn't about blind optimism either. Because optimism isn't an ignorance of reality. Optimism is an awareness that suffering doesn't last forever. Right, so shouldn't I just avoid belief altogether and just focus on pure truth and logic? If the movie examples have shown us anything it's that avoidance is a lot of work. Even if you're an INTP or another thinking type who tends to think more logically, to be preoccupied with avoiding personal or others' beliefs is not only mentally taxing but misses out on a world of experience. Much of life's great narratives and stories live within belief even if it doesn't make logical sense. And let's face it, choosing to live a life of only logic and assuming it's the better way to be in every situation is also a belief disguised as truth. Therein lies challenge with any attempt to avoid belief altogether, is that we aren't always aware of our beliefs and how these predictions influence us, especially over time. I would rather there be a focus on the reframing to positive beliefs and confidence as more a personal code and skill to develop over time. This way, a positive reframing can be applied to virtually every situation whether you're consciously aware of it or not. In a sense this is about manifesting. We keep using the word "predicting" because it's not quite that. We're not plucking something from the future. We're casting a vision and making it happen, even if that visions comes from somewhere else. This isn't magic either or making things appear in front of you, though when harnessed it can feel like good things keep falling out of the sky. This is a different form of manifesting, a persistent psychological shift that creates opportunity for yourself over time by casting a more positive vision, believing it, and going towards it. You're putting yourself in position to raise the probability for good things to happen. I think this concept shows the importance of acknowledging the power our assumptions and expectations have in producing our future. The power that WE have in producing our future and realizing that we have a say in what we tell ourselves whether that's through confident or limiting beliefs. I hope this serves as an awareness or reminder that we're in control and that "predicting" and believing is a choice to "know" something as true for us. Meaning, even if we are told a prophecy about our future or our potential that we're not walking towards it...we are forging it. If that belief or narrative doesn't match what we want then it's our responsibility to change the vision. Belief can be a weapon or it can be a tool. We might as well use it to make our future something worth believing.