In 1955, a charismatic housewife from Michigan named Marian Keech claimed she was receiving messages from the planet, Clarion.
These messages revealed to her that a great flood would come and destroy the world on the 21st of December. But fortunately for her and her group of followers, dubbed “The Seekers,” flying saucers would come to their rescue.
To prepare for this monumental day, many of her followers quit their jobs and gave away their money and possessions.
In the early morning on that fateful day of the 21st of December, Mrs. Keech and her followers assembled on a mountaintop, awaiting their salvation.
But the flying saucers never came. And fortunately, neither did the apocalypse.
You would assume, having given up all their possession, her followers would be angry or disappointed. On the contrary, when Marian told them that she’d received a new message explaining the world was spared, the group was overjoyed. They contacted everyone they knew about this incredible act of God that occurred.
So, why would seemingly sane people act in such an insane way?
In the book When Prophecy Fails psychologist Leon Festinger recounted the story of Marian’s group, which he attributed to the group experiencing cognitive dissonance: a state of trying to hold two inconsistent ideas, beliefs, or opinions. According to Festinger, this state is so uncomfortable that people will unconsciously seek to reduce this conflict by either changing one or both of these ideas.
Even in the face of extreme evidence against our beliefs, our minds will lean into those beliefs to rid ourselves of the conflict — like in the case of “The Seekers.”
One of the mind’s primary functions is to prove itself right and be in harmony with whatever it has been conditioned to believe is true. The subconscious likes consistency and won’t deviate from its version of “reality, and will always work hard to match our external circumstances with our internal belief system.
This idea is most pronounced by Dr. Maxwell Maltz in his teachings on self-image in the book Psycho-Cybernetics.
In his work as a cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Maxwell Maltz noticed that despite having successful surgery to “correct” a perceived physical imperfection, a patient’s negative belief about themselves would prevent them from visually seeing any changes to their appearance.
In short, they remained just as unhappy as they were before having the surgery. If they were unconfident before, they remained unconfident.
Dr. Maltz found that while their outward appearance changed, the true source — their negative beliefs, feelings, and attitudes about themselves remained the same. He went on to attribute the resistance his patients experienced as a result of the mind’s psycho-cybernetic system which he documented in his book of the same name.
A cybernetic system is an internal mechanism of our subconscious mind for course correction to keep us always aligned with our current internal programming.
This system (a.k.a. your self-image) creates a ceiling for what you can accomplish and the level of success you can reach. For example, you can’t become rich, if you’re constantly saying how much you dislike rich people.
Your subconscious won’t stand for it.
Similarly, you can’t sit around resenting confident, successful people and then wonder why you can’t join in on the fun with them.
Whether it’s how you feel about yourself or if you believe aliens are on their way to save your soul from the end of the world, your mind won’t veer away from its internal programming. It creates too much internal conflict.
That’s why personal change is so fuckin’ hard.
We can take action, start new habits, and talk to ourselves in more empowering ways, but if that internal operating system of self-image in our subconscious is still the same, change will be slow and difficult.
Here’s what we need to ask ourselves:
We all hit an upper limit with our level of success, what we can achieve, and even our happiness. When this happens, it’s likely not because you lack the right skills, qualities, or strategies. Instead, it’s because you are unconsciously self-sabotaging.
The cure to going beyond your limits as a conscious creator in the world is to go within and work on your internal programming. It all stems from there.
Henry Ford put it best:
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”
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