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Magical Thinking in Personality Disorders and Conspiracy Theorists

Uploaded 7/24/2020, approx. 30 minute read

Let's get to today's topic.

Today's topic is Malignant is magical thinking.

I'll propose the first part.

Magical thinking is, of course, a perfectly healthy stage of development in early childhood. It was indirectly described by the great Jean Piaget, the child psychologist in Geneva, in 1929. He described a stage of development, which he called the pre-operational phase, where children are developing the capacity to think logically. And when they develop this capacity, they are trying to find, to discover, to explore the universe and to impose on the universe, on their environment, on their parents, on adults, on peers, on circumstances and situations and events.

Trying to impose on all these, some heuristically discovered rules, some rules that emanate from and are derived from repeated experience. And he called this the pre-operational phase, because this phase is not characterized by action, it's characterized by thinking, it's an internal phase.

He said that during this phase, children are egocentric. We'll come to it a bit later.

Another interesting contribution was made by Bruno Bettelheim.

Now, Bettelheim, later it was discovered, had lied about his career as a psychologist. He was not a child psychologist, as he had claimed to be.

But this does not detract or diminish his accomplishments in analyzing enchantment. He analyzed fairy tales and magical tales. And he showed that the role of fairies, magical creatures, the belief in magic, this role in personal development, is indispensable.

We use magic and magical thinking, said Bettelheim, to interpret the uninterpretable, to make sense of the senseless, to introduce order into ostensible randomness, and definitely to decipher the roles that adults and peers play in our lives and to develop appropriate behavioral responses and emotional correlates.

He thought that magic and fairy tales, and so on, are critical developmental phases.

And so while Piaget did not directly address the issue of magical thinking, Bettelheim was the next stage, and he did.


Now, before we proceed, I, as usual, will refer you to a few scholars whose work I value in this field.

The first one would be Rosin, R-O-Z-I-N. He usually works with another scholar whose name is Nemerov, as it sounds, N-E-M-E-R-O-V.

And then there is the British scholar, Eugene Subotsky, S-U-B-B-O-T-S-K-Y. I don't ask me why all scholars have impossible names. It's possible that they had become scholars because they have impossible names as a compensatory mechanism. I have no idea.

But these are the three that if you want to make a start, to make a start with understanding magical thinking, they're as good as any. I mean, they're the best.

They've studied magical thinking at length for a very long time. And so what is magical thinking?

Magical thinking is when you say, as a child, or later as an adult, if you have a pathology.

It's because magical thinking in adulthood is a prime indicator of some kind of pathology, underlying pathological process.

So magical thinking simply says, if I think, it means that I act, or it means that I prevent something from happening. If I think, it is. If I think, I create reality. If I think, I affect reality. If I just think, I change reality.

Reality is an extension and a figment of my thinking. Reality is inside me and therefore I can manipulate it and alter it and reassemble it and disassemble it and deconstruct it and reconstruct it.

Anyway, I see feet because it's all inside my head. It's enough to think, to affect changes in the environment and to obtain favorable results.

Now immediately, all of you recognize, of course, nonsensical movements and figures, like the law of attraction or the secret or the awakening giant inside. Or if you just put your mind to it, everything is possible. You can accomplish anything.

Or of course, rules that if you just follow, very small number of rules that if you just follow, you will become a totally different person.

These are all manifestations and forms pernicious, pernicious, and in some cases, psychopathic and malevolent forms of magical thinking. These are people who use magical thinking to take your money.

Simple. They encourage your magical thinking. They encourage you to regress to an infantile state where they're telling you what to do. They're telling you who to be. They're telling you how to be. They become your parental figures and they regress you to childhood and then they can convince you of anything.

If you just think about becoming a giant, you become a giant. If you just put your mind to it to be rich, you'll be rich. If you really, really want that gorgeous girl, she will be yours.

Pick up artists. And if you follow 12 rules or five rules or seven rules, depending which guru, mystic, yogi and con artist you prefer to follow, your life will be so different that you will have become another person.

These are all illusory and delusional forms of thinking.

And in this sense, if magical thinking is carried to adulthood and if it is taken to extreme, it becomes a delusional disorder.

But that is more rare. Very few people deteriorate and degenerate into delusional disorder.

Majority of people like, for example, narcissists and borderlines, majority of people with mental health disorders, they have just magical thinking, but they don't really, really confuse reality with what they think about reality. They just have the illusion, the deeply held conviction, that if they just focus their thinking, concentrate the power of their thinking, they can affect reality.

And of course, among religious people, you have the bizarre outlandish notion that praying together can affect healing or can affect change in the world.

Magical thinking is all over. And unscrupulous scammers, liars, cheats and psychopaths are taking advantage of that.

The vast majority of the population would like to regress to a childhood infantile state. It's very comfortable.

You don't have to think. You don't have to think. You don't have to be responsible. You have a parent figure.

And so ruthless people, callous people, psychopaths, are taking advantage of this, of course.

We have a recently developed tool, a test, psychological test. It's called the illusory beliefs inventory or IBI. And we use it to measure magical thinking.

The results are staggering and frightening, by the way.

Magical thinking, for example, is very common in obsessive compulsive disorders and behaviors, in rumination, in depression.

And if you look at magical thinking, at the core, at the essence, the quiddity of magical thinking, what do we do when we think magically?

We say, if I just want it strongly enough, it will happen. I will get it.

Or as a child, I hated dad and dad died, so I killed him. Or my parents are divorcing because of me. So it's a confusion of internal and external.

Everyone has internal objects. Internal objects, constructs, voices of important people like parents, peers, role models, teachers, internalized voices. They're called introjects.

Other forms of internalized objects. Your narcissist, you remember, takes a snapshot of you. That's an internalization, this kind of avatar.

So internalize you. Everyone has internal objects.

But when you confuse your internal objects with external objects, your internal events with external events, your internal processes, for example, cognition, thoughts, emotions, moods. If you confuse these with the outside, with reality, with the environment, then you have an impaired reality testing.

Then something's wrong with you. I've heard people say, every time I'm sad, every time I'm depressed, it's raining. I'm kidding you not.

Their mood affects the weather, the local weather, the local microclimate.

People are serious about this.

I've heard people say, I can take away evil in bed just by waving my hand in a specific way.

I've heard people say, if we link hands across the planet, and we all think the same thought, the energy of the thought will change the world.

I've heard people say a lot of unmitigated trashy nonsense based on magical thinking.

I've heard people say, there is a God. And if I pray to him, he will micromanage my life. He will make me rich. He will cure my child. He will restore my family.

Restore my family.

It's also a form of magical thinking. There's nothing wrong with magical thinking before the age of nine.

Most children up to the age of nine engage in one level or another of magical thinking.

Although starting at age six, children are beginning to doubt magic. They're beginning to get integrated with reality.

They realize that magical thinking is not working. It's dysfunctional. It's wrong. They develop better theories, better coping strategies.

But after age nine, if you still believe in these things, something is seriously wrong with you.


And yes, am I saying that something is seriously wrong with religious people? Yes, I am. Of course, I am. Something is seriously wrong with them.

And another Jew said it long before me. His name was D. Freud. He said that religion is a mental illness.

And there was another Jew, Marx. He said that religion is opium for the masses.

They were all right because Jews are always right.

And that also is magical thinking, of course.

So the person with magical thinking, he has a defective theory of mind.

Now, what is a theory of mind?

The theory of mind is a theory that we construct about how other people think, about what makes other people tick, how other people operate, how their minds are working.

So we construct this theory of mind.

It is based on empathy, including emotional empathy, but it can be based on cold empathy, reflexive and cognitive components.

Psychopaths have wonderful, very, very well-honed and operational theories of mind. That's why psychopaths are very good color artists. They know how your mind works and they subvert it and they co-opt it in their favor.

So you don't need emotional empathy to construct a very, very effective efficacious theory of mind.

Cold empathy is enough, but some kind of empathy. You need some kind of empathy. And you need what is called the intersubjectivity agreement or intersubjectivity contract. It's the belief that what you call pain is the same as what another person calls pain. So just let me see if the volume is okay.

Yeah. What you call pain is, your pain is another person's pain. What you call love is another person's love.

So there's an assumption that because we're all human, human, we all share the same inner experience, the same introspective experience of emotions, moods, effects and so on.

That is, of course, no one can prove this. We don't have access to anyone else's mind.

So it's a kind of commonly accepted, fallacious probably agreement, which allows us somehow to survive as a species, as a cooperative species, as a social species.

But people with magical thinking, they have a defective theory of mind and it was Piaget who put his finger on it.

He put his finger on many things, by the way. And he said that children go through the pre-operational phase and they have egocentricity.

What he meant when he said egocentricity is that children at that stage, which is around four years old and so, children at that stage assume that everyone else is exactly like them. They don't recognize differences, distinctions, idiosyncrasies, nuances, subtleties, no way.

As far as children in the pre-operational phase of development, everyone is a clone. Every single person on earth is a clone of one ideal type or some, you know, so it's like they see the world as multiplicity, as a mirror, a gigantic mirror, where every person is reflected in every other person to perfection.

They have a defective theory of mind. When you grow up and your theory of mind is functional and healthy, you realize that other people are different to you. They're not the same.

You begin to notice the differences and the distinctions and the special quirks and the foibles and the preferences and the wishes and the priorities. In other words, you begin to notice that other people are separate autonomous agents and entities, that they have personal agency, that they're independent of you, that they're not you.

But someone with magical thinking would regard other people, external objects, as internal. He would regard other people as figments, elements of his own mind. He would remain stuck in Piaget's egocentric face. He would regard all other people as mirror reflections of himself. He would live in a gigantic, endless, effectively hall of mirrors with an infinite regression of images.

So someone like that, for example, a narcissist, would not regard other people as capable of self efficacious, autonomous action. He would be, a narcissist is shocked when other people behave in ways that he had not predicted, anticipated and wanted. He resents, he becomes furious when his spouse shows an independent mind, disagrees with him, criticizes him, walks her way or cheats on him. It doesn't sit well with this theory of mind, where there's a single global, universal, earth-long hive mind of which he is a part and also the mind.

So the narcissist, everyone is included in him and he permeates everyone. It's a bit of a mystical, actually the narcissist is a mystic in a way, this is a mystical perception, the multiplication and reflection of everyone in everyone.

But it's a defective theory of mind because it's untrue, it's unrealistic and it encourages magical thinking because if everyone is a part of you, then you can manipulate them inside you and it will have immediate effects in the outside. If you manipulate someone inside your head, they must conform and if they don't conform, if they don't follow the puppeteering inside your head, then they diverge from their representation in your head as a narcissist.

You have a snapshot, you have an internalized image or representation of that person as a narcissist in your head and when you manipulate that puppet, that marionette and the real person refuses to comply. This creates conflict, dissonance, diversion and you resent this, you're angry, it causes narcissistic rage, narcissistic injury or even mortification.

So, narcissists are an example of such people with magical thinking, with a defective theory of mind but people with magical thinking also have a defective theory of the world. For example, they don't understand causation very well, cause and effect, they don't get it. If everything is inside the mind, if you control everything magically, if everything is inside you and you are inside everything, if you are everything and everything and everyone is you, then nothing can affect anything. If you are everything, then there's nothing outside you, therefore nothing can affect you and therefore you can affect nothing. There's no causation, no cause and effect.

Benedict Spinoza discussed the issue, can God have a will? Can God want anything? And he said, and many others after him augmented this argument, God cannot want anything because the word want means to miss, you don't have it. If I want a glass of water, it's because I don't have the water inside me, I don't have it inside me, I need to do this and then I'll have some water inside me. If I missed the water, I lacked it, it was not inside me. So this caused me to act.

In a world of magical thinking, there's no need to act outside, it's enough to act inside because everything is inside.

And of course, it creates enormous confusion regarding cause and effect. For example, effects are very often confused with causes, causes are confused with effects. It's a mess, the very arrow of time is reversed very often.

And this leads to phenomena which are misidentified as gaslighting. Very often the narcissist would argue with you as to what came before what, what caused what, what made what happen. And you think he's doing this because he's a liar or because he's trying to manipulate you, because he's trying to make you think that you're crazy, gaslight you.

No, he really doesn't get it. In his muddled mind, this magical thinking, for example, if he thought that you should do something, you had already done it and he's angry at you that you had done it or that you hadn't done it. And you hadn't done anything, but in his mind you had. And his mind is what matters. It's the only arbiter of truth and fact.

And this form of infantile thinking, infantile misperception, magical thinking, which as I said, can escalate up to delusional disorder. This form of infantile thinking is actually grandiosity.

Because if you are everything, if everything is in your head, if you control everything, if you can manipulate, if you can make things happen just by thinking about them, then you're God-like. Is this not grandiosity? It's the mother of all grandiocities.

And that's why I'm dead set, against all these coaches that tell you that you can do anything. This is a giant inside you that all you need to do is think. All you need to do is decide. All you need to do is adopt a set of rules. And that's the end all and be all. That's it.

They are leveraging your sickness, your infantile grandiosity. They are making you God-like in your own minds. They are introducing you into a hall of mirrors where you see yourself in an idealized form. And this is irresistible. You fall in love with your God-like rendition.

Who doesn't want to be a God? Everyone wants to be God.

And here they come and tell you, no problem. You want to be a God? Just buy my book. Follow my rules. Buy this DVD. You will be a God.

And who can resist this?

They are love bombing you. They're grooming you. They're targeting you. They're idealizing you.

And you are the victims of narcissistic abuse with all these scammers, charlatans, psychopaths, alleged coaches, and self-styled experts.

You are being abused. And this infantile grandiosity goes hand in hand with what we call autoplastic defenses.

Because first of all, what is autoplastic defense? Autoplastic defense is when you blame yourself, when you feel responsible for everything that happens, when everything is in your head, when your thinking creates the world, when the world is an outcome of your word, exactly like God, because at first there was the word logos. Read your Bible. Only God creates the world with a word. And now you're God-like because you don't even have to say the word. It's enough just to think about it. And the universe will accommodate you, will change itself to suit your wishes, to realize your dreams. You know, you're bigger than God. Who is God? Nothing. God had to talk. You don't have to talk even. You just have to think and buy, of course, the relevant book.


So this is grandiosity, but it's coupled with autoplastic defenses.

Because if you are the world, if thinking is doing, if thinking is being, if thinking is preventing something from happening, if thinking has an effect on the universe or the outside world, then you are to blame if anything goes wrong. You are responsible. You're guilty. This is called autoplastic defenses.

And here's the thing. Autoplastic defenses are the main hallmark, the main feature of neurosis.

Magical thinking leads inexorably to neurosis.

As the person with magical thinking brushes against reality, as reality keeps frustrating this kind of person, as reality keeps contradicting and challenging his grandiosity, his magical thinking, his magical beliefs, his superstitions, his prejudices, his biases, and his deficits, cognitive and emotional and other.

As reality intrudes with its countervailing cruel information, this kind of person develops very, very deep guilt and shame.

And guilt and shame put together if they coalesce and get ossified and fossilized, they become neurosis.

Now, magical thinking is comorbid, appears in a variety of mental health disorders. I mentioned a few of them, a sadistic personality disorder, borderline, I'll discuss that in a minute.

It also appears with OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder. Obsessive compulsive disorder is adopting rituals, repetitive rituals, in order to reassert control over reality.

So if I wash my hands 10 times, my mother will not die. If I walk in a highly specific way, bad things will not happen to my family, or I will succeed in the test. I'll pass the exam. If I don't know, if I whistle a certain song at exactly the same hour every day, then I'll become rich.

So OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder, is attempting to use ritualized behaviors to counteract, suppress, mitigate, ameliorate and reduce intrusive thoughts which have to do with reality, because intrusive thoughts are always about reality.

If I don't do this, my mother will die. If I don't do this, my family will be in bad shape. If I don't do this, I remain poor.

Recent studies revealed that magical thinking is not correlated, not connected to worry or to anxiety, which is very surprising.


When scholars embarked on this effort to study the issue, they were convinced that magical thinking will be intimately linked to worry and to anxiety, but it's not.

And if you stop to think about it for a second, you will say, yeah, right, of course it's not. Of course it's not, because it's magical.

It's magical. Magic gives you infinite power. And if you have infinite power, what do you have to worry about? What do you have to be anxious about?

Anxiety and worry correlated with intolerance of uncertainty. They're correlated with unattainable perfectionism. They're correlated with situations you cannot control, uncertain situations, situations of failure and defeat.

But if you are a magician with magical thinking, what is there to worry about? What is there to be anxious about?

That is precisely the source of good feeling, that adherence of cults and all these modern coaches, self-styled philosophers and psychologists and self-styled experts and public intellectuals and all of them are cult leaders. These are all cults.

If you don't believe me, try to argue with a follower of Sadguru or try to argue with a fan of Jordan Peterson, see what you get. These are cults.

Try to argue with someone who believes in the idiotic QAnon, see what you get.

These are all cults.

With varying degrees of intelligence, the adherence of QAnon are at the lower rank of the ladder of intellect, obviously, and the followers of Jordan Peterson are higher up, but they're all cults.

So of course in cults, the main function of a cult is to reduce anxiety, to reduce worry by introducing rigid rules, which if you follow, you are guaranteed to acquire magical powers, influence on the world.

Now magical thinking manifests differently in different situations and I'm going to review four of them.

Narcissists, borderline, psychopath, and the conspiracy theorists.

Narcissists believe in action at a distance. They believe they do something or they think something or they want something or they believe something and it will have an impact way, way beyond their immediate circle or environment or so they believe in action at a distance.

They also believe that they're only present. Their omniscience and omnipotence, the fact that they're all powerful and all-knowing makes them godlike and exactly like god. They are everywhere and that's why narcissists pursue celebrity. That's why they not they pursue fame because to be a celebrity or to be famous is to be everywhere via the media.

So if you have 15 million followers on Instagram, you are present simultaneously on 15 million screens and that's only presence.

The borderline personality disorder. I'm saying she because majority are women. She has object inconsistency. She's out of sight, out of mind. She's not with you. You can be the person she loves most in the world. The minute she walks out the door, you don't exist. You cease to exist.

Many borderlines would deny this. They would say it's not true.

When I love someone, I'm all into him. I can't forget him. If I'm with him, if I'm not with him, or even worse, when I'm not with him, I think about him even much more.

But object consistency is not about thinking. It's about the innate, all pervasive, ubiquitous knowledge, body knowledge, body memory of the existence of the other, exactly like baby and mother.

And borderlines don't have this. They may remember you on a cognitive level as a kind of fading memory, CPR photograph, as a kind of presence that is present and is not present.

And so object inconsistency is a form of magic because to make things disappear is as magical as making them appear.

Now, another magical feature of borderline is dissociation. It's to dissociate a memory, to forget, actively to forget, is to undo, to rewind the world.

If you don't remember something or someone, it had never existed. It's a form of rewriting reality, reinventing it, undoing it, rewinding it.

And the final element in borderline which has to do with magical thinking is disinhibited lack of impulse control. The borderline acts as though there are no consequences to her actions. She can do anything, and reality in the world will not make her pay for it. There will be no consequences to her actions. It's like living in an eternal presence, like eliminating the future.

This is, of course, magical thinking because the future does exist, and every action has reaction and consequences. Similar problems exist with the psychopath, and that's why we increasingly begin to reconceive a borderline personality disorder as a form of secondary psychopathy. The psychopath feels omnipotent, feels in control via intimidation, and has disinhibited lack of impulse control, exactly like the borderline. And all these are forms of magical thinking. For example, the psychopath believes that his reputation is such that it will deter people. And this reputation is like a cloud, a magical cloud that surrounds him, like a cloak of invisibility. Similarly, he believes himself to be omnipotent, so he will embark on behaviors which are essentially reckless, dangerous, risky, because he will feel utterly immune to the consequences of his misdeeds, of his daring, dare-do activities. And that's, of course, magical thinking because it's not true. And finally, the mind of the conspiracy theories, the person who believes in conspiracy theory.

First of all, I want you to know there is such a trait in psychology. It's called conspiracism.

Conspiracism. Look it up. Google.

Conspiracism is the quality of believing in conspiracy theories. It's a propensity to believe in unproven and unverified, oft-repeated conspiracy theories, urban legends, myths, fake news, and patent falsehoods. Conspiracism is predicated on the assumption that there are sinister things afoot.

But these sinister things, these actors with evil intent, a cabal out to abuse and manipulate and exploit the unsuspecting masses, these illuminates or whatever, there's this assumption that these people, these sinister undercurrents, you know, they are evil. So evil is critical to the activation of the trait of conspiracism.

And it usually involves the belief that groups of people are evil. Most people are gullible. Most people believe literally anything and anyone immediately. This is a well-documented, thoroughly researched phenomenon, and it is known as the base rate.

Just Google base rate. 95% of people believe in 95% of what they're told. Immediately, uncritically, without verifying, without checking, anywhere. Nothing. They immediately believe 95% of what they're told.

This is the base rate, documented, I don't know how many times.

So of course they believe conspiracy theories. Of course they believe nonsense.

Reptilians, 5G, I don't know what the crap they believe in. They believe in because believing is the natural, normal, natural, average reaction.

But then they believe in, magical thinking kicks in, grandiosity kicks in, narcissistic defenses kick in. They believe in something and then they have to defend their misconceptions and they have to defend it, defend them fiercely.

Because if they let go of their misconceptions, if they admit to having been mistaken, this is narcissistic injury. It challenges their grandiose self-conception, their inflated ego.

And they defend their misconceptions by creating counts. They align themselves with others. They signal uncritical conformity in like-minded tribes, silos, subject to confirmation bias. They reject all information which contradicts or might contradict or challenge their beliefs.

And they are rabid. They are violent. They are aggressive. They're dysempathic.

In short, they become psychopathic narcissists.


Frequently the exposure in these echo chambers to toxic nonsense solidifies the belief in these outlandish and inane narratives. And this phenomenon is known as consistency.

The more you're exposed to nonsense, the more you believe in it.

Ask Hitler and Goebbels, they invented this idea. And social media leverage this psychological propensity for consistency. They leverage it by repeating and repeating and repeating.

And it is, of course, an element in classic techniques of brainwashing.

Conspiracy theories brainwash their adherence. Coaches brainwash their followers. Public intellectuals who claim to have come up with a system for life brainwash their followers, fans adherence. It's a brainwashing technique. Sometimes it's done accidentally. Sometimes it's done intentionally.

Once the money kicks in, they realize how much money they can make. Believe me, it's totally intentional.

And they social media leverage this base rate and consistency. The gullibility they leverage is a grist to the perpetual mobile rumor and gossip mills and fake news factories.

Conspiracism feeds off other cognitive distortions. It is really a very bad psychological trait because it brings into confluence narcissism, magical thinking, base rate fallacy, consistency fallacy. I mean, it's to utterly deform and pathologize the mind.

So other cognitive distortions feed into conspiracies.

Consider, for example, proportionality bias, the erroneous conviction that great events are caused by commensurately massive reasons, plots, dynamic processes, sinister cabals. It's a fallacy, of course. Very big events can be caused by a virus, which is a very small organism.

Big events do not need to have big reasons or plots or processes or cabals. Actually, I doubt very much that cabals exist. And this flies in the face of chaos theory and its butterfly effect.

A lone grandiose gunman in Texas can rock the entire world with a single shot or two.

We also find patterns where there are no patterns. We tend to look at totally random sets of data, totally random events, totally accidental confluences and conflations and so on. And we tend to see patterns there where there are none.

When you look at clouds, you see horses and you see the apocalypse and you see towers and you see, but of course there's nothing there. There are only clouds, but you do see. And when you look at stars, you create the small bear and the big bear and the archer, but they're not there. And yet you see them.

So we see patterns, we see structures, we see images, we see figures where there are none.

And these phenomena in psychology are known as apophenia and pareidolia and they are part of magical thinking. We connect dots that should never be connected, should remain discrete. We find continuities in the disparate and the unrelated in the incidental.

And we look at other people's actions and we relate these actions to imputed motivations. But these motivations need not be true. They're speculative and very, very often totally irrational, unreasonable and probably wrong. And this is called intentionality bias when we tend to ascribe intentions to people. And these intentions are simply wrong.

Conspiracism is a personality trait predicated on magical thinking. Even after a favorite conspiracy is debunked, there is a counterfactual residue left, continued influence effect. It's called.

So even when, for example, in the 16th century, 17th century and 18th century, there was a conspiracy theory. It was called witches. There's a conspiracy theory that there are witches. The witches offend the world. And witches conspire with Satan sexually sometimes in order to corrupt young people. It was a conspiracy theory. And it's gone. It's debunked.

Everyone considers witch hunts to be witch hunts. Wrong.

And yet there's a residue. There's a residue left and it's called the continued influence effect. They are still practicing witches. There's a proliferation of literature about witchcraft. There's something left.

Conspiracy theories are like COVID-19. They leave behind polluted, dirty, ugly, stupid, degenerative symptoms. The more you try to argue with a true believer, the more entrenched he becomes in his misinformation and paranoid skepticism. And this is known in psychology as the backfire effect.

Conspiracies strive not only on magical thinking, but on ignorance.

And in order to believe in magical thinking, you need to be ignorant.

For example, if you know physics immediately, a lot of magical thinking is rendered inoperative. You can't believe in magical thinking and no physics. You can't believe in the tsunami of nonsense on COVID-19 and no medicine.

So conspiracies thrive on a combination of malignant, over magical thinking and ignorance.

But ignorance is a precondition for magical thinking. We don't know certain things, but that we don't know certain things doesn't mean that they have to be only in a specific thing.

So for example, we don't know what causes autism. We are still speculating. We know that autism, spectrum disorders have correlates in the brain, biological correlates, genetic correlates. We know to foretell if a child will have autism by now, but we don't know what causes it.

But if we don't know what causes autism, it doesn't mean the anti-vaxxers are right. If we don't know what causes autism, it does not mean that vaccines cause autism. It means we don't know. End of story.

The people who postulated the vaccine theory as a cause of autism, they were taken seriously. I can show you any number of studies.

At the beginning, science took them seriously and started the issue, but then it came to the conclusion that it's nonsense. No way. The anti-vaxxers don't want to hear about it because being an anti-vaxxer has nothing to do with vaccines and nothing to do with autism. It has to do with personal identity. It means you belong. It means you're a cult member. It means that you make sense of the world. It imbues your life with meaning and direction and goal, and quite a lot of people make money out of it.

There is more than a smidgen of grandiosity involved, as people trust their gut instincts and consider themselves superior and enlightened in the know. All the others are ignorant. They're sheeple.

But the conspiracy theory has access to knowledge, to privileged information, arcane information. He's an addict. How a loser in the prairies of an obscure country no one heard of had come across knowledge that most of the scientists in the world never heard of is an open question.

The profile of most conspiracy theorists is not complementary. These are people who are collapsed narcissists, losers, uneducated, ignorant, and if they were to subject themselves to an IQ test, I don't think they would have liked to see the results.

So magical thinking has many, many pernicious manifestations and outcomes on the societal level, not only in the individual level. It starts in childhood.

But as we had developed a civilization when most people refused to grow up, men refused to become men, they remain children. So do women. We refused to grow up simply. Because we refused to grow up, we dragged from our childhood all the dysfunctional, sick, wrong elements.

Magical thinking, splitting, objecting consensus, narcissism. They're all childhood elements.

Our refusal to grow up is going to ruin our civilization. And if we're not careful, it's going to destroy our species.

But then children like to destroy. They like to quote Jordan Peterson, to bite. They like to ruin things.

And so when you tell someone, this will be the end of the species, or this will be the end of civilization, he welcomes it.

These people with magical thinking, they welcome this devastation and destruction. It's creative destruction. Something new will come out of it. Something bigger.

Of which, of course, there will be an inevitable part.

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