• Benj96
    2.3k
    We understand that self-fulfilling cycles exist. Positive feedback or negative feedback which loops onto itself and reinforces the trajectory of a process to some fulfilled or extreme end.

    In human psychology we often use the term "self-fulfilling prophecy" or closely associated terms like "catastrophising" and it's inherent influence on our motivation to prevent it or resilience to a downward spiral. For simple example, I believe I am a failure, I cannot possibly pass this exam, therefore why bother study therefore I do not study, finally I fail the exam. Reinforcing that I was a failure to begin with.

    But what is there to be said for entwining fates, entangling others in a cycle of your making: that is to say imposing catrophisising on others. Dragging them into your own self-fulfilling prophecy so to speak.

    Enter: the witch and her curse - a thought experiment regarding psychological manipulation of others at it's finest degree.

    Beth is a clever girl. Living in the 1500s. Jeremiah, another one of the towns people crossed her family. She is enraged. Her husband has been sentenced to death falsely, for a crime he did not commit, due to Jeremiahs vengeful sadism.

    Beth bangs on his door one day. This is what she says: "Jeremiah, you cretin, you caustic man, you've crossed the wrong woman. You will regret the day you ever encountered me. For I have placed a curse on you.

    First, you will laugh at me. Dismissing me in anger and spite. Thinking there's no such thing as a hex you foolish girl. You will tell your wife and family, your friends and revel together in mocking me. They will ease your exasperation for a short time. But this will not be the end. Bad things will happen to you. They will continue to happen.And when they do, in that moment, you will remember my curse. (ie. "don't think about pink elephants. She is constructing an association). You will start to wonder if they are related. Deep down this will unsettle you.

    You will bring it up with you wife again. (By now the first part of the curse has already become true.) She will say its nonsense, and scorn you for entertaining such ideas. But you will slowly start to preoccupy yourself with it. You will lose sleep. Your nights will become restless. You will feel weak, tired, irritable and ill.

    You will continue to pretend everything is fine. But inside you will slowly be driven mad as you realise all these things I've said will come to pass. And as they do, your belief in my curse will invariably grow, as it takes hold on you.

    Eventually, you will not be able to stand it any longer. You will be left with 2 options. The first will be to come to be, begging to spare you. You will plead for forgivenessnand absolution. You will realise the errors of your ways and if you do, I will release you from the curse. You will be a free man.

    The other option is you will, in contempt, go to the town court and declare me a witch. You will demand I be punished, burned at the stake for cursing you. If this is the path you take, I am sure to die one way or another. But in that moment, when I am killed, the curse will become permanent. You will not only pass it to all of your offspring, and theirs, forever more, but you will also let the curse consume the town.

    The town will suffer. Bad things will happen and paranoia will run riot. Everyone will be suspicious of everyone else. They will believe there are more witches amongst us. Violence will ensue. But most importantly they will blame you. Your arrogance. For not simply coming to me and pleading for forgiveness to remove the curse. They will demand you dead. And this will be your undoing.

    So heed my warning Jeremiah. You can save yourself and the town. When you admit you murdered my husband in cold blood. If you don't only horror will befall all of us.

    What Beth has done here is outline very natural and logical behaviours following a threat. And injected them with a plausible superstition to back it. Superstition that feeds off of its own natural course (a self fulfilling cycle).

    Because she outlined all possible reactions to her threat, having profiled jeremiah and applying basic psychology, every possible action jeremiah can take is plausibly related to him being cursed. The more that transpires from that point on, the more sure he is in the existence of a curse. Afterall it describes what is happening, what he and his family observe.

    The only thing required to set the ball rolling is jeremiah and his family to have something bad happen to him/them. Which is guarenteed to occur. As everyone has bad days.

    Beth has to take it to the extreme however (at her own risk of death) to ensure that all loose ends are tied up into one unavoidable narrative and that the manipulation can continue as long as is possible until jeremiah might consider apologising. She is manipulating him and relying on him to spread the threat to the rest of the town. Which he will as he is convinced it is taking hold.

    So it seems a very methodical and carefully constructed narrative can ensare others in a self fulfilling prophecy of your own making. One that people will say is "seeing the future", when in fact it is just "seeing the human condition".

    Such collective self-fulfilling cycles can be positive/constructive in nature or devastating/negative in nature. And are used even today in politics: everything from facist propaganda and rhetoric to climate change existentualism/extinctionism.

    Of course the curse is not real. But the dynamic it relies on very much is. So in the end, the same outcome arises. The curse merely outlines the outcome better than anyone else has simply by being spoken.

    This paradigm, I believe, is why superstitions, premonitions, prophecies, omens, mysticism and belief in magic persist today.
  • Vera Mont
    3.7k
    This paradigm, I believe, is why superstitions, premonitions, prophecies, omens, mysticism and belief in magic persist today.Benj96

    And also because humans love magic; they crave miracles, wishing wells, love potions, lucky charms, the end of the rainbow. They desire wish-control over the physical world which is beyond their ability to manipulate, and they desire short-cuts and quick fixes. Magical thinking applies as much to vengeful and cruel impulses as it does to acquisitive ones.
  • Benj96
    2.3k
    Magical thinking applies as much to vengeful and cruel impulses as it does to acquisitive ones.Vera Mont

    Absolutely. Superheroes and Sci-fi are predominant film categories for a reason. They reflect our innate desire for superhuman abilities. For magic.

    They also inspire tech moguls to bring about advancements that make what was once impossible, possible. The people of 1000 years ago would consider us gods for our technology, medicine and luxury. But it's relative. We take this for granted nowadays.

    The only difference between the seemingly magical and the very real is knowledge/education and their applications.
  • TheMadMan
    221

    Hmmm... Whatever bad things would happen to Jeremiah they were going to happen whether the witch forgives him or not.
    Lets say that Jeremiah picks option 1.
    The bads things that were going to happen will still happen and he will think that the witch lied and seek vengance.
    How will she get out of this?
  • Benj96
    2.3k
    in option one she will get an apology. How has she lied in this case? As the curse says if he apologises he is released from it and the curse ends

    If he seeks forgiveness then the alternative never comes to pass and thus cannot possibly be proven to be the alternative ultimatum.

    In the end she gets what she actually wants. A sincere or desperate apology rather than all out riot and being burnt at the stake.
  • TheMadMan
    221
    in option one she will get an apology. How has she lied in this case? As the curse says if he apologises he is released from it and the curse endsBenj96

    Here:

    The only thing required to set the ball rolling is jeremiah and his family to have something bad happen to him/them. Which is guarenteed to occur. As everyone has bad days.Benj96

    Bad things will still happen to Jeremiah since she was bluffing.
    And then Jeremiah will hold her responsible.
  • Benj96
    2.3k
    And then Jeremiah will hold her responsible.TheMadMan

    If he believes her curse. Sure. Which is what Beth wants because if he does her revenge is working. And there's a chance he also believes this was brought on him by his actions against her loved one - her husband.
  • L'éléphant
    1.4k
    Bad things will still happen to Jeremiah since she was bluffing.
    And then Jeremiah will hold her responsible.
    TheMadMan
    If he took option 1, then he needs to "release" her from the responsibility so that when bad days come to him, he doesn't attribute it to the curse and takes it as just life that happens to everyone. So the only way he is freed is for him to stop making her the responsible party for his bad days.
  • Benj96
    2.3k
    So the only way he is freed is for him to stop making her the responsible party for his bad days.L'éléphant

    And how might he go about stopping her reign of influence over his bad days?
  • Vera Mont
    3.7k
    By making amends for his originals wrongdoing. An apology is not enough; she also demanded that he confess. If he's done that, he's already in prison, unless the authorities either didn't take him seriously or decided to let him off. Which might be sufficient for the 'witch', but not for his conscience. He doesn't just need to be be freed; he needs to feel free. He needs to do something positive to restore karmic balance.
  • Benj96
    2.3k
    . He doesn't just need to be be freed; he needs to feel free. He needs to do something positive to restore karmic balance.Vera Mont

    That's true. If the apology is genuine and remorseful. He will feel compelled do act to restore karma. If it isn't genuine or coming from remorse, if he's only trying to break the curse
    then he likely wont tell the authorities
  • L'éléphant
    1.4k
    And how might he go about stopping her reign of influence over his bad days?Benj96
    Because it's only in his mind that the curse is working. You said it in the OP that the curse isn't real. But if he believes that curses are real, then, yes he's bound to that curse.

    By making amends for his originals wrongdoing. An apology is not enough; she also demanded that he confess. If he's done that, he's already in prison, unless the authorities either didn't take him seriously or decided to let him off. Which might be sufficient for the 'witch', but not for his conscience. He doesn't just need to be be freed; he needs to feel free. He needs to do something positive to restore karmic balance.Vera Mont
    This is the best option -- he needs to confess to his criminal act and ask for forgiveness (he needs to serve time for the crime, of course).
  • Benj96
    2.3k
    Because it's only in his mind that the curse is working. You said it in the OP that the curse isn't real. But if he believes that curses are real, then, yes he's bound to that curse.L'éléphant

    True. So in conclusion, he either finds a way to refuse believing the curse and thus isn't influenced by it, or he does believe it (what Beth wants) in which case his only choice is to absolve himself of the curse. To confess.

    So for Beth, justice is done if he takes credence in the curse. If he believes it, Beth gets what she wants.
  • Vera Mont
    3.7k
    he either finds a way to refuse believing the curse and thus isn't influenced by it,Benj96
    If he's a sociopath, no problem. If he has a conscience, she is its voice and he can't help hearing that, though he might be able to rationalize his way out of it.
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