There’s a constant issue with how we have to conduct parapsychological research and how this contradicts with learning psi skills: mindset. Parapsychology requires that we perform statistically measurable tasks to demonstrate an effect that is better than we’d expect by chance. This means repetitive tasks and, usually, boring ones. But the other problem here is it contributes, early in our development, to an idea that we’re either psychic or we’re not.
The idea that we’re psychic or we’re not is pretty common. We see the psychic as a special person with special abilities or “gifts” that let him or her see the unknown. Our media portrayals make it seem like telepaths can flawlessly read minds and remote viewers can look at photos and psychokinetic can flip cars, and if we can’t do these things, we don’t have the gift, and that’s it.
This is a toxic mindset for learning. Carol Dweck, in her book Mindset, demonstrated that a fixed mindset–the idea that skills are something we have or we don’t–poisons people’s motivation to learn. It even harms their ability to learn, as they engage in unconscious behaviors meant to protect the ego against a painful realization. Children who are praised for being smart rather than for working hard end up learning to avoid tests of intelligence. After all, if their intelligence is tested, people will find out that they aren’t that smart. Unconsciously, they self-sabotage. Dweck recommends we should have a growth mindset; one that recognizes that skills are something we can learn.
This is no different with psychic abilities. In fact, the effect may even be more pronounced. Because these skills are already difficult to assess, and because we can’t see them working except by the results, it’s easy for people to shy away. Because in many countries there are significant stigma against psi performance, and in others they are associated with malevolence, we hold ourselves back. Because statistical information is cruel and uncompromising, there’s no room for “well, that time felt better.”
It’s difficult to evaluate our process and improve our performance when the only feedback is “you passed” or “you failed.” Our motivation can be quickly drained. Add to this the problem I discussed last month, where lab demonstration isn’t how most people experience psi in their lives anyhow, and there’s a big problem.
The solution is doing everything we can to maintain that growth mindset. Recognize that we’re all already psychic, and that developing that faculty to a point where it’s undeniable is only a matter of practice and paying attention. And develop that growth mindset in all aspects of life. We’ve all learned skills and grown and developed. Recognizing that psi ability is a skill like any other skill is part of the puzzle. Recognizing that we can all learn other skills and what we’re “good at” isn’t a fixed quality is the other.
With a growth mindset, you can improve not just psychic performance, but performance in all aspects of your life.