What magicians can teach us about mental health – Taipei Times

A study suggests that professional cheaters may be less prone to mental disorders. As a lifelong fan, I’m not surprised

  • By Peter Ormerod / The Guardian

A fool is wise. The clown is sad. A cheater is honest. These may be clichés, but there is some truth in them. Artists who excel in their field often come with controversy. indeed, their art seems to depend on it. To know what you are, you must know what you are not. This sense of conflict and tension, of both opposites being true at the same time, often gives birth to great art.

The strangest of all artists may be the magician. Their art can include comedy, dance and drama; but there is another dimension to them. They are not quite of this world. the essence of their art is that it violates natural law. Part of their ideas is a fleeting sense of madness as they show us things that cannot happen. And yet, of all the artists, it turns out that wizards tend to have the soundest minds, the strongest grasp of reality.

Psychologists at Aberystwyth University reported this week that magicians may be less prone to mental health problems than those who work in other art forms. In fact, they go further. the magicians they studied were less likely to experience phenomena such as hallucinations and cognitive disorganization than the general population.

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Just as there can be many possible ways to perform an illusion, there are many possible reasons why it might happen. Magician Sarah Crosson offers a few. that many children turn to magic to confuse tricksters and gain confidence (Paul Daniels, for example, suffered from crushingly low self-esteem in his early years); that craft requires great deliberation and clarity of thought; that magicians tend to form communities by offering support and encouragement.

And being a magician, as a rule, means being a student of magic. they are likely to know a lot about the history of the art form and have a sense of their place in it. But perhaps there are also deeper reasons that go to the very essence of their art.

It can be said with some confidence that the witch knows the reality better than anyone else. A magician needs a deep understanding of the limits of possibility. They need to know what not to do in order to do it. They must appreciate the human capacity for faith and the methods by which that capacity can be exercised. The magician should also be surprised. they have probably experienced it themselves and want to share that feeling.

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A mage knows their own limitations. The magician knows that they cannot do magic. So does their audience. Thus, a complex and elaborate type of theater is formed: the domain of honest dishonesty.

The audience pays to be fooled by a professional con artist, and this set-up pleases everyone. The audience simultaneously wants to know the secret and fears that same knowledge because knowing the secret destroys all illusions.

This may be why some of the greatest magicians have also been some of the greatest skeptics. John Neville Maskelyne, one of the leading stage actors of Victorian times, discredited the claims of conspirators claiming mystical powers and exposed at least one fraudulent device. Harry Houdini was a staunch rebel of pseudo-mystics. More recently, Penn & Teller has made skepticism the basis for their work.

James Randi devoted most of his life to refuting claims of the supernatural; he was particularly wary of the gullibility of scientists, whom he believed were much easier to fool than magicians. Those who know the ways of the traitor know how they can be used to take advantage of the unwary.

Of course, magicians come in many forms. There are pure entertainers, be they in the typical British artistic tradition of Daniels, or great illusionists more associated with the US. these pretend to be nothing more than skilled performers (when David Copperfield makes the moon disappear in February, as he promised, no one will believe that it has actually ceased to exist).

Then there are the more ambiguous types, like David Blaine, or, to a lesser extent, Derren Brown, or the late master David Berglas, whose personalities convey an enigmatic feel, and whose audience can sometimes feel like they’re under something. spelling

There are still those who say that they work real miracles. There are magicians who imagine, invent, push the limits of what is possible; there are magicians who improve on the work of others or simply try to replicate it. The study notes that “many magicians perform familiar tricks or variations of them without feeling the need to innovate,” contrasting them with other types of creativity. It would be interesting to know how each type of wizard might come up in university research.

But ultimately, a witch’s magic requires being rooted in reality. This is not to say that magicians never struggle with their mental health, and we can be aware of some particularly tragic examples. But knowing the real from the delusion or delusion, while celebrating the wonder, sounds like about as sensible a way to stay mentally healthy as any job offers.

Medical professionals say there are five steps to mental well-being. connect with other people. be physically active; learn new skills; give to others; and pay attention to the present moment. That and so much more is the life of a magician, of those oddballs who may have found the secret to extraordinary normalcy.

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