Life trainers, sports coaches and psychologists have long argued the benefits of visualization. The most interesting endorsement comes from psychologists and neuroscience who have found that when you visualize yourself doing something in your mind (or watch someone performing the desired act), many of the same neurons involved in performing that action yourself are firing (about 20% of the neurons for just watching someone do something, let alone actually visualizing yourself doing it too). Remember the finger strength experiment with people actually doing finger curls and others just visualizing it?
And, we now know from recent research that the more neurons fire together, the more they wire together and therefore can more easily fire together in the future.
I think religion has it’s place in this realm. And it has to do with conviction and confidence. I think it’s one of the main benefits religion has had in the past.
The ability to visualize yourself succeeding or winning is most influenced by your belief that you can achieve that particular outcome. If I’m trying to visualize myself scoring a basket, it’s much harder to do so if I don’t actually believe I can do it or that I haven’t practiced enough. But if I truly believed that I had a divine power, transcended upon me from an energy I couldn’t possibly even understand, well then by god I think I would be a little more confident.
And if you lived in a time when burning sacrificial offerings to your god was a way of life and you truly believed he/she had ordained your victory in battle, how much harder and more confidently would you fight? How much more easily could you visualize (likely through prayer) winning?
So, there are two interesting things:
A) That religion likely had some very interesting benefits to humans who truly believed
… now that most people (most people who read this, I think) believe that there likely isn’t a third party dude sitting in a cloud picking me out to be a winner, we must find that which makes us most confident in life such that we can visualize our desired future successes with the same degree of confidence that divination would promote. And I think to attain said degree of confidence, your entire being must be made to believe that you deserve said achievements. But more on that later…