Jason recently posted a fantastic post about doubt and why it is useful for your magical work. I agree with his perspective that doubt is useful and that we shouldn’t automatically accept that just because we’ve gotten a result that it is the actual result we wanted. I think magicians are afraid to admit to doubt, or to be critical of their magical work. After all, admitting that you’re magic didn’t quite work out can make you wonder if it’s in your head, or if you really know what you are doing. But that’s a negative perspective about doubt. Admitting doubt can also help you recognize where you can improve your magical work, can help you be critical of your process, and can help you recognize when the magic hasn’t worked the way you wanted it to.
One element of doubt he didn’t touch on, which is just as important as acknowledging the doubt you feel about your magical work, or acknowledging when your magic hasn’t stacked up the way you like, is the crisis of faith that inevitably comes along. You know, when you doubt that magic even exists, or you doubt whether or not you really feel the connection to what you’re working with. And just as I agree with Jason that not enough people post about their failures, I also think not enough people really post about their crisis of faith or how they work through it.
One of the reasons I write in this blog is to actually share my on-going work, and that includes the moments I feel doubt, or an experiment doesn’t work out, or to just show my very fallible nature. I do this for a couple reasons. One I do it to keep myself humble and to recognize that regardless of what anyone else may think of me, I am not always successful with magic or life. No one is, but I do like to think I learn as much, if not more from my failures, as my successes…and that leads to the second reason. I have always wanted to provide people with examples of both success and lack thereof in my work. I want my readers to recognize that there is a magical process and that part of that process involves finding what isn’t working and acknowledging it and working on it. I don’t just do this with my blog, but also my books, because I don’t think it’s authentic to just present your successes to other people. Not only does it set an unrealistic standard, but it encourages a mentality of one-upmanship instead of genuine collaboration and improvement.
There have been times I’ve struggled with my beliefs around magic. There have been times I felt disconnected and wondered if what was I doing was really making a difference. And I’m glad I’ve had those moments, because they present an alternative perspective, but also when the magic works out, it really allows me to see that it’s not all in my head, that there is something going on, and that what I need to do is not give up. I need to improve what I’m doing, and use the doubt I feel to give me some perspective, so I can ask hard questions. I agree with Jason that more people should share what isn’t working, and what doubts they feel. Yes it can make you feel vulnerable, but it can also be liberating, and help others see that they aren’t alone and that magic isn’t always a success. But doubt can also help us become better magicians if we are willing to use it as an opportunity.