Patternicity and the Search for Joy

This week I learned about patternicity - the human tendency to look for patterns where none exist. Michael Shermer coined the term to explain why humans develop superstitions and believe in things like astrology and magic - you know, the fun things in life. 

In case you’re wondering how I feel about these things, I evaluate pretty much everything using the scientific method and also I’m a Libra sun, Virgo rising, and Sagittarius moon. 

What I'm saying is that it's complicated, because I’m human. Plus, what’s the fun in not believing in magic?

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I do think patternicity makes a lot of sense, but there are downsides. If there’s an evolutionary reason for seeking patterns, it means that we’re biologically equipped to look for danger, to worry, to focus on the negative. That explains so much, doesn't it? It reminds me of that feeling you get when something good happens, and you just know that bad news must be around the corner. Tell me it happens to you too!

However, all isn’t lost. It takes work, but you can make a conscious effort to look for positive patterns, to notice the things that bring you joy. Training yourself to do the opposite of what we’re evolved to do (which is search for danger and predators!) changes your life from one where you're constantly in fear to one where you regularly experience little bursts of delight.

Thinking like prey may have allowed our ancestors to survive long enough to pass on their genes to us, but now that we don't really have to look for saber-toothed cats on the regular I think it's time to reprogram ourselves. 

I don’t subscribe to the belief that finding joy dumbs you down. In fact, I believe that finding patterns of joy and even intentionally creating them only improves our pattern-finding ability. Practice makes perfect and you might as well enjoy the patterns you find!