Each of us lives in our own world with its own rules, values and priorities, building our own reality. As a consequence, everybody who is unhappy can make themselves feel better by changing their world view. At least this was the opinion of the communication scientist and psychotherapist Paul Watzlawick, who would have celebrated his 93rd birthday today. He is perhaps most famous for his quote “one cannot not communicate.” (Sound advice for all those brands that think, just because they don’t have a PR budget or employ an agency, they don’t “do PR”).
Watzlawick argued that, by architecting your own reality, your future becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. More simply: by predicting what could happen to you, you can actually make it come true. For instance, if your horoscope in today’s newspaper warns that you (and about 400 million other people with the same star sign) might fall out with a friend, you might be more inclined to start an argument.
It’s not just individuals who are influenced by self-fulfilling prophecies, entire nations can also be affected. For example, the more a country feels threatened by its neighbour, the more it will arm itself. In turn, its neighbour is more likely to take defensive measures, and so the situation escalates. A similar thing happens when a shortage of a commodity is predicted (whether real or perceived). People, will hoard that product, creating scarcity that may not have existed in the first place.
We’ve seen this happening in the tech industry, with China stockpiling the rare earth metals used in consumer tech devices. It seems that, nearly a century after his birth, Watzlawick’s arguments still have relevance.