Today I’m thinking about the “evoke experience” strategy that many people use. This is where someone notes a state of mind by using a phrase or a word the experience evokes. Then they seem to attempt to create a sort of internal filing system or anchor for the experience. When they would like to re-experience what they had experienced before, they say those “magic words” and the state comes back – sort of like a hypnotic suggestion that is designed to trigger this part of their brain to engage and give them the experience, or like a filing system. You might have to say the “incantation” or phrase in a certain sequence, coupled with a motion, etc.

In Alexander Technique, they have a word for this activity – “end-gaining.” Meaning, going for new results with this “evoke” or other habitual strategy, rather than following the newer steps that will actually get you there. It’s something to be avoided, mostly because it doesn’t work so well when applied to new experiences and an unfamilar process.
at the end of Terrace, Bolinas
I’m not making a value judgment on how this works or it’s effectiveness with my next observation. I’ve just noticed that as people use this process and get some results, then they use it in places where it could be wildly useless and somehow they “believe it’s working.” It has the effect of a superstition. They say it can be quite a powerful example of “positive thinking” for them. I think the reason this works so well is there’s actually a part of the brain that begins to do something as soon as you think of it – and this is why visualization works and why you can “practice” doing something by merely thinking about it.

I’ve also watched people do this by telling me what something is “not.” Their idea that if they don’t really say what it is they want, whatever it isn’t will be allowed to happen on its own. Without their specifying exactly what it’s not, they hold it up as a sort of superstition that if they specify it, it will be limited and thus not a surprising enough sort of experience for them.