A truly bizarre phenomenon occured in my life in my mid-20s: practically overnight, the strollers in my neighborhood had spawned.
Seemingly hundreds of them had suddenly shimmered into existence, everywhere: in my pharmacy’s parking lot, in restaurants, on every city sidewalk. I’d somehow stumbled onto Stroller Mania. Or rather, it had stumbled into me.
What is happening? I asked no one in particular.
What was happening was the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, of course, also known as frequency illusion or recency bias. I was pregnant with my first child, and I had baby on the brain. And when your brain is primed to think “baby” on the inside, it’s also primed to selectively notice “baby” in the outside world, too.
This concept is exploited by companies trying to market their products. Seven touches really can make a sale.
If I recall correctly, it was also a big part of the 2006 self-help book “The Secret”, although I believe the author was a little more into a mystical idea of making anything happen just by thinking about it. I’m not super convinced of all that, although I suppose there’s a scenario in the multiverse where you wish really hard that a check for $10,000 will arrive in your mailbox, and then it does — or perhaps you’re in one of the many other multiverses where you’ll have to get used to disappointment.
The flip side of this bias, though — and what has been especially useful for me in my adult life — is the converse: if you’re seeing something with a greater amount of frequency, it’s possible that this is because your brain is focusing on it.
You can learn a lot about what is subconsciously happening in your mind, by paying attention to what you are noticing.
As such, when lately I have been hearing people talk about the benefits of meditation, virtually everywhere, on podcasts, in books, dropped into small talk at work meetings, suggested as a life skill by my therapist — well, you can guess what that is teaching me.
My mind is getting ready to be mindful, I suppose — has decided that now is the right time to pick up a few of those much-heralded skills.
Why now? I ask the void, continuing our conversation from a couple decades ago.
The void, in response, points at everything.
And so it goes.