Although many people would passionately deny about being called as superstitious, in reality they could be quite cautious on situations where irrational beliefs are concerned. The most popular superstition topics are Friday the 13th, the number 13, black cat and many others. We may occasionally see high expense purchases, long distance travel and contract signing are postponed due to “bad day” considerations. On the other hand, people who born on the day thirteen may actually consider it as their lucky day. Even in a highly advanced society, superstition still unconsciously holds a dominant role in people’s mind. It seems that there is a part of our mind that thrives by believing on “illogical” things and simply ignores our rationality. Although the logical part of our mind may easily dismiss any superstitious belief and practices as silly quirks, the less rational, creative mind tend to objectively incorporate whatever we feed it. Although it’s alright to be a little superstitious, uncontrolled belief in superstition may bring negative impacts on how we conduct our lives. These measures could be applied in extremes and situations can become debilitating to the point of destructive. Many superstitions are passed down through the generations in the family or simply created by an individual. You should be aware that most popular superstitions such as stepping on cracks, walking under the ladder, breaking mirrors, spilling salt and others are simply misguided belief that were based on certain ancient tales and folklore, instead of real-life experiences. To counter bad luck, there are also a host of lucky charms and other traditional countermeasures that are believed to be able to negate bad luck; these are also a part of superstitions and not necessarily a good thing either. Modern people tend to adhere to a more subtle form of superstition. For example, many professional athletes use certain articles of clothing to establish a winning mindset. In addition, average individuals use “lucky shirt” or “lucky tie”, whenever they go to special events such as a gambling night or job interview. Astrology is still a popular subject and people still rely on a number of irrational factors as a part of decision-making process. Superstitious beliefs are often tied to the unpredictable or supernatural side of events that seems to be beyond our control. The difference between superstitious and rational practices is substantial. With enough rational observation, you can assess methods and behaviors that either work consistently or not. You should immediately dismiss those that are associated with inconsistent or unpredictable results. In general, superstition beliefs are based entirely on a premise that one favorable action prevents many unfavorable outcomes. If a random action coincidentally works very well, we tend to try to recreate the situation. It may be hard to believe, there are only few people today who approach the life in an entirely rational fashion, without being affected by irrational beliefs. Each individual often carries around his/her own little bag of tricks that they believe will serve them well over time. People are compelled to do everything to use whatever positive competitive edge they can find to ensure success, even if the practices are seemingly irrational. However, if the methods fail repeatedly to achieve what you set out to do, you should begin to examine your approach to objectively determine things that could contribute to your failures. Life always changes and to get a desired result consistently, it is better to perform a set of rational behaviors. Sometimes positive changes are difficult to achieve and success may only happen if you do the right things at the right time. When preparing for something, you should also consider the appropriate timing and have a clear idea on the cause-and-effect principle. • Write down a list of your superstitious beliefs, and rate them with value between one (weakest) and ten (strongest). • Notice your emotional reactions when you’re writing down those beliefs. Do you feel sad, scared, anxious, happy or excited to each item in your list? • Determine how often you succumbed to an irrational belief, by performing or not performing certain actions. You should also measure the feeling of annoyance, grief, inconvenience, joy or relief associated with the practices. • Search for any resources, including the Internet and a local library for the origin of your superstitions, as there are often some historical backgrounds that back their existence. Some websites are dedicated to debunk urban legends and superstitions, reading them can ease your anxiety and make your life superstition-free. For example, bad luck caused by walking underneath a ladder is a popular superstition. The rational consequence is that tools can be unintentionally dropped onto someone under the ladder. It was simply an old work-safety precaution that developed into a full-blown superstition. • Keep your anxiety at bay. There are thousands of superstitious beliefs out there and they will always become an inseparable part of our society. When a superstitious individual warns you about your recent “improper” behavior, just relax. Keep in mind that certainty only comes from rational actions. • Be realistic. Many things are planned months in advance, however, there’s no way to determine whether your plans will runs smoothly. Deal with superstitions by expecting the best and you should be aware that negative thoughts can only attract negative outcomes. • Consider whether your adherence to a belief is bordering on obsession. If this is true, it could be an indication that you need a professional help. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) can actually be considered as an obsessive superstitious syndrome. OCD sufferers are phobically-laden individuals with miswired mind, which perceive the world in a totally different manner, based on specific bizarre beliefs, fears and impulses, which are comparable to superstitions. • Feel free to maintain practices and beliefs that are culturally significant to you, however remember that they only carry only symbolic meaning instead of literal ones. • After examining the origin of your superstition and belief system and trying to be realistic, you should re-examine your list. Re-rate your response or anxiety of each item in the list. See if you can finally cross one or a few items in the list. Return to your list regularly and aim to have all the items crossed out sometime in the future. Although superstitions are completely erroneous, it is proven that the positive power of mind and prayers can improve the probability of success in your life. So make sure, your life is filled with positive energy, thoughts and behaviors, as those ridiculous superstitions have no logical basis whatsoever.
Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states
Are you superstitious? If you are then you had better stay in bed hiding under the covers, knock on wood, delay that flight or drive to another city, and not start any new projects today because it’s another Friday the 13th! If you are one of the millions of people who fear Friday the 13th then you may be suffering from “friggatriskaidekaphobia.” Try saying that word three times in a row and as rapidly as you can! There are many other superstitious beliefs such as: 1. If a black cat crosses your path you will have bad luck, 2. If you break a mirror you are in for 7 years of bad luck. 3. It’s important to keep your lucky charm with you so that good things will happen. 4. You always say, “God bless you,” if someone sneezes. 5. When someone you know is about to go on stage,you tell them to, “Break a leg,” to ensure a good performance. The list can go on endlessly. You would be wrong if you think only neurotic or depressed people hold onto these beliefs. Architects omit the 13th floor when they build skyscrapers. Baseball players have been known to wear the same shirt everyday, without washing it, if they are having a great hitting streek. The movie industry in Mumbai, India, called Bollywood, is reluctant to distribute movies on the 13th of each month. How does psychology explain the origins of superstitions? Before answering that question, it’s important to point out that even some of the best psychologists and other professionals hold onto superstitions despite knowing that there is no evidence to support them. In fact, even the most scientific and rational of us can’t help but have some of our own superstitions. The human mind is quick to make causal connections between beliefs and events. If one believes in the dangers of Friday the 13th and something unfortunate happens that day, then the superstition is strongly reinforced. The causal connection does not have to be between a superstitious belief and something bad happening. Just as with the baseball player, if he believes in superstitions and his hitting streek starts when he is wearing his red shirt, he will continue to wear it in order to prolong the streek. The human tendency to make causal connections helps explain another powerful motivating factor in this. People feel better if they have a sense of control over events. For example, many football fans are convinced that, if they fail to watch their team play, the team will lose. There are all kinds of variations on the same theme. I’m skeptical about superstitions but, if I spill salt on the table, I have to throw some over my left shoulder!! Oh, yes, and I do get a knot in my stomach on Friday the 13th! What are your opinions about superstitions? If you would rather wait until the 14th to respond, its okay with me. Allan N. Schwartz, PhD Keep Reading By Author Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Read In Order Of Posting Source: microcosmos/Shutterstock How many times a day do you either cross your fingers, knock on wood, or worry that your good luck will turn on you? When two bad things happen to you, do you cringe in fear of an inevitable third unfortunate event? Even those of us who “know better” are readily prone to this type of superstitious thinking. Further defying logic, we also readily believe in our own psychic powers: You’re thinking of a friend when all of a sudden your phone beeps to deliver a new text from that very person. It’s proof positive that your thoughts caused your friend to contact you at that very moment! These are just a few examples of the type of mind tricks to which we so readily fall prey. In his book, “The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking,” psychology writer Matthew Hutson systematically documents the most common of these. Summarizing a wealth of psychological evidence, he also explains the empirical basis for each. See how long it takes you to recognize some of your own mental foibles in these 7 laws: 1. Objects carry essences. What’s your memorabilia collection like these days? According to this first rule, we attribute special properties to items that belong or once belonged to someone we love, is famous, or has a particular quality we admire. Perhaps you’ve got a baseball signed by your favorite player or a pen that a rock star used to autograph your concert ticket. The greatness that’s rubbed off onto this memento gives you a sense of connection with your hero and makes you that much more special. Perhaps it’s not even something from a famous person, but from someone close to you who has died. After the death of a loved one, people often find it extremely difficult to get rid of all of the person’s possessions, keeping a special scrapbook, dresser drawer, or keepsake chest filled with the most significant of these. The fact of the matter is that the objects are just objects, and despite their connection with special people in our lives, they have no inherent ability to transmit those people’s powers to us. 2. Symbols have power. Humans have a remarkable tendency to impute meaning not only to objects but to abstract entities. We imbue these symbols with the ability to affect actual events in our lives. According to the principle known as the “law of similarity,” we equate a symbol with the thing it stands for. In one experiment testing this idea, people refused to throw a dart at a picture of their own mother’s face but were able to take dead aim at a photo of Hitler. They confused their mother’s image with their actual mothers. The law of similarity is also expressed as “like produces like»: If you want to roll a high number on a die, the thinking goes, you should shake it harder. We might also attribute qualities to an object on the basis of the word used to label it, or to a person on what that person is named. (Hutson points out that the popularity of the name Britney, for example, peaked after the release of Britney Spears’s first album and has dropped ever since.) We also avoid uttering names that we think could cause us to be harmed like the characters who refer to Lord Voldemort In the Harry Potter books as “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.” Voodoo rituals and magical spells also rely on the power of symbols. 3. Actions have distant consequences. In our constant search to control the outcomes of events in our unpredictable lives, we build up a personal library of favorite superstitious rituals or thoughts. Hutson cites several compelling examples from the lore of fishermen. Their jobs are the deadliest in the U.S. and the high stakes have led them to develop all sorts of rituals. They don’t allow anyone to talk about horses, carry suitcases on board, or leave town on a Friday, to name a few examples. They feel certain that violating any of these rules will cause severe injury if not loss of life. These extreme examples are just instances of the more general tendency that we all have to form “illusory correlations,” in which we assume that when two events co-occur, they are somehow logically connected: You wear a certain hat to a crucial playoff game of your favorite team, and they win. Now, you must wear that hat at all future games. If you don’t, and the team loses, it’s your fault. Believing that you can jinx yourself into a bad outcome by thinking the wrong thing or taking a good outcome for granted is another example of this thinking. We’re particularly likely to engage in superstitious thinking when the chances of something bad happening are high. Hutson calls this “error management»—in times of stress, we want to do everything we can to avoid harm. The more stressed or worried you are about having something bad happen to you, the more likely you are to try to move the odds in your favor. Some studies suggest, moreover, that believing that an object or thought is lucky can actually help you to be more successful. For example, participants who were told that they’d been given a lucky golf ball actually sank their putts more than did people who didn’t receive this false information. It’s possible that this belief in luck causes people to perform better because their inner self-confidence was boosted, even if only for bogus reasons. 4. The mind knows no bounds. Still convinced you’re a rational being? Let’s put this next belief to the test. As I mentioned earlier, we are often impressed by the apparent coincidence that occurs when a person we’re thinking about suddenly contacts us. For just that moment, we believe the event “proves” that we’re psychic. The more often this happens, the more likely we are to be convinced of our mind’s special powers. One reason we fall for this mental trap is the illusory correlation. A second is that we’re lousy statisticians. We count the hits but not the misses. How many times has your heart ached for an ex-lover to call or email you, only to be met with silence? If you were to keep an honest record of every single instance that your thoughts brought about such a result vs. the times they didn’t, you’d undoubtedly come out with a whoppingly low proportion of hits. Another manifestation of this rule: Our tendency to believe that if we think positive thoughts about a person in trouble, our thoughts can truly help that person, even if he or she is thousands of miles away from us. 5. The soul lives on. On a more serious note, Hutson takes on belief in the afterlife from as much a philosophical as an empirical perspective. Even if you’re not into Cartesian dualism (the idea that the mind and body are two separate entities), you might find interesting the notion that even by the age of 3, children realize that an imagined cookie can’t be eaten. They also know that you can only think of, and never see, a flying dog or a talking flower. Why, then, do adults hold on so stubbornly to the belief that the mind can continue even after its seat (the brain) is no longer alive? The answer, in part, comes from the terror that we feel about death, captured in Ernest Becker’s groundbreaking book, The Denial of Death. It’s our desire to avoid thinking about our own mortality that leads us, according to Becker, to invent and hold onto a belief in the afterlife. Following from Becker’s work, research based on Terror Management Theory carried out over the past few decades has shown that increasing people’s awareness of mortality leads them to shore up their personal defenses against feelings of anxiety. Even feeling identification with your favorite brand name product may be a way of protecting yourself from confronting your mortality. 6. The world is alive. Adults are supposed to grow out of the stage that Piaget called “preoperational” thinking—basically, the logic of a child between the ages of about 4 and 7. However, as Hutson shows, we share the young child’s belief in animism, which is one key feature of preoperational thought. In other words, we attribute human-like qualities to everything from our pets to our iPhones. This is because we over-apply what’s known as the theory of mind, the process we use to understand and predict what other people are going to do. We read into the faces of our pets all sorts of human emotions such as humor, disappointment, and guilt. If our latest technological toy misbehaves, we yell at it and assume it has some revenge motive it needs to satisfy. Experiments testing our animistic tendencies show that we even impute human-like emotions to simple moving shapes. In one study, college students watched a film in which three shapes moved around on a screen. The majority of them described the action of the shapes in human terms. So the next time you look at the “man in the moon,” you might ask yourself why you have this strong need to assume that an object in space has human qualities. 7. Everything happens for a reason. The most insidious form of magical thinking is our tendency to believe that there is a purpose or destiny that guides what happens to us. These are the thoughts that go through your head when, for example, you miss a bus that would have gotten you to a job interview on time, and because you missed it, you didn’t get the job but you did meet a person on the bus who you ended up going out with, who now has become your lifelong partner, and you then moved to a new home, and had two children who never would existed—if you hadn’t missed that bus. OK, maybe this hasn’t exactly happened to you, but I’m willing to bet that at some point in your life, you’ve gone through a line of reasoning that bears some similarity to this chain. Perhaps your home was spared (or not) during a tornado, fire, or other disaster. Why were you spared (or not) while other people have the opposite outcome? As Hutson points out, “Coincidences…are the manna of magical thinking” (p. 207). They play a central role in the theory of Carl Jung, who referred to seemingly meaningful coincidences as examples of the law of “synchronicity.” It’s due to our belief in coincidences that we read patterns into events that have no intentional design. For the same reason, we believe in luck, fate, and chance. Even people who study magical thinking are prone to believing that events over which we have no control are in some ways predestined. It’s almost impossible not to read patterns into the random events in our lives. To do so gives us a sense of control, even if that sense of control is only illusory. Follow me on Twitter @swhitbo for daily updates on psychology, health, and aging. Feel free to join my Facebook group, «Fulfillment at Any Age,» to discuss today’s blog, or to ask further questions about this posting. Copyright Susan Krauss Whitbourne 2012 Is ‘magical’ thinking hurting or helping you? Medically Reviewed by Charlotte E. Grayson Mathis, MD If you’re like most people, you occasionally participate in superstitious thinking or behavior often without even realizing you’re doing it. Just think: When was the last time you knocked on wood, walked within the lines, avoided a black cat, or read your daily horoscope? These are all examples of superstitions or what Stuart Vyse, PhD, and the author of Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition, calls magical thinking. More than half of Americans admitted to being at least a little superstitious, according to a recent Gallup poll. Additionally, beliefs in witches, ghosts and haunted houses — all popular Halloween symbols — have increased over the past decade. But just what is the psychology behind our magical thinking, and is it hurting or helping us? When does superstitious thinking go too far? Was Stevie Wonder right: When you believe in things that you don’t understand, do you suffer?
Superstition, Ritual, or Anxiety?
In our quest to understand superstitions, let’s start by defining them. After all, not all rituals or beliefs are superstitions. «The dividing line is whether you give some kind of magical significance to the ritual,» Vyse tells WebMD. For example, if an athlete develops a ritual before a game, something Vyse says many coaches encourage, it may help to calm and focus him or her like repeating a mantra. «That’s not superstitious,» says Vyse. On the other hand, he says if you think tapping the ball a certain number of times makes you win the game, you’ve entered superstitious territory. You might be wondering if certain superstitious behaviors — such as like counting the number of times you tap a ball — are really a sign of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). People with OCD often have compulsions to do rituals over and over again, often interfering with everyday life. A good example is Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie As Good As It Gets, who skips cracks in the sidewalk and eats at the same table in the same restaurant every day, with an inability to cope with any change in routine. While some of the symptoms of OCD can mimic superstitious behavior (and the two aren’t mutually exclusive) Vyse says most of the evidence would indicate there is no connection between the two. «We don’t think of anxiety disorders [such as OCD] as superstitious thinking. We think of it as irrational thinking, and most of our patients understand that,» says Paul Foxman, PhD, an anxiety expert from Burlington, Vt. «But I do have patients that tell me that they believe that if they don’t worry about something, then the likelihood of it happening will go up, and that is a superstitious thought,» he says. The key is to pay attention to your own thinking, particularly if you experience any symptoms of anxiety — tension, excessive worry, trouble sleeping, obsessive thoughts and exhaustion, for example. If you experience these symptoms or find that you have repetitive ritualized behavior that’s out of control — superstitious or not — get professional help from a doctor or therapist.
Wanting more control or certainty is the driving force behind most superstitions. We tend to look for some kind of a rule, or an explanation for why things happen. «Sometimes the creation of a false certainty is better than no certainty at all, and that is what much of the research suggests,» says Vyse. Job interviews, testing, and other situations where we want things to go well — regardless of our own preparation or performance — can spur superstitious thoughts. «We are often in situations in life where something really important is about to happen, we’ve prepared for it as best we can, but it’s still uncertain; it’s still unclear,» Vyse says. No matter how confident or prepared you are for an event — whether it’s a football game, a wedding, or a presentation — things can still happen beyond your control. «Superstitions provide people with the sense that they’ve done one more thing to try to ensure the outcome they are looking for.»
Friend or Foe?
A sense of security and confidence are perhaps the greatest benefits we get emotionally from superstitious thinking or behavior — like carrying an object or wearing an item of clothing that you deem to be lucky. Foxman says there is a positive placebo effect — if you think something will help you, it may do just that. «There is a tremendous amount of power in belief,» he says. If the outcome is a matter of pure luck, beliefs don’t really have any impact, however, when your performance is a key factor in an outcome, superstitious thinking might give you an extra boost. «There can be a real psychological effect of superstitious thoughts,» says Vyse. If you’ve done well before when you had a particular shirt on, for example, it might prove wise to wear the shirt again, if it helps to relieve anxiety and promotes positive thoughts. But this way of thinking can also hinder your performance, if say, you lose your lucky object. It’s not news that expectations can be extremely powerful and suggestive. Studies regularly point to placebo effects (both positive and negative), which are entirely caused by the power of expectations or preconceptions. Yet superstitions can also play a negative role in our lives, especially when combined with a bad habit such as gambling. If you’re a compulsive gambler who believes that you can get lucky, then that belief may contribute to your problem. Phobic (fearful) superstitions can also interfere with our lives, and cause a lot of anxiety, says Vyse. For example, people who are afraid of Friday the 13th might change travel arrangements or skip an appointment because of unnecessary anxiety. These types of superstitions offer no benefit at all.
And the Award for Most Superstitious Goes to …
Being superstitious is something we often learn as children, and according to the Gallup poll, older folks are less likely to believe in superstitions. Generally speaking, women are more superstitious than men, Vyse says. When was the last time you saw an astrology column in a men’s magazine? Women may also experience more anxiety, or at least, more women than men seek help for anxiety problems. Although personality variables are not a strong factor in developing superstition, there is some evidence that if you are more anxious than the average person you’re slightly more likely to be superstitious. Vyse says our locus of control can also be a factor contributing to whether or not we are superstitious. If you have an internal locus of control, you believe that you are in charge of everything; you are the master of your fate and you can make things happen. If you have an external locus of control, «you’re sort of buffeted by life, and things happen to you instead of the other way around,» Vyse tells WebMD. People with external locus of control are more likely to be superstitious, possibly as a way of getting more power over their lives. «Part of the reason why women are more superstitious than men is that women feel, even in today’s modern society, that they have less control over their fate than men do.» Intelligence seems to have little to do with whether or not we subscribe to superstitions. Vyse says that on the Harvard campus — where one would assume there are a lot of intelligent people — students frequently rub the foot of the statue of John Harvard for good luck. In a sense, a superstition, like other rituals, can become part of a campus, community or culture, and can help bring people together. «Most of the superstitions people engage in are perfectly fine, and are not pathological,» says Vyse. Now that’s good news, and it’s just in time for Halloween. Disclosure: this page contains affiliate links to select partners. We receive a commission should you choose to make a purchase after clicking on them. Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you break free from superstitious thinking. Simply click here to connect with one via BetterHelp.com. Superstitions can play a difficult role in your life when they start interfering with your choices. The truth is that all superstitions are only partially grounded in reality. Most superstitions have some thread of truth to them that’s been blown up out of proportion over time. Unfortunately, the real reason may get buried under Magical Thinking, gossip, and people just embellishing the story. But sometimes, superstitions are greater than that. Sometimes a person’s choices are driven by superstition, fear, and Magical Thinking because they are experiencing symptoms of a mental illness. That could be something like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, where the person feels like they need to perform a certain action or something will go wrong. It may also be mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder that can cause a person to have delusional beliefs. Of course, these are but a few examples. There are several other mental health problems that severe superstitions can point to. Suppose you find that your beliefs are getting in the way of your life or causing you distress. In that case, it is a good idea to seek out a mental health professional to see if there is a bigger issue at work. But, if it’s not that severe or you want to try to unwind the thoughts, we can look at some steps to dissect and try to rob those superstitions of some of their power.
1. Learn more about the superstition.
Most superstitions have some grain of truth to them. Once you find the grain of truth, you can try to strip Magical Thinking away from the superstition. For example: Walking under a ladder will bring bad luck. The origins of this superstition are rooted in the bad idea of walking under ladders when someone is working on one. You can end up with a paint can, or a hammer dropped on your head. It could also be that the person passing under bumps into the ladder and may cause an accident. Black cats are bad luck. This superstition is rooted in the fear of witches in the Middle Ages and on. The idea was that witches would turn themselves into black cats to hide and evade arrest. In reality, these poor cats are just cats. And even today, they suffer from the stigma of this superstition by being targeted by “occultists” around Halloween or killed because they are bad luck. There’s a good chance that any classic superstition you may believe in does have some thread of truth to it. However, that thread of truth may not be what you think it is. So explore. Do some more research on your superstition and see what you can find.
2. Look for evidence of your superstition being correct.
Rationalizing and seeking evidence of the superstitious belief is one way to break free from its hold. If this belief is true, there must be evidence that supports the belief somewhere. Right? But, if you struggle with these ideas, the evidence can become murky. So what constitutes evidence? The best way to look for evidence is to look into research papers, documents written by authorities such as universities and doctors, or some other peer-reviewed and verified source. If there is ample evidence of a true belief, you will likely find multiple examples of that thing. What doesn’t count as evidence are opinions without any factual evidence to support them. You can think that the moon is made of cheese, but no one will accept that opinion is valid. A mountain of evidence shows that the moon isn’t made of cheese. Moon rocks are being returned to the Earth, scientific studies of the mineral composition of the moon, and the moon landings. Yes, that’s kind of a silly example, but it illustrates why an opinion may not be valid. Is the belief and opinion that should you step on a crack, you’ll break your mother’s back valid? No. There is no evidence to support it aside from a misguided opinion here and there.
3. Avoid using superstitions to guide your choices.
Perhaps you have a problem with letting superstitions guide your choices. Perhaps you don’t want to fly on the 13th day of a month because you believe that the number 13 is unlucky. Well, why? Why is 13 an unlucky number? Well, look at the history of superstition. You’ll find that one reason is that Judas was the 13th disciple and was supposedly the 13th to sit at the Last Supper. Thirteen is associated with Judas and his betrayal. Therefore 13 is an unlucky number. But that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, does it? Consider the following. If 13 is so unlucky that you might be considering taking a different plane trip to avoid it, where should all the mayhem and carnage be there? Millions of people fly daily with no negative repercussions, except for possibly jet lag. There would be newscast after newscast of all the plane crashes and problems that occurred on the 13th if that superstition had any basis in reality. But it doesn’t. Challenge the way you make these decisions. Test it out. Go ahead and act counter to this superstition and see what happens. You’re not going to have bad luck if a black cat crosses your path, if you break a mirror, or if your flight is on the 13th. Nothing is going to happen as a direct result of these actions.
4. Luck is not something created by superstitions.
Many people have different practices to try to generate luck. They may have a lucky rabbit’s foot (which wasn’t so lucky for the rabbit), lucky numbers, or some kind of lucky ritual that they think will help give them an edge. For example, maybe a football player won’t shave his beard because he feels it gives him good luck on the field. Luck is not something that is created by abstract circumstances. But, really, luck isn’t so much a tangible thing if you consider the overall arc of life. Sometimes good things happen, and people attribute that to good luck. Other times bad things happen, and people attribute that to bad luck. The truth is that it’s neither. Sometimes good things happen in life, sometimes they don’t. That’s just kind of the way life is. Of course, there are other ways you can try to set yourself up for greater success. For example, there’s a common saying: “Luck = Work + Opportunity.” But what does that mean, exactly? If you want to be lucky, you need to work to put yourself in a position to embrace an opportunity when it comes your way. For example, maybe you’ve been putting in a lot of effort at work and noticed by management and offered a raise because of it. That’s not some intangible luck floating around the universe. That’s the result of your hard work meeting with the opportunity of a raise. The best way to improve your luck is to put more effort into the areas of your life you want to improve. For example, do you want to find a relationship partner? Put more effort into developing yourself and dating. Do you want a better job? Put more effort into education, training, or applying for better jobs. Do you want a happier life? Do more things that make you happy. These things can occur by random happenstance, but they’ll be far more likely if you’re doing the work and creating opportunities for them to happen.
5. Superstition is often rooted in fear. Counter the fear.
Ask yourself, “What do I hope to gain from my superstition?” Maybe it’s something positive like luck. However, many superstitious beliefs come down to taking action to avoid a negative outcome. A black cat crossing your path, breaking a mirror, walking under a ladder, throwing salt over your shoulder if you spill it, or opening an umbrella indoors are all about avoiding bad luck. What is it that you’re afraid of? And why are you afraid of it? You can help counter these negative beliefs by replacing them with more positive ones. Instead of thinking about everything that can go wrong, focus your thoughts on what can go right. Try to keep a positive outlook, create plans, and set goals to work toward. Once you start accomplishing some small goals, it’s easier to see that superstitions are not helping you avoid bad luck. They’re usually just getting in the way of creating meaningful things in your life.
6. Belief gives superstitions power.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the placebo effect? That is, a person who strongly believes in a thing may experience positive effects through the strength of their beliefs. One example of a placebo effect is patients who are given sugar pills as part of a control group and told that they are actually a medication. Sometimes those people may show marked improvement for no identifiable reason other than their belief in the “medication” they’re taking. However, there isn’t any quantifiable evidence that there is some mystical force causing it to happen. Instead, it’s more tied to the brain and how certain beliefs can cause the body to adjust and perform. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting effect that can spill into superstitious beliefs. Let’s better illustrate this idea with an example. William is an athlete who is preparing for a game. Like many athletes, William has a pregame ritual that he believes helps him on the field. When he can perform his ritual, he feels more in the zone, more mentally focused, and definitely plays better. So, he attributes his success to his ritual. But is that true? Well, sort of. The other possibility is the disruption in William’s focus on the game. If William’s pregame ritual is interrupted, he may plague himself with thoughts of being unlucky, not able to perform as well, and being otherwise distracted while trying to play. And what happens? The result is that he plays worse. And because he plays worse, he assumes that the outcome is tied to his pregame ritual, which it sort of is. Even so, it’s not due to some mystical, magical force of luck in the universe. It’s just because his head wasn’t in the game because he was disturbing himself by not performing his ritual. You may have a good luck item or ritual that helps put you in the right mindset to succeed. There’s nothing wrong with that! However, it becomes a problem when you assign some magical belief to the item or experience distress because you forgot your item or can’t perform your ritual. And the opposite is true for bad luck. If you think you’re going to have bad luck, your mind will be focused on all the bad things that happen instead of the good things. Then your bad luck just becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
7. Distance yourself from cultural superstitions.
Many cultures have a variety of superstitions to them. For example, the Japanese have had many cultural superstitions that have come and gone; unlucky numbers, not hanging laundry at night, and seeing spiders as either good or bad luck. Deep-rooted cultural superstitions can be difficult to move away from because many people around you may genuinely believe in them. It’s much harder to break yourself of Magical Thinking habits if you are surrounded by people immersed in them. Thus, it is helpful to quietly withdraw from participating in those cultural superstitions if you feel it is safe. Unfortunately, for some people, it won’t be. There’s nothing wrong with participating in these cultural beliefs so long as you don’t believe they are true or have any real bearing on your life. In closing… Superstitions play various roles in our personal and cultural lives. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a little superstitious. However, it becomes a problem when it interferes with your ability to conduct your life. Persistent superstitions and fears may point to something beyond self-help. If you feel distressed or like something terrible will happen if you don’t perform a particular ritual, that is best explored with a mental health professional because it may point to an undiagnosed mental illness. A good place to get professional help is the website BetterHelp.com – here, you’ll be able to connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message. Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward. Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started. You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to a therapist. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours. You may also like:
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