Magical thinking is the belief that unrelated events affect each other, when there is no causal relationship between them. Superstitions, such as the following, are obvious examples; Don’t step on a crack, or you’ll break your mama’s back! Religious rituals are no different. As a young Christian, I believed that saying certain prayers or repeating certain scriptures would prevent bad things from happening to me and those I loved.
Taboo avoidance is another example of magical thinking, as it plays out commonly in human life and relationships. When my husband and I were engaged, building our wedding registry, we’d included a fancy cutlery set, and my father in law recommended we remove it, which we did, based on the belief that receiving knives at a wedding is “bad luck.”
Someone gave us knives, regardless.
We celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary this summer.
As you can see by the examples of magical thinking in superstition, religious rituals, and taboo avoidance, we are all affected by it in some way–at some point in our lives.
Often people who suffer with OCD are at the behest of their magically correlated thoughts. We are tormented by this particular brand of demon because we really believe they’ve power to conduct events.
For this reason, magical thinking fashions behavior like a sculptor molds clay. The interplay between the distortion and our behavior serves as an illusion of control over an erratic and uncertain existence. Unfortunately, magical thinking cultivates poor decisions, which sabotage long term health, threaten intimacy in relationships, and jeopardize our safety and that of those we hold dear.
I plan to explore the consequences of magical thinking, as they’ve unfolded in my own life in the posts to follow.
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