Magical thinking…it’s not what you might think it is. Magical thinking can be a very dangerous line of thought that might cause great harm to everyone that is exposed to it.
“Magical thinking is defined as believing that one event happens as a result of another without a plausible link of causation.”
~from Psychology Today; Magical Thinking, Redux
“Magical thinking is the belief that one’s own thoughts, wishes, or desires can influence the external world.”
“Magical Thinking and Mental Illness
Magical thinking is not in itself a mental illness, but is correlated with some mental health conditions. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) engage in a type of magical thinking. Obsessive thoughts cause them to engage in compulsions in an attempt to stave off the thoughts. People with OCD may intellectually know that, say, repeatedly tapping a television will not keep them safe, but still feel an overwhelming urge to do so. People diagnosed with schizophrenia and delusional disorders may also experience bouts of magical thinking.”
Good Therapy also suggests that some cultures encourage magical thinking, but the same argument can be used for religions. This is not the kind of magical thinking I am talking about.
Let me give you examples of magical thinking.
“She told me she liked my landscaping and now all my grass has died! She put the evil eye on my yard!”
Don’t you think it could have been other outside causes that killed the grass? Perhaps you haven’t been watering it properly? Or you have a fungus or a bug?
“My cat pees all over the house just to piss me off! When I saw it I went and found her and swatted her butt good! He won’t be doing that again!”
This is definitely untrue. There are several legitimate reasons an animal will pee in the house and to piss you off is not listed as one of them. This line of thinking can be harmful to a pet that spends time indoors because the owner may feel justified in physically reprimanding the pet, simply because the pet is doing what comes naturally to him.
“She gave her luck away when she decided not to play anymore!”
You’ll find a lot of magical thinking in a Las Vegas casino.
Magical thinking is simply a selfish way of thinking, because most people that dwell in magical thinking on a daily basis are only concerned with themselves and how the outside world interferes with them. They are usually isolated by choice, with no real friends to speak of because they are paranoid that everyone is out to get them, or hurt them. Typically they are not happy people and they are not a pleasure to be around.
If you are in contact with a magical thinker and have a relationship with them, be aware that they will try to manipulate and isolate you. Since they spend much of their own time isolating, they will be compelled to isolate you too. Prepare yourself for a real beating on your self esteem. They will need to be in complete control of the friendship/relationship and will use the same obsessive magical thinking to completely consume you. Anyone that does not comply with their obsessive and never-ending needs and demands becomes the enemy. This is one of the main reasons they have few connections to others outside of their own immediate family members.
Another informative piece written about magical thinking is by James Gagne, MD, Internal Medicine. He breaks down some of the most common traits a magical thinker has and what they look like, versus a spiritual magical thinker.
“Here are some common magical beliefs:
- Superstition, rabbits feet, the number 13, black cats
- Most forms of luck, gambling, playing the lottery, slot machine fever
- The evil eye, hexes, most black magic
All these types of thinking assume that some imaginary force runs the universe, and it’s often not friendly. But sometimes, if I try hard enough, it owes me a reward. For example, if I lose enough money in a slot machine, sooner or later it will just have to turn around and start paying out. Another common belief is that things mostly remain the same. People expect that if I flip a coin and it comes up heads five times, the next time will be heads, guaranteed.
At its core, magical thinking is believing in something you know isn’t true — or should know isn’t true. This sounds dumb, but rational adults use magical thinking much more frequently than we admit.”
I have had to deal with magical thinking in others to the absolute extreme. I grew up in a superstitious household, but rather than turning me into a complete idiot plagued by negative thoughts and magical beliefs, it turned me into a skeptic that prefers logic, reason and fact. I was always amazed by their ability to resolve issues with reasons based on nothing more than an ignorant belief. I guess if you believe your own hype strongly enough, it might come true, but I kind of doubt it.
I’ve always believed in Karma, but I also believe that people that do bad things will always associate with other people that do bad things and eventually it’s going to get them. I believe the same of good people. They usually associate with good people. I’m not sure I’d call that magical, so much as just common sense.
I don’t mind the playful kind of magical thinking. I also don’t mind when it has a religious overtone, as long as it’s a positive shade and not hellfire and damnation. We need more playfulness in our lives and we definitely need more positivity these days. So if you want to wear a shirt with a unicorn plastered on the front of it and tell me you believe they exist, then I’m behind you 100%. I’ll believe that too.
As for the rest of it…I think I’ll just take a pass. I don’t need to pretend life can magically be better just because I jumped over a crack and I own one of the blackest cats I’ve ever seen and he’s brought me nothing but pure joy and happiness. I know I have the ability and the intelligence to make it better without flipping a coin.
How about you?