Understanding Magical Thinking: Causes And How to Deal With It

I have a friend who believes, quite firmly, in superstitions, and I don’t blame her. After all, her superstitions bring her comfort, and not just my friend, but others too find some comfort in following superstitions. To many, following rituals and superstitions might be a way to connect with their community. But, what happens when this thinking becomes distressing?

When you lump your superstitions and cultural practices into one, they may turn into magical thinking. Magical thinking is very fascinating and can involve a belief that your thought or action can influence the world in ways that defy rationality. While it’s not particularly harmful, magical thinking can cause you to engage in compulsions to prevent obsessive thoughts.

This psychological condition plays a huge role in shaping your behaviors and even beliefs. In the right circumstances, magical thinking can even be beneficial, but it can also lead to irrational fears, anxiety, and engagement in compulsions.

Let’s delve a little deeper and understand what is magical thinking, what causes it, and how you can deal with it.

What is Magical Thinking?

Magical thinking can be defined as a cognitive process where you make an irrational connection between unrelated events and circumstances. It’s when you assume that your one stray thought can carry the power to cause an event, even on a catastrophic level! This kind of thinking disregards rationality and instead relies on intuition and faith.

Sometimes, magical thinking can look like carrying a lucky charm for good luck and sometimes it can look like avoiding certain actions to prevent unlucky future outcomes.

Some common examples of magical thinking can include;

Knocking on wood to avoid bad luck
Making a wish on a shooting star
Avoiding the number 13
A black cat crossing the street is a sign of bad luck

Sometimes, magical thinking can look a lot like this;

Thinking about harming someone brought them harm
Wearing a particular shirt helped your favorite sports team win, etc.

What Causes Magical Thinking?

Magical thinking is most common in children, especially during early childhood. Because a child hasn’t fully understood the concept of cause-and-effect, they may believe that there’s a magical reason behind what happens. Another reason why magical thinking develops is that people believe that by performing rituals, they can influence the outcome of an event and even reduce anxiety.

Sometimes, the reason behind magical thinking is your cultural or religious influence. Many cultural traditions, folklore, and religious practices can reinforce magical thinking. You may often adopt beliefs from your community that can start a chain of magical thinking, spanning generations.

For some people, magical thinking is a coping mechanism to cope with stress, trauma, and grief. They may believe that believing in their beliefs can bring comfort and positivity during challenging times.

Looking at the benefits of magical thinking, it’s safe to say that this kind of thinking can bring a sense of comfort, optimism, and confidence, but at the same time, magical thinking can have its drawbacks.

In conditions such as schizophrenia, magical thinking can be a self-serving bias, whereas, in OCD, it can contribute to certain compulsions.

Is Magical Thinking a Symptom of Mental Health Disorders?

The most common mental health disorders that magical thinking can be a symptom of can be obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and schizophrenia. It is also believed that magical thinking can also be a symptom of generalized anxiety disorder.

In OCD, magical thinking may cause you to act on certain compulsions and it can also make you think that if you didn’t engage in the compulsions, something bad could happen.

In generalized anxiety disorder, you may spend a lot of time worrying about the outcome of a situation and whether it’s realistic enough. Or you may even believe that planning can help you prevent whatever negative outcome you’ve thought about. Magical thinking can make it difficult for you to take correct actions because you’re constantly thinking about what could go wrong.

In schizophrenia, magical thinking may contribute to people thinking they have superpowers to change the outcomes just based on their thinking. They may also believe that their actions hold a certain meaning to what’s happening around them.

How to Deal With Magical Thinking?

There are ways to deal with magical thinking, here are some ways you can try;

1. Self-Education

Identifying and understanding the existence of magical thinking is the first step in addressing it and dealing with it effectively. Self-education on how critical thinking can affect our reasoning can help you question and challenge your beliefs that might contribute to magical thinking.

2. Therapy

There are also evidence-based therapy approaches that can help you work on your irrational thinking and identify a way to stop it. With the help of a therapist, you can learn to reason your beliefs and evaluate them. This can also help you seek rational explanations for the events and superstitions that might be a part of your magical thinking.

3. Challenging Beliefs

If you notice someone engaging in behaviors, compulsions, and actions caused by magical thinking, question it. Even if you find yourself engaging in such compulsions, challenge your beliefs and actions. Figure alternative explanations for your actions, if possible. This’ll help you deal with the thinking and move on to more rationality.

4. Meditation

Practicing meditation and mindfulness is another way to deal with magical thinking. When you become more aware of your thoughts and emotions, you can see how thoughts and actions brought on by magical thinking are not in your favor. This type of practice can encourage self-awareness and even help in addressing irrational beliefs that come from magical thinking.

Wrapping Up

Magical thinking can be beneficial as well as confusing. This kind of thinking often influences our beliefs and actions in subtle ways. While this thinking is a part of our cognitive process, it’s important to understand where to draw the line between magical thinking and rational thinking. When this irrational thinking and beliefs begin to cause distress in your everyday life, then seeking professional support can help.

The first step in dealing with (and subsequently, stopping) magical thinking is to understand where this thinking stems from and how it affects your reasoning. Once that’s clear, it’ll become easier to navigate your life with a realistic and rational approach.

I hope this article helped you understand what magical thinking is and how to deal with it. Let me know what you think about magical thinking in the comments below.

Take Care!

The post Understanding Magical Thinking: Causes And How to Deal With It appeared first on Calm Sage – Your Guide to Mental and Emotional Well-being.

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