Why superstitions work.

About half of you reading this have a firm belief (whether you would admit it or not) that a certain outcome is based on a behavior or action that you personally perform- that in reality is not directly connected to the factual situation unfolding. Wearing different colored socks, breaking a mirror, avoiding cracks on the sidewalk- are examples of superstitions. Most of us have at least a few we adhere to on a daily basis- but do they really work? I am here to tell you yes- they do work. Here is why.

The Good.

Enhances Confidence.

We tend to have greater self efficacy (one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed) when we feel that we have something/someone else helping us. When we believe it will work, we also keep our confidence up longer and are much more optimistic. As we remain optimistic we physically stay calmer with a slower heart rate and less stress hormones. With this clearer mindset we notice more around us and pick up on situations that need to be remedied. All of these elements make us more confident in our success and in turn influencing how successful we are.

Gain a sense of control.

For the most part, the whole world is chaos that we can not control. So when we find a ‘sense of control’, we hang on to it for dear life. Superstition makes us feel that someone is in our corner helping us out, which makes us feels like we have an upper hand. It is a trick we play on ourselves that actually makes us better at what we are doing. So if we hold faith until the bitter end and at the last second it all works out in our favor, we have serious ammo telling us that the superstition is correct. This fuels future superstition behaviors and actions.


The Bad.

Belief and Evidence.

As humans we tend to focus in on the information in our environment that supports our beliefs-good or bad. So we will actually see signs/evidence that our belief system is correct, creating the situation you believe already exists. If you believe you have no chance of winning without a certain shirt/pair of socks on, you are very likely to create that exact event. Or at the very least- do nothing to affect it. Being out of control is scary. So we would rather have some control, even if it is in a bad situation.      

My Challenge to you: This is a mind game here. First- think about the superstitions and rituals you do on a regular basis. Next- try to change your thinking to be positive and even take small actions that put you closer to that ideal situation. For example: A nice smelling candle can make a space feel calmer, cleaner and even more spiritual. Superstitions can also be beneficial in that night’s marked with menacing energy like Friday the 13th are actually some of the safest of the year due to people being fearful and more cautious.  

Happy ‘Friday the 13th’ friends!

– Jessie the Therapist

Jessie Shepherd is a Mental Health Counselor and owner of Blue Clover Therapy in Utah. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health Counseling from the University of Phoenix and a Bachelors degree in Psychology from the University of Utah. Her focus is treating trauma, eating disorders and adjustment issues in adults, adolescents, children and their families. She utilizes Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Play Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Neurological Feedback.

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