Magical thinking is a part of the obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) family of disorders. It is identified when a person has ongoing intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviours around superstition or the belief that magical thinking can prevent harm coming to themselves or others.
During the course of our lives we develop mental mechanisms designed to help us cope with the stress and anxiety of everyday life and relationships. However, over time some of these mechanisms become outdated, or even out of control, and rather than help alleviate our stress and anxiety they can actually cause and increase it. One example of an unhelpful thinking habit is magical thinking, over time we begin to believe that somehow we are somehow preventing bad things from happening by imagining them happening, and therefore by merely thinking it we stop it. This type of thinking inevitably leads to mental distress and is incredibly anxiety inducing and unhelpful. Realistically the individual is usually aware that they cannot prevent future events from occurring, however they fear what will happen if they cease. How will they cope with the guilt if they stop worrying and hypothesising about all the horrors that could befall their loved ones and then something does actually happen? They find themselves trapped in a cycle of unhelpful thoughts and trapped by their own emotions in a cycle of anxiety.
The horror writer Stephen King, a self confessed alcoholic and drug addict, spoke about how his childhood anxieties and how these led to magical thinking in the book On Writing:
"I've always written horror...because it's a kind of psychological protection. It's like drawing a magic circle around myself and my family. My mother always used to say,'If you think the worst, it can't come true' I know that's only a superstition, but I've always believed that if you think the very worst, then, no matter how bad things get(and in my heart I've always been convince that they can get pretty bad), they'll never get as bad as that. If you write a novel where the bogeyman gets somebody else's children, maybe they'll never get your own children..."
As is the case with all mental health disorders there is a spectrum of severity and when the symptoms become so severe they are impacting your everyday life then it is time to seek professional help. For example: If you occasionally have a tarot card reading this is not regarded as a problem, however if you compulsively use tarot cards to address your everyday problems and refuse to leave the house on the basis of what cards you draw then you have let your magical thinking and superstitions impact your welfare and quality of life.
Breaking the Cycle
As is the case with all OCD disorders, talking therapy has been proven to provide some of the best long term. However if the sufferer has severe symptoms medication is advised. The best cure is action NOW. Seek help at the first sign your symptoms are deteriorating.
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