How is it that people keep their superstitions even after they do not believe they are possible? It is because it is actually difficult to lose a superstition. We learn them as children and they stick at a deep emotional level.

Once long ago in the ’60s, my husband bought my soul. It started somehow in a conversation at a table of people in a cafe. I offered to sell my soul and we did some haggling over price and then he handed over the money and I declared that my soul belonged to him. It was an entertaining little drama but it caused a lot of discomfort in the group. There were people at the table that believed I had a soul and people who did not believe in souls – all were not happy. No one actually thought that my husband now actually had my soul in his possession or under his control but it was still disturbing. The most common phrase was that we were tempting fate, even though few would have agreed that our lives were ruled by fate. Why the disconnect?

ScienceDaily has an item, (here), “The power of magical thinking: Why superstitions are hard to shake”. The article points out that we all have superstitions that we do not rationally defend but that affect our behaviour. We knock on wood, walk around ladders and such things because we feel uncomfortable if we don’t. It feels like we are tempting fate. But we would not seriously defend these actions, instead we laugh apologetically and shrug and says its just a little habit with no harm. We allow an irrational thought to remain an influence on our emotions and behaviour.

The author of an upcoming article, Risen, “contends that detecting an irrational thought and correcting that error are two separate processes, not one as most dual-system cognitive models assume. This insight explains how people can detect irrational thought and choose not to correct it, a process she describes as “acquiescence”Understanding how acquiescence unfolds in magical thinking can help provide insight into how it is that people knowingly behave irrationally in many other areas of life.

In order to reverse these habits and rid thought of magic intuitions it is necessary to recognize that knowing that the intuition is not possible is not enough. Separate effort has to go into loosening the grip of the magic intuitions. And, I think was goes further than magic intuitions and superstitions, named by Risen, but applies also to many habits and thought patterns that we do not believe are rational but are comforting and therefore never corrected. It takes effort.



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