Do You Believe in Magic?

Rational decisions sometimes bow to unconscious habits. If knocking on wood makes you think the action might help affect your outcome, it might. In his article for the New York Times – In Defense of Superstition - Matt Hutson suggests psychological benefits to believing in magical thinking – despite the possibility that it may not really exist. What you believe to be true may be more powerful than reality.

Hutson cites the idea that “luck is in your hands.” Knocking on wood may not really add luck to your situation, but the action may “produce an illusion of control…enhance self-confidence…improving {your} performance…{thus} indirectly affecting {your} fate.” Participants who were given lucky charms actually performed better on tests. Believing in fate – “everything happens for a reason” – makes surviving life’s inadvertent traumas easier. And, if objects have the “essence” of its previous owner, could a pen once used by Jane Austen break your writer’s block?

Hutson has a new book with more possibilities for using magical thinking to get through life – The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane. The unconscious is powerful, and what can it hurt to believe in magic? Hutson says…

on some deep level, we all do – {it} does not make you stupid, ignorant or crazy. It makes you human.”

Why not? I plan to read the book and, in the meantime, keep rubbing the Buddha’s belly, watering my bamboo plant, and looking for rainbows. Do you think Jonathan Franzen would let me sit in his “battered green office chair” for inspiration?

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