What is a superstition?
Superstitions are beliefs and practises which originated in different cultures before scientific influence. In the absence of medicine, superstitions were the belief that various things represented good or bad luck, therefore people participated in these practises in order to remain safe.
How we learn
Has a parent ever shouted at you for accidentally breaking a mirror or walking under a ladder? Have they asked you to touch wood after saying something relating to misfortune? Perhaps you watched your parent as they anxiously searched for that second magpie? Would they not allow you to go outside on Friday the 13th?
As a child, we trust in those who take care of us to protect us from danger. Therefore, if we see our parent experiencing fear and acting on a superstition, we tend to code these events similarly and copy their behaviour resulting in unchallenged habits passed from generation to generation.
Superstitions and Mental Health
The message that is apparent in superstitions is to act in order to prevent something bad happening. However, this installs the inaccurate belief that fulfilling tasks can prevent misfortune. There is a link to how superstitions can escalate into OCD behaviours and other anxiety disorders. In times of distress, people may feel like things are out of control and therefore try and take control by obsessively performing rituals that they believe will keep them and their loved ones safe.
Superstitions can result in a number of other disorders as a result of a traumatic event.
A child may see their parent visibly upset about a broken mirror as they express a belief that bad luck is imminent. In that moment they install a belief and it is possible that in time, the child may blame the mirror for any negative event that occurs afterwards despite them being entirely unrelated.
As the child gets older, they may then develop an anxiety disorder and become fearful or phobic of mirrors, perhaps they may even be anxious about getting into a car or using other transport as they believe something bad will happen, over time they may even refuse to leave home as they believe it’s safer, resulting in agoraphobia and even depression.
If you have a superstition that is impacting your life negatively, it helps to learn the origin of the superstition and why people believed it was relevant at the time in their culture.
For example, knocking on wood will not achieve anything , but there are regular advances in science and medicine which provides cures that people benefit from every day. People also believed that a mirror reflected the soul, and that a broken mirror represented a broken soul which would take 7 years to regenerate. However, consider that we look into a mirror to view our physical reflection and not to view how we feel! Inanimate objects, whether intact or broken, cannot determine our fortune or misfortune.
Provide yourself with evidence as to why these superstitions do not apply to you or the world we live in today. Also, acknowledge that you got the belief from your parents and they learned it from theirs, so ultimately the fear was not yours but in fact someone else’s.
We were not born with superstitions so therefore superstition has no place in our reality today.
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