Brian Vandenburg defines magical thinking as “the belief that one’s ideas, thoughts, actions, words, or use of symbols can influence the course of events in the material world. It presumes a causal link between one’s inner, personal experience and the external, physical world.” It is something people all over the globe engage in. In fact, many religious and folk rituals center around it. Magical thinking can be a very normal human response, and there are aspects of it that can have psychological benefits. However, at times it can also be counterproductive or even a sign of a mental health concern.
Magical thinking has its roots in childhood, particularly the toddler years. Children in this stage are becoming more aware of what’s around them and looking to make connections that answer their favorite question: Why? They are also in an egocentric stage of development; it’s easy for them to believe that something they do can affect something totally unrelated, such as having good weather. As children age, higher-level cognition comes into play, and they begin to realize that an example such as this is not actually possible. Still, older children and even adults may continue some aspects of magical thinking for various reasons that they may not even be aware of.
Activating good luck superstitions is a common way people positively engage in magical thinking. This practice may increase perceived self-effectiveness and have a corresponding improvement on one’s performance.
Magical thinking can become a concern when it gets in the way of normal daily functioning. It may bring upon harmful, compulsive behaviors in those with OCD; it does so by mediating a cognitive bias that results from a distrust of the senses and a primary reliance on imagination.
The Suburban Goddess Mom believes in the magic of the universe, the magic inside all of us, and the magic of a greater power. I think we all need something to believe in and a little more magic in our lives.