Lotus Psychology Group, Metro Detroit Therapy

Very Superstitious? Therapy May Help

Superstitions are often thought of as harmless, and most people laugh them off. Black cats crossing your path probably aren’t bad luck. Knocking on wood probably won’t prevent bad things from happening. Breaking a mirror probably won’t lead to years of ill health or misfortune. Throwing a coin in a wishing well is unlikely to lead to you getting everything you want in life. If superstitions are simply traditional and habitual behaviors and beliefs that don’t direct or limit the way you live, they are likely harmless, but for some, superstitions take on greater levels of meaning and relevance.

Can Superstitions Be Helpful?

Many superstitions begin as a means of managing worries, fears, and anxieties. When asked, most people will say they understand logically that superstitions and superstitious behaviors don’t truly have much, if any, impact on the future. However, knowing this logically doesn’t mean they won’t keep participating in superstitious behaviors. That’s because superstitious thinking is often a way of self-soothing and relieving stress and anxiety. Superstitions serve as a buffer to prevent worries or fears from overwhelming, so people have the necessary space to manage anxieties from a safe distance. Fears and anxieties lead to increased cortisol production, accelerated heart rate, high blood pressure, and other adverse effects on health. If belief in a harmless superstition can alleviate physical and psychological stresses, they may be a helpful coping tool.

When Are Superstitions Harmful?

While superstitions can serve as a helpful coping tool, they can also become harmful. When people believe too deeply in their superstitions or find themselves limited in what they are able to do because of superstitions, it may be time to start challenging superstitious thinking and behaviors. For instance, people who believe strongly in certain superstitions may develop obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a form of anxiety that is founded almost entirely on false beliefs about the necessity of performing certain actions to prevent serious consequences. As an example, someone who struggles with OCD may believe that failing to lock and unlock their door five times before leaving will lead to some negative effect for themselves, their loved ones, or the world at large. This superstitious belief may be little more than a minor inconvenience, but people with OCD often have dozens of these rituals that consume time and mental space that could be geared toward other, more enjoyable thoughts and actions. The easiest way to recognize the difference between harmless and harmful superstitions is to consider whether the belief system takes control from you or restores it. A helpful superstition may be something you and your loved ones share. One common example is saying bless you when you hear a sneeze. This is a silly superstition, but it offers kind words to those around you. It’s an act of thoughtfulness. It doesn’t take any power away from you, and it does connect you to others. A possibly harmful superstition would be something like the OCD behaviors listed above. They don’t serve to create tradition or meaning between people. They only work to prevent you from engaging in your daily activities.

Can Therapy Help?

If your superstitions have started to impact your day-to-day life, therapy may be a beneficial resource. Therapists help you challenge the beliefs that underly superstitious thinking, so you have a better understanding of how these beliefs are impacting you. If you’re interested in learning more, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Lotus Psychology Group team. Give us a call at (248) 957-8973, email info@ lotuspsychgroup.com, or fill out our contact form.

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