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AFTER CANCER: MAGICAL THINKING AND SUPERSTITION: HEALTHY OR HARMFUL?

by admin - March 12th, 2009.
Filed under: Cancer. Tagged as: .

Are Magical Thinking and Superstition Healthy?

Magical thinking persists into adulthood and superstition into the modern era because of their ability to offer comfort and a sense of control over things that are beyond human control.

The belief that you will never be in an accident, because you are charmed, provides comfort beyond that offered by wearing seat belts and driving defensively. The belief that your thinking, “I am going to see my daughter graduate from school” or “I am going to finish this project,” will make it so relieves understandable but unproductive anxiety about dying before important times.

Are Magical Thinking or Superstition Ever Harmful?

Magical thinking and superstition are harmful when they

• keep you from doing the right thing

• cause strained relationships

• cause additional fear or anxiety

• make you feel depressed

• keep you from functioning normally

One woman had been told as a child that she would never get hurt in a car. Believing that she was charmed, as she grew up, she never wore a seat belt. Magical thinking protected her from anxiety about the dangers of driving, but prevented her from taking proper precautions. Another woman believed that her cancer was caused by the routine vaccination she had received prior to her diagnosis, and so she refused any further vaccinations. Magical thinking, which offered her the comfort of an answer to the “Why me?” question, kept her from getting important vaccinations.

The belief that your occasional thoughts of recurrence will cause you to have cancer again magnifies your normal fear of recurrence and can paralyze you if not recognized. If you should have a recurrence, this irrational belief would add an unnecessary burden of guilt during an already stressful time.

Superstitions that prevent you from doing the right thing are dangerous. One man with heart and lung disease developed appendicitis, but refused to have the necessary surgery, because it was the thirteenth day of the month. His routine appendicitis developed into a ruptured appendix with peritonitis, and he died.

Superstitions that cause or exacerbate fear, anxiety, or hopelessness are harmful. If every episode of car trouble or leaf falling off a houseplant portends your imminent death, you will waste enormous energy trying to repress or relieve the anxiety inflamed by superstitious thinking.

Let magical thinking and superstitions bring you comfort. Do not let them keep you from doing the right thing, or adding unnecessary stress, strain, anxiety, or guilt.

*176/32/5*

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