Supernatural causality… it’s an interesting concept, isn’t it? There is the acceptance that one event leads to the cause of another without any natural process linking the two events. Our belief in superstitions goes way back to the 1st century BC, where folks had a rather excessive fear of the gods by ascribing natural occurrences such as earthquakes, hurricanes and the like to angry gods. We humans didn’t have science back then. It wasn’t until 1834 that the word scientist entered the English language when a historian and philosopher, William Whelwell, created the term, recognizing the benefits of observing and experimenting on the structure and behavior of the natural world. Much more effective response to a hurricane, don’t you think?
So, why, with millions of scientists alive and well and experimenting today, finding a direct causality to practically everything, would people still believe in superstitions today? In a national poll taken a few years ago showed that half of all Americans still knock on wood to avoid bad luck. Ten percent will avoid a black cat crossing the street or shoo them away from their yard…simply because of their “disturbing” black color. Most of us still use the term “crossing my fingers,” to signify hopefulness, as if that middle finger crossed over the index finger is going to have a real effect on an outcome. Our brains were wired to believe this nonsense. Really.
A client, not too long ago, had a highly developed, ingrained superstition about Friday, the 13th. In the days leading up to that dreaded calendar date, he could feel his anxiety rising to dangerous levels, swearing (to himself) that something really bad was going to happen. He’d been telling himself that for over 70 years, by the way. For the majority of his life, he told me, he’d refuse to drive, or even to leave his house on that day, believing to his core, that all hell was going to break loose if he did. When I asked him if anything significant had ever happened, he had to think about it for a moment. “Nope,” he said a bit sheepishly, “but I never doubted that it would someday. It was just a matter of when.”
My client is in good company when it comes to the superstitions surrounding Friday, the 13th. Research shows that about eight percent of the population agrees with him.
The good news is that we always have the option of rewiring those early neural pathways that were formed way back in our earliest childhood when those original neurons lit up every time you saw those giant, nervous people around you expressing their unique brand of superstitions. Often I hear, following my suggestion of the re-programming process, this question: HOW DO I DO THAT?
It’s not important to know how initially…that’s Trick # 17 of the mind, something most of us have heard all our lives, and something that generally stops us from even looking at the possible solutions. It is critical that we are willing, that we have a desire. Step One, so to speak. Interestingly, Step One is at least 75% of the process. The other 25% is a mixture of where we focus and our practicing, sometimes over and over and over again, that shifts our perspectives. On anything.
About Kelsey Collins
Kelsey Collins is an acclaimed author, elder advocate and vivacious speaker acknowledged by her peers for her expertise in elder care and her life’s work towards redefining the caregiver-caregivee experience. Kelsey is regularly invited to speak to caregivers and their institutions at local and national conferences, exploring issues facing aging populations, the implications for healthcare systems and service providers, and the changing roles and responsibilities of family caregivers. Kelsey recently spoke at the Oregon Hospice Association Professional Practices Exchange focused on the challenges and opportunities hospice and palliative care providers face in providing end-of-life services in an ever changing environment.