Thursday, June 9, 2011

Magical Thinking

I've been giving the topic of magical thinking a lot of thought. It keeps coming up in my world.

I've always been a believer of signs. I think people come into my life for a reason. I think things happen to me for a reason. I don't always know the reason but I believe there is one. Or I used to.

I grew up Christian (and have Jewish blood in me, a thing of curiosity most of my life) and being told that things happen for a reason - that my prayers are answered even if sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes I'm not meant to know the reason but there is something behind everything. Okay.....

Then I started to doubt things. The doubt started a while ago but I pushed it to the side. I didn't want to doubt what was ingrained in me as truth. But as much as I wanted to push it aside, the doubt remained.

I took a class in Judaism. That was interesting. I re-evaluated what I grew up with. I thought a lot about things. It didn't make sense. I'm supposed to be learning things in these weird situations I'm in. Everything happens for a reason, right?

Then someone explain to me why the most important and influential men in my life all tell me I'm practicing magical thinking? I have several people telling me the same thing (one leaves a small margin of possibility to there being something else out there open). For someone who believes in signs, this is very confusing. Are they telling me the truth? Are they a test sent to challenge my faith? What is my faith? None of it works for me.

I'll accept that it might be magical thinking. But that thinking gets me through things like facing the hell my kids' grandmother is about to face in yet another battle with cancer. That thinking makes me say thank you and appreciate the good things and people in my life. That thinking has gotten me through the hardest year of my life by knowing I am not given what I can't handle. Then again, I realize I was not "given" the situation I'm in now. I don't think there's a god up there saying "Judi, it's your time to get divorced" or face mortality or anything else. I don't think it happens like that.

What is the result of this magical thinking? I'm no more sure or doubtful of an existence of something greater than us than I was before. I am very appreciative of the people in my life. I think about what I have to learn from them. I'm more confident because I'm SURE I can handle it all. Is that bad? Is that magical? I don't think so.

If this is a test, I'm failing. Or maybe not. Maybe, just maybe, the point of it all is to make me think instead of going through my life in the mindless, all-accepting way I was before. I found a song that makes me laugh. It's two songs, really. The first, the monkey song, is about the "ridiculous" theory of evolution. The second (keep listening past the monkey song) is "the ecumenical movement". I had to ask what that meant and it turns out it means me. I'm good with it. A guy I knew once called me a "cafeteria Christian". I'll take that. The truth is I have no clue. I don't know the answer. And really, neither does anyone else. Except maybe John Edward but that's a discussion for a different day.


  1. "For someone who believes in signs, this is very confusing. Are they telling me the truth? Are they a test sent to challenge my faith?"

    Clearly this is a sign from above that you should stop believing in signs from above. :-)

  2. On a more serious note, there are two issues to consider here: whether your beliefs are true, and whether they're useful. You address the latter when you say that they've gotten you through tough times.

    But that still leaves the question of whether it's true. And the obvious followup question is, do you care whether your beliefs are true? If you were wrong, if you were doing harm to yourself or others, would you want to know? (For instance, if you think you're being tested, but in reality you're not, then you're stressing out for no good reason.) And if so, how can you find out?

    I don't deny that there are such things as useful delusions (e.g., placebos), but those seem fairly rare, and it's always worth asking oneself whether the same benefit can be achieved without delusion.

    Oh, and the thing to ask about useful delusions is, who are they useful to? The belief that Santa Claus only brings presents to well-behaved children is primarily beneficial to the parents, not to the children themselves. Having people believe in the divine right of kings is useful, but it's useful to the kings, not to the people.

    Speaking for myself, the truth matters a lot to me. I'd rather believe an uncomfortable truth than a comfortable delusion.

  3. Re: first comment - you are a smart ass.

    Re: second comment - You have given me a lot to think about. The definition of truth bothers me. And I don't think I'm doing harm to myself or others. Sigh....lots to keep my brain busy.....