'This is easier than I expected,' you say to your spouse/children/dog and, then, in the next, slightly anxious, breath, 'I've probably jinxed it now.' Sure enough, five minutes later, as you put a screw in the wall, the plaster around it crumbles and falls out. You can't help thinking you somehow made it happen.
Such is the illogicality of 'magical thinking'. Of course, it isn't actually possible for a comment to weaken plaster. Nor is the plaster a living entity that heard what you said and flung itself off the wall to spite you. It's just a coincidence.
Likewise, if your boss is trying your patience beyond reason, provoking you to say 'I wish he/she would drop dead', it's not your fault if they expire the next day as the result of a ruptured aneurysm. The fact that you made the comment is still likely to trouble you, though.
This kind of thinking is quite common, but doesn't cause excessive, or enduring, concern to most of us. We know that we're not really to blame for chance incidents and don't dwell on them.
|Image courtesy of luigi diamanti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
Now, you might find it ridiculous that anyone would think in this way, so here's an experiment that, hopefully, demonstrates the point.
First, think of someone you love - husband, wife, child, best friend (=Name). Now think of a horrible circumstance leading to death, such as developing a terminal illness, being in a plane crash, or drowning (=Means of death).
Then say out loud 'I wish Name would die of/in/by Means of death.' Better still, find a pen and paper and write it down.
Did you manage to say it, or write it? If not, why not? If you did, how did it make you feel? I suspect many of you were uncomfortable just thinking the words, let alone voicing them or committing them to paper.
When I saw that experiment being conducted at an OCD Action conference - specifically with delegates who didn't have the condition - many were literally squirming in their seats and couldn't write anything.
The fact of the matter is, most of us would have difficulty wishing ill on our loved ones, even as an experiment, and even when we know that we can't cause such ill to happen.
It's easy to see that living with such a feeling - such a fear - day in, day out, is terribly distressing.
Whether you're prone to magical thinking or not, perhaps it helps to think of it from another perspective: that of generating fortune, rather than misfortune. How many times have you said you wished you could win the lottery? And have you...?