Tag Archives: Superstition

Who Knew? Lucky Charms Actually Work

horseshoeAssay: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about superstition.

Superstition is the irrational belief that an object or behavior has the power to influence an outcome, when there’s no logical connection between them.

Most of us aren’t superstitious—but most of us are a littlestitious.

Relying on lucky charms is superstitious, but in fact, it actually works. Researchers have found that people who believe they have luck on their side feel greater “self-efficacy”—the belief that we’re capable of doing what we set out to do—and this belief actually boosts mental and physical performance. Many elite athletes, for instance, are deeply superstitious, and in one study, people who were told that a golf ball “has turned out to be a lucky ball” did  better putting than people who weren’t told that.

Any discussion of superstition reminds me of a perhaps-apocryphal story that I love, about physicist Niels Bohr. Bohr noticed that a friend had a horseshoe mailed above the door, and he asked why. When was told that it brought luck, he asked in astonishment, “Do you really believe in this?” His friend replied, “Oh, I don’t believe in it. But I am told it works even if you don’t believe in it.” (You can watch me tell the story in this video.)

To help herself quit drinking, a friend told me, she explicitly invoked the idea of luck. “I told myself, ‘The lucky parts of my life have been when I wasn’t drinking, so I need to stop drinking to get my luck back.’”

How about you? Do you have a lucky object, lucky ritual, or lucky item that you wear? I have a lucky perfume. I love beautiful smells, but I save one of my favorite perfumes to wear only when I feel like I need some extra luck.

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Are you interested in launching a group for people doing happiness projects together? These groups have sprung up all over the world, and one of my favorite things on my book tour was to meet some of the groups. Intrigued? Email me, and I’ll send you the “starter kit.” Read more here.

Friday the 13th – Very Superstitious

On a recent trip to my acupuncturist, I was reminded that Friday the 13th is a really easy day to get an appointment.  She told me that people won’t book appointments, because they won’t drive.  Some people don’t even leave their house, or their bed!  I was once again, for some reason, surprised; mainly because I consider myself to be a very non-superstitious person.  I’ve actually been known to walk under ladders, as long as a black cat isn’t crossing my path at the time.

My curiosity once again aroused, I couldn’t wait to get home and investigate the whys, wheres and hows of this apparently wildly held superstition.  The not so good news for those who are believers in this superstition, is that 2012 has three Friday the 13ths, which fall in January, April and July this year.  The number varies from one to three per calendar year and every month that begins on a Sunday, will have a Friday the 13th.  Good to know, I thought.  And, the longest period of time without a Friday the 13th is fourteen months.

The fear of Friday the 13th is called friggatriskaidekaphobia (Frigga the name of the Norse goddess whom Friday is named after and triskaidekaphobia meaning the fear of the number 13) or also, paraskevidekatriaphobia. The impact of this day is so widespread that the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, estimates that 17 to 21 million people in the United States alone are affected by a fear of Friday the 13th.  Wow, that is a lot of people.  I wondered if these people will go to the horror movie Friday the 13th because I admit, I personally don’t like horror movies and always wondered about the type of person who does.  That’s another story, so back to the major influence this day has.  Donald Dossey, behavioral scientist and founder of the above Institute, also reported that “It’s been estimated that $800-$900 million is lost in business on this day because people will not fly or do business they would normally do”.  That’s an enormous impact related to one superstition, some say the most prevalent superstition of all.

There are varying reports on where Friday the 13th, as a superstition, started.  According to folklorists, there is no written evidence of the superstition before the 19th century.  There are several theories that it is a modern amalgamation of two older superstitions.  The obvious one is that the number 13 is an unlucky number.  The other is that Friday is an unlucky day.  Being interested in numerology, I do understand that 12 is the number of  completeness.  We see this reflected everywhere in our world, in the twelve months of the year, the twelve signs of the zodiac, the twelve hours on the clock and even the twelve Apostles of Jesus.  The list of 12s goes on and on. Because thirteen is irregular, it infringes on this completeness.  There are both biblical and Norse myths which relate to the “unlucky” associations with the number 13.  If I stop to think about it, the fear of the number 13 is so prevalent, most apartment buildings and office towers don’t even have a 13th floor and many don’t have any rooms with the number 13.  When I was recently checked in to a room on the 13th floor of a hotel, I admit, I didn’t even realize it might be unlucky, until I was in the elevator with another guest who had been placed on the same floor.  We fearlessly rode to the floor, commenting and laughing that we might be the only ones checking in who were okay to take a room on the 13th floor.  For me, the positive was that I had a great view of the city.

Friday, however, as an unlucky day could date back to the 14th Century and The Canterbury Tales with other professions regarding Fridays as a bad luck day to start trips or begin new projects.  Black Friday, the infamous stock market crash day, is just one of the unlucky associations tied to a Friday.  Personally, knowing Friday is Venus day, I love it and look forward to it.  I know there are many working girls and guys who spend many of their weekdays waiting for it and proclaiming TGIF, (Thank God it’s Friday) when it arrives.  Maybe just not when it’s a Friday the 13th, I suppose.

There is so much written about Friday the 13th, I was encouraged to find that there is good news, relating  to overcoming this fear of it.  Dossey, among others, offers ways of changing the negative “bad” luck association with this day, by thinking positive, pleasant thoughts which in turn creates more pleasant feelings, which might then help diminish the overwhelming aspect of the fear.  Folklore remedies offer up the following: Climb to the top of a mountain or skyscraper and burn all the socks you own that have holes in them.  Or, stand on your head and eat a piece of gristle.  Reminds me that if you are open, there is always hope.

So, whatever you decide to do this coming Friday the 13th, I wish you all good luck and an especially wonderful day.  As for me, I know for sure I’m getting out of bed, leaving my house, getting in my car and driving to an acupuncture treatment.

Visit me at:  www.beverleygolden.com  

photo by: ralph and jenny

When Mythology Crumbles (It’s Happening Now)

 Anyone who equates myth with superstition would claim that we live in a world that has gone beyond mythology. Science is proud of vanquishing superstition, and a certain vocal contingent of atheists use science to bolster their belief that God is pure superstition. However, mythology is harder to vanquish that that. It crops up in new guises, because myths aren’t superstitions. They are mental templates, operating assumptions, the beliefs that bolster a world view, and above all, a way to explain Nature. In any infinite universe, the human mind finds ways to tell a story that will bring the infinite within reach, and myths serve that function.

Sometimes myths are so strong that they pen reality in, building a fence around it and forcing every natural event to stay inside the fence. When God or the gods were the cause of earthly events, the fence was tight and inescapable. But the rise of quantum theory a century ago revealed that even stronger fences were hemming in our sense of reality. We explained the universe through matter and energy governed by physical laws. In the pre-quantum world this scheme wasn’t theory; it was reality pure and simple. Everything inside this fence acted the same way. It operated by cause and effect; it never went faster than the speed of light; it conformed to mathematical formulations; it excluded the mushy emotions and shifting moods of subjectivity. Science claimed to have found a model for Nature that was based on reason alone. How strange, then, that reason was actually the seed of a new mythology, and even stranger, that this rock-solid system is crumbling all around us.

In previous posts I’ve given the simplest indications of the cracks in the pre-quantum scientific mythology. It turns out that matter has no real existence but is a pattern of waves entangled in the quantum field. It turns out that events are not localized in time and space but have ramifications that go beyond spacetime and travel faster than the speed of light. And in the end the entire universe, including space and time, emerged from a state of potentiality that transcends visible creation. None of this is disputable, yet we all lead our lives as if the old boundaries hem us in. In fact, these boundaries were self-created. They are part of our accepted mythology.

Seeing what the next stage might be, after the old mythology totally crumbles, falls to a handful of speculative thinkers, many of them physicists, since they are the direct heirs of the quantum evolution. The key ideas that are catching hold, at various stages of acceptance, include the following:

The universe is evolving.
The universe is conscious.
The universe is a living organism.
The way that the cosmos presents itself depends on how you look at it.
Reality conforms to the explanation we impose upon it.
The human mind may be creating what we call reality, which mirrors us but contains infinite possibilities unreachable by the human mind.
Creation may be eternal and infinite, with countless Big Bangs and multiple universes.

Not all of these ideas are compatible with one another, and all are evolving. But the promising thing is that they are coming out into the open, acquiring respectability and therefore leading to dialogue without anyone being ostracized. Which isn’t to say that materialism, the basis of science itself, has been toppled or even lost its firm grip. Speculative thinking is the basis of all original discoveries, not to mention awe and wonder. But on an everyday basis, scientists perform experiments and seek mathematical rigor. Thus the common expression, "Shut up and calculate." Or an equally arrogant dismissal that one young physicist received form an elder colleague, "I remember when you did good science."

Mythology, as was pointed out in the beginning, isn’t superstition; it’s the way we convince ourselves that we have the right explanation. It’s a conceptual fence in which we hope to corral Nature. Science will continue to be science, of course, yet the next phase of its evolution needs somebody to look outside the fence. That will surely happen; it’s beginning to now. Even more intriguing is how science and religion are approaching the same obstacle. Science has come to the point where even quantum theory cannot venture. We want to know what gave rise to the universe, what preceded time and space, how randomness is related to design, why the laws of nature mesh so precisely, and other ultimate questions. They imply a pre-created state that gave rise to creation, and yet we may never be able to venture there, not even with mathematics. Time and space are tough boundaries to cross when the human brain is a product of processes in time and space.




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Deepak, please can you tell me what to do when other people’s superstitions affect your own life? I have been brought up to fear the number 13, among other things. Now I have found the house of my dreams and it’s no. 13.
Even though I am in my 50’s and fairly sensible, the nameless terror instilled into me is making me fear us buying this lovely house. Can you advise me, please?


You can’t blame your superstition on your upbringing at this point in your life. Plenty of people have outgrown their parents superstitions by making up their own minds about how the universe works from their own experience. And others manage to adopt silly ideas that their parents did not hold.

 To be terrified of living in a house only because it has the number 13 on it, means that you need to grow up in this area of your life and clean up some of these incapacitating beliefs. Right now you are making a major life decision based on the belief that a postal address has some magical power over your happiness  or misery. Even if something now came up and you  couldn’t buy that house, would you really want to continue giving your power of happiness to unintelligible fear and superstition? Take inventory of your  beliefs and ideas of the world, and make an effort to keep the ones that are supported by your own experience in life or that make sense to you because they are based on others’ experience whom you have found trustworthy. And even in the latter case, don’t invest yourself further than your understanding permits you. The world will be less scary once you stop fearing “unlucky” things.





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PHOTO (cc): Flickr / DaveBleasdale

Old Superstitions

I had a moment today when I recieved a new calendar in the mail.  I wanted to open it to look at the imagery but I held back.  Was it bad luck to open a calendar before the new year?. I put it back in the box.  After a while I went back to it.  Again I thought, perhaps the superstition is that you are not supposed to throw out a calendar before the year is uip.  What was I thining.  How many times a day do old thoughts or habits control our thinking.  The third time I picked up the box I opened it to find a beautiful calandar with wonderful daily affirmations.  I was gratified that I broke through an old superstition that had no base for reality.  Sure I can understand that you might not want to walk under a ladder but if looking at a calendar before the New Year is going to give me 365 days of bad luck, then I’m changing the superstition right now to say that looking at a new calendar before New Year is going to give you 365 days of good luck.

Love Jo


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