“I don’t really believe that stuff anyway.”
Now that Halloween has been and gone for another year, I want to talk about the impact of luck, lucky actions, sayings and superstitions on our mental health.
You may argue that you don’t ‘buy into’ Halloween or other superstitions and that it is just harmless fun, and maybe on the whole that is true. However, if that is the case, why is it that 39% of people in the UK believe that a house can be haunted, 34% believe in ghosts and 28% have felt ‘The presence of a supernatural being’? (www.yougov.co.uk)
And it’s not just ghosts and the supernatural that we set some store by either. Ask yourself this – ‘How often do you use the words lucky/unlucky, good luck, fingers crossed or something similar?’ More than you probably realise.
What about lucky actions? Touching wood, crossing fingers, Friday 13th, saying good morning to magpies, “see a penny pick it up…”, saying “white rabbits” or “pinch, punch first of the month”, not putting new shoes on the table, being pooed on by a pigeon….. the list goes on!
How can it have anything to do with mental health?
Now you may wonder what on earth any of these things has got to do with your mental health! Let me explain.
When we do not feel in control of our thoughts and emotions (and partly because of our culture, history and the way we have been brought up) we often look to the events and situations around us to explain or justify the way that we are feeling or the situation that we are in that feels out of control. For example – if you hear a bump in the night and you feel scared, you are likely to think you feel scared because there is a ghost! Or if you are feeling upset because you failed your driving test, you can justify your situation and make yourself feel better by saying that you were just unlucky.
The problem with this is, that for each of these seemingly small beliefs that we hold, we are giving away some of our sense of power and control over ourselves to something outside of us that we have absolutely no control over! We blame our emotions and how in control we feel to things that we cannot control. The worst part about this is the more control we give, the less in control we feel! We come to rely on external factors to either make us feel good or bad.
Some examples of when we do this.
How many people do you know (or maybe you are one of them) that blame feeling down or miserable on the weather or dark nights?
Do we really feel scared because of the dark or a noise? Or is it the thoughts we are creating that make us feel scared?
If you see a lone magpie as you are driving to work, does that really mean that you are about to have a bad day unless you say good morning to it?
If you are about to take a test/assessment/interview are you only going to do well if luck is on your side?
Do we really need to dress up as a ghost or witch on Halloween to fool the spirits into thinking you are one of them so that they won’t take your soul?
If you touch wood, is it really going to ensure a more positive outcome?
Most of us would agree that we don’t MEAN these things when we say or do them. That it is just habit or “just what we say/do to be nice” or for fun – but if we don’t believe in them…. why do we do them?
The Truth of the matter.
The fact is, whether you believe these things to a great extent or not, you are still creating issues for your mental health. To brush things off to external factors means that you do not process your feelings, or situations in helpful way which would enable you build good mental health.
Luck and superstition often comes from way back in history when we didn’t have the knowledge, technology and understanding that we do now. People had to do things to improve their feelings and situations and find ways of explaining the unexplainable.
A good harvest for example, could not be guaranteed, or the weather predicted. Therefore they performed ‘lucky’ actions and rituals to bring good luck and when things didn’t go well, wild explanations were created to try and explain why (“The harvest failed, we must have angered the spirits!”).
Evidence about how luck and beliefs have developed can be seen if you explore superstitions from across the world – they are vastly different!
Just imagine how you would feel if someone screamed at and insulted your baby until it cried? I’m pretty sure you would think it was down right nasty and unacceptable behaviour! However, if you live in China, this is considered to bring luck to a baby. If it was REALLY lucky (or any of these superstitions were for that matter) – surely it would be copied across the globe? Everyone would be doing them!
Here are some more lucky actions from across the world…
Building strong mental health.
Part of developing and maintaining good, strong mental health is our ability to challenge our beliefs and behaviours which are not helpful or powerful. Most people have never questioned why they do, or believe in certain things. When doing a bit of digging down with clients, they also find that they have very little evidence for their beliefs to be viable at all!
Yet so much power and control over themselves and their feelings is given away to these things! Once clients learn how to take control of their emotions, they feel much more in control of situations and can respond to them in a much more positive and helpful way. It is an amazing, empowering feeling and it all starts by challenging the little beliefs that we don’t really believe in anyway.
If you would like to take control of your emotions and how you feel about situations then please get in touch to find out more by emailing:
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