What Is Magical Thinking?

Magical thinking makes links between actions and results. It’s trying to reason why things happen. This is how we eventually got the scientific method and cause and effect. We know now that bacteria and viruses cause illnesses and disease. We know some diseases are caused by genes. Science explains many things that we used to not understand. We can prove and demonstrate that some things cause others. 

Magical thinking is not this. Magical thinking tries to prove that certain things cause others but without any real evidence, usually it’s just coincidence or reading into things. 

For example, if someone you love got hurt after you have an argument, you might think it was because of your argument and that if you never argue with them again, you can protect them from harm. 

But unless you hurt them yourself or they got hurt because they were upset (for example, if they were crying and tripped and fell because they couldn’t see a curb through their tears), your argument didn’t cause their accident. And avoiding all arguments (out of fear) won’t protect them from harm. 

OCD and mental illness likes finding patterns where there aren’t any and trying to control the world through these patterns. However, it’s a lie that keeps us locked in behaviors that we think give us control. 

Even worse, believing in magical thinking makes us feel that we have responsibility for bad events that we actually have no control of. We cannot prevent bad things from happening by indulging in magical thinking. Believing this just makes us feel guilt for things that are not our fault. 

So I am trying to end my tendency for magical thinking as part of my recovery from OCD and anxiety. I need to accept that there are limits to my control and to be able to live with uncertainty.

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