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Magical Thinking Is Good for the Soul

There are some who believe that John Lennon is alive and well and living in a piano.

Well, not literally living in a piano. They feel that the essence of his message of peace and love was infused into the piano when he composed Imagine, and that if you touch and play it, you can feel his presence within you.

When Caroline True took the piano on tour to cities and towns that had suffered a recent tragedy, even the hardiest of skeptics were moved by it. One woman said after playing it, that “it was like sleeping in your grandpa's sweatshirt at night. Familiar, beautiful, and personal."

Believing that you can feel the spirit of John Lennon in a piano is a form of magical thinking. If you think it’s silly or irrational, then you’re going to have to put that label on yourself, because everyone practices magical thinking. Most of the time we don’t even realize it.

Superstitions, lucky numbers or objects, wishing for something, believing that what goes around comes around, and even thinking that your prayers have been answered, are all forms of magical thinking.

Psychology defines it as the belief that an event happens as a result of something else happening with no causal link. An example of this is believing that it rained because you washed your car. Another example is the ritualistic behavior that athletes practice. One player believes that if he doesn’t wash his socks, he will win the game, while another will pat the head of a certain ball boy because he did it the last time he played and won.

While psychologists will concede that causation can be a bit subjective, most agree that magical thinking is fundamentally irrational and should be avoided at all costs. Reality, they say, is not subjective.

In the real world, stepping on a crack won’t break your mother’s back. Rubbing dice on your Uncle Joe’s belly before throwing them in a craps game isn’t going to make them hit 7. Believing that if you ask the Universe for a healing that you will receive one, is not only silly, but potentially dangerous. According to science, this way of thinking is just a hairs breadth away from mental illness if taken too far, and it’s really unhealthy.

I think that’s ridiculous.

Magical thinking gives us the opportunity to believe that everything happens for a reason. It leads us to the understanding that we can be creators of our own realities and that free will is really a thing.

It allows us the notion that we have destinies that are meant to be fulfilled. We came here for a reason and we have a purpose.

It lets me know that life is not one great big crapshoot and I don’t exist simply because of dumb luck. There is elegance and refinement in the chaos.

Magical thinking lets us believe in a higher power that is rooting in our favor. We can ask and receive. I can’t prove a causal link between my request for help and the miracle of it showing up, but that fact doesn’t make it any less glorious.

It lets me throw out the definitions of “objective” and “subjective,” so that I can recognize that there really isn’t ANYTHING that is independent of me.

When we are children, we practice magical thinking in our toddler years. During that stage of development, we are considered egocentric because we have difficulty differentiating between ourselves and other people. They are us and we are them. There’s no separation. When we are that age, we believe that life can be anything that we want it to be.

We encourage them to let go of that way of thinking.

How sad is that?

I wonder what the world would be like if we let them keep it.

Barbara Buck is a recovering psychology major, Reconnective Healing Practitioner, writer, and believer in all things magical. For more information, please visit her website You can also check her out on twitter @the_empath.


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