Life Lessons Personal Development

Why I Indulge in Magical Thinking

The word 'courage' just took on new meaning for me.

Cartoon by Roz Chast

Depending on who I’m in conversation with, the expression “Magical Thinking” comes with a smirk, or, an encouraging smile. When I hear or see it used on social media, Magical Thinking usually equates with Wishful Thinking:  both a pointless waste of time and bandwidth. Just one of my earliest magical-thinking experiments:  “I know that (The Boyfriend) is a lying, cheating snake, but I really hope (he) isn’t!” Maybe it’s just all in my head? Another oldie-but-goodie:  “I can totally afford that vacation because it’s somewhere that I’ve always wanted to go!” And one of my five-star examples of magical thinking:  “I should probably have that weird grinding-noise in my car checked out, but yesterday I didn’t hear it – so it must have fixed itself.” Magical thinking can definitely present as unapologetic denial of what could turn into a catastrophe.  But I’m beginning to take a slightly different view of Magical Thinking:  not as a detour from sanity, but more of a necessary coping mechanism.

As I feel myself on the verge of being overwhelmed by the mild, middling and colossal messes swirling around us as a global community at this very moment, I wonder:  Is wishing, dreaming, and magic totally beyond the realm of useful pastimes, as we desperately seek answers to our problems? I’m asking myself this question because I also feel myself working harder, lately, to stay positive. Not just about my own little world, but about the Bigger Picture issues that affect my life, the people I love, and all of humanity. I do understand the mantra, “Whatever you focus on grows larger”, feeling guilty when I create little ripples of hopelessness with my bad attitude. So here’s my peripheral question:  how can I truly know if I’m maintaining a positive outlook, versus dwelling in the clouds of hopeless optimism? Are tangible rewards my proof?

I was raised with a “work-hard-and-you’ll-do-well” ethic. But I’ve lived long enough to know that this isn’t necessarily so. Even worse, sometimes people around me, maybe working at half my speed and productivity, saw more perks, and even promotions, than I did. What’s that about?  Were they in a higher-vibration than I was? If it’s just a matter of more “juice” with Leadership, then we’re not really talking about The Law of Attraction (at least, not the one I’m familiar with) are we?  My point is, all of the positivity, good intentions, centeredness and mindfulness I can possibly muster  sometimes just isn’t enough to get the job done. Not that I’m going to suddenly swerve to The Dark Side and become a ‘Machiavelli’ – type manipulator when I’m feeling frustrated. Not quite yet, anyway.

I just want to put it out there for consideration:  Magical Thinking may seem idiotic; disconnected from the Real World. But if we were all playing according to the same set of rules – an agreed-upon code that requires Love and Goodwill to be our global default settings for right action – I don’t think I’d feel so drawn to the idea that I need something more right now. We need something more. Maybe wishing, hoping and dreaming that things are going to be “ok” is the dark-before-the-dawn, depths-of-despair coping mechanism that my overwrought Mind needs to indulge in, just for a little while? Just for a minute. What harm could it do, by comparison?

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