Magical Thinking

In my years working in the field of natural health, I’ve seen several kinds of magical thinking.

Thinking About [something helpful] Without Actually Doing It

Funny thing about the mind. We can go through our day repeatedly thinking about doing our strength training, or turning a concern over and over in our mind as if we were making progress with it. And yet nothing is being accomplished. I consider this a kind of magical thinking, because we have the illusion of accomplishing something. We could use less of this!

“Fountain of Youth”-type thinking

A decade ago, I spent months assisting a Traditional Chinese Medical physician in their clinic. Every day, I would see patients coming in who had seen all kinds of practitioners and gotten no relief for their problem. Orthopedists, PTs, cortisone shots, you name it. And yet they expected a single acupuncture treatment to solve their chronic problem, and gave up on it when it didn’t. We can forgive ourselves for hoping that trying some alternative therapy is going to have miraculous results. But that will get in the way of giving it a real chance. Hint: if we’re trying a modality that has few or no side effects, then it’s likely going to take repeated applications over time to yield benefits. Ask your practitioner to help set your expectations correctly. In most cases, you should feel at least a modest or temporary benefit after one or two treatments. If you don’t, it might not be the right approach for you.

Marshalling the Power of Belief

Ok, so those first two were problematic. But there is a kind of magical thinking that I encourage you to adopt. That is a sense of wonder… of possibility.  You may now feel discouraged, compromised, limited, injured, maybe depressed or even hopeless.  You may have tried various modalities and become cynical. And yet I suggest that whatever modalities you are now trying, be they herbs, acupuncture, chiropractic, guided visualization etc, that you suspend doubt and imagine 100% that it’s going to be of benefit. Follow the given instructions and save evaluation and changing course for a set point a reasonable length of time in the future.

This way, you don’t let disappointment and ambivalence creep in and undermine the benefits of what you are doing NOW to improve your situation. Research has confirmed over and over that our beliefs about our treatment is an essential part of the treatment.

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