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Magical thinking and beliefs in psychiatry


                        As  we all  know  magical  thinking  is  noticed  in  obsessive  fears  and  compulsive  rituals.  Telepathy ,  clairvoyance  and  ideas  that  soul  entering  other's  body  etc   seen  in  schizotypal  personality  disorder  are  nothing  but  the  result  of  magical  thinking.  Delusion  of  black  magic   and  various  other  delusions seen  in  psychoses   and  phobia  for  ghosts  are  clear  cut  examples  for  magical  thinking. In  this  article  the  author  postulates  that  magical  thinking  is  the  basic  cognitive  processes  in  borderline  and  hysterical  personalities. Suicidal  attempts  and  deliberate  self  harm  seen  in  these  people  are  the  result  of  magical  thinking. In fact magical beliefs are the psychopathology   behind altruistic, anomic and egoistic suicides. In hysterical  personality   possession  attacks  as  well  as  disassociation   are  based  on  magical  beliefs.  Possession is based on      intention  {–union--} to  associate   with Gods, spirits  and  people  and  it  is rooted  from  libido  while  disassociation   is  based  on  intention  to  separate   {disunite} from  God  ,  spirits  and  people  and  it  originates  from  aggression.  Self  sacrificial  behavior  prevalent  in   any  culture   is  a  subtle  form  of  self   injurious  behavior    done  in  the  name  of   religion  and  God. Similarly  self  injurious  behavior  is  the  extreme  form  of  self  sacrificial  behavior. Self  sacrificial  behavior  is  based  on  the  need  to  associate  with  people   and  spirits  which  is  rooted  from  libido   while  self  injurious  behavior  seen  in  borderline  personalities   is  to  disassociate  from  people  and  God  and it   originates  from  aggression. Alcohol  use  is  to  associate  with  God  ,  spirits  and  with  people  and  is  based  on  libido  while  alcohol  abuse  and  dependence    are   to  disassociate  from  God , spirits  and  from  people  and  it  originates  from  aggression.                                   Borderline personality   indulges in deliberate   physical self harm with external tissue damage. Hysterical  personality  indulges  in  intentional   physical self  harm  with  functional   impairment,  without  tissue  damage { female  gender}.Alcohol  and  drug  dependence is  a  form  of  intentional  self  harm  with   internal  tissue  damage!  Lack  of    concern    about  the  disability   { la  belle indifference} is  not  only  seen  in  hysterical  symptoms  but  also  in hypochondriasis, deliberate  self  harm  including   alcohol and  drug dependence !  Hypnotherapy  , yoga  therapy and  transcendental  meditation  are  based  on  occult  scientific  theories. Ego  defense  mechanisms  like  projection,  idealization ,identification,introjection, .fantasy, undoing possession, possessivenesss and  bargaining are  based  on magical  beliefs.  The  author  concludes  by  saying that    3-5  years  boys  moving  away  from  mothers  is  because  of  magical  fear of  possession  female  attributes  --not  only  character  but  also  physical  attributes  --contradicting  oedipal  theory.


As  we  all  know,  magical  thinking   is noticed  in  obsessive  fears  and  compulsive  rituals  to  ward  off  those  fears. Telepathy,  clairvoyance and  ideas  that  soul  entering  other's  body   etc  seen  in   schizotypal  personality   disorder  are  nothing  but   magical  thinking.  Delusion  of  black  magic ,  and  various  other  delusions  seen  in  psychoses  and  phobia  of  ghosts  are  clear  cut  examples  of  magical  thinking.   In  this  article  the  author   postulates  that   magical  thinking  is  the  basic  cognitive   processes  behind   suicidal  attempts,  deliberate  self  harm  and  alcohol  -  drug  dependence  in  borderline  people    and  in  the  hysterical  symptom  production.  

Magical thinking --Definition:     The erroneous belief that one's thoughts, words, or actions will cause or prevent a specific outcome in some way that defies commonly understood laws of cause and effect. Magical thinking may be a part of normal child development.

Magical  thinking  is  a  primitive  form  of  mental  activity  that  is  never  eradicated  completely,  no  matter how mature the  individual. It  is  only  layered  over  by  more  rational  thinking  and  it  readily  appears  when  one  day dreams, creates,  regresses,  dreams  or  when  thinks  under  stress. Magical  thinking  may    creep    in  to  the  logical  processes  whenever  one  cannot  understand,  explain  or  control  reality.

 Suicide and magical thinking:

          In voodoo - black magic, the voodoo toy is injured    with the intention of

Injuring the intended person {external object}.  In  deliberate  self  harm  and  attempted  suicide   the  adolescent  boy   injures  himself  with  the  intention  of  injuring  the  internalized  {incorporated } object.   Suicide,  particularly attempted Suicide has a homicidal motivation.   The  adolescent  boy  with  emotionally  unstable  personality  traits  is  more  vulnerable  to  succumb  to  magical  thinking  in  stressful  situations  to  show  his  aggression. 

Culturally, crystallized magical thinking—i.e.   concrete magical  beliefs    are  transmitted  from  one  generation   to  another  generation    from  primitive  era  to  our  present  modern  era.  Altruistic, Anomic and Egoistic suicides are the result of    magical beliefs.

Altruistic Suicide:

One person is killing himself to make another person to live .For example; Babur praying  { prayer  is  a  magical  thinking}to God to take his own life in order to save his son Humayun  who  was  in deathbed. Buddhist monks indulging in self immolation to save others is another example.

Anomic Suicide:

“No one is here in this world for me to love; I will seek someone for me at least in the world!”(The existence of  an  another world is  a  magical  belief   held  by  the  community) .Unmarried,separated,marginalized ,jobless, poverty  stricken anxious and  depressives   come  under  this  category.

Egoistic Suicide:

“You don't appreciate me now; if I die you will come to know me better!”(Which is even more difficult to appreciate her in her absence)?  i.e.  if  a  person  dies  she  will  be  elevated  to  the  position  of  god , {as  she  has  reached  Heaven } as He  is  well appreciated  in  the  earth  even  in  His  absence.   {not  because  --one  can    appreciate  the  benefit  of  the   meadow  only  when  he  sweats  under  the  sun}.  “I will kill myself to prove my innocence!” {Fire walking to prove chastity in certain community}. Here  we  must  remember  that  self  immolation is  more  common  among  women  than  in men,  at least  in  developing  countries.  “You don't allow us to live in this world; we will go together in the nether world / heaven for ever which you cannot prevent.”  Aggressive –depressives and borderline personalities come under this category.

Unless until we try to educate about   the magical thinking and magical beliefs   from the mind of   the common public it will be very difficult to prevent suicide in the community.

Magical thinking in Borderline Personality:


Although Magical thinking is   seen in  all people,  people  with   emotionally unstable personality   act  on  these  magical  beliefs  more  often  in    more dramatic  and  violent  ways  because  of  their  high  emotionality  and  impulsiveness.    That  is   the  reason,  attempted  suicides  and  deliberate  self  harm   are  more  in  these  people. They are   born to shed blood either in temples as a ritual or in group fights between cl ans and in war zones.   These  “self  injuring”  border line  people  would  have  been  the  “objects  of  sacrifice”  {   even  to  the  extent  of human  sacrifice}   in  religious   ceremonial  rituals.  Their  readiness  to  shed  blood  can  explain  their  role  in  the  past. They love to shed blood whenever an opportunity comes. Self sacrificial behavior is the subtle form   of self injurious behavior.  Doing  prayer   in  kneeling  down   posture ,  visiting  a  temple  for  praying  a  particular  deity  in   a  mount   with  thousands  of  steps  to  climb and    appeasing  hunger in  Lent  period      are  nothing  but  subtle  ways  of  self  injurious    cultural  behavior. Circumcision   by  Hebrews  and  Muslims  , ear  piercing  ceremony  in  Hindus, Skin  and  tongue piercing    by   {Tamil  community  in  Tamil  Nadu , India  and Malaysia} worshippers  of  Lord Murugan,  self injurious behavior of the Muslims   during    “Ashoura”   celebrations,  pilgrimage    to   a  church  by  walk,   with   the    heavy  Holy cross  on one's  shoulder   as  a  penance  or  nailing  oneself  on  a  cross  by  certain  Christian  communities    are   obvious  examples  of  self  injurious   cultural  behaviors  in  the    name  of  “sacrifice”   to  the  God.   These  are  considered   as  self  sacrificial { not  self  injurious} because  they  are done  in the  name  of  Gods  and  is  a  culturally  sanctioned  one.    Self  sacrificial  behavior  is  for  association  with  people  and  God  and  it  is  based  on  libido.  Self injurious  behavior  is  for  dissociating  from  people  and  God  and  it  is  based  on  aggression.

Magical thinking in schizotypal personality:

Telepathy, clairvoyance and ideas that soul entering another's body is all nothing but magical beliefs. These personalities would have served the Humanity in the remote past as ,  shamans ,  black-  magicians  and witches. In a subtle way schizotypal personalities indulge in horoscope, palmistry and numerology in this modern world. People with anxiety and depressive personalities who are  all  apprehensive  about   other's  black  magic   and  “bad  time”  {superstition—a  magical  thinking}frequently visit these fortune tellers [ white  magicians}   and  black  magicians.

Magical thinking in paranoid personality:

“Ideas of black magic”   is a clear cut example for magical thinking.  These   suspicious people are always afraid of the “evil eyes”. The  eyes  are  the  windows  to  the  mind  and  the  heart. Through the ‘evil eyes” one can   mesmerize   and possess    a person /property.   Amulets , talisman  and  charms  to  ward  off   the  effect  of “evil  eyes”  are  used  by  the  people of  India,  Egypt and Jordan.

Magical thinking in schizoid personality:   People with Schizoid personality and paranoid personality love to visit schizotypal personalities { shamans,  magicians and  sorcerers }  for consultation quiet often for    their   wellbeing  to  ward  off  from  other's  black  magic. Fantasy is their   form of magical thinking.

Magical thinking in Hysterical personality:

Possession by evil sprit is an obvious example for magical thinking. People with this personality would have served the community in the ancient past as low level priests or artists. {“Temple dancers”}  .Dissociative spells are nothing but “curses “delivered upon oneself { because  of  shame  and  guilt }. Loosing eyesight, becoming paralytic, fugue state and convulsive spells are examples for these internalized “curses”. Psudocysis is  also  a    product  of  magical  thinking.{Usually  “curses”  are  made   on  others  up  on  the  request  by  some,  by the  powerful  people  like  shaman  and    high level  priests}.  The word  “spell”  means  --   to  utter  in  words  -verb—as  a  magician  uttering; Spell- --noun—words  of  charm  said  to  possess magical  powers;  spell- noun –a period  of  time;  spell  bound—ad—enchanted.  Curses are nothing but “spells”. In  possession one  is  associating  with  God  and  in  disassociation  one is  disassociating  from  God /loved  objects  by  self  directed  curses.  In hypnosis , eyes {  eyes have  special powers  in magic }staring  on  a  object   and  the  hypnotizing  person  giving  suggestions { uttering  the  spells} and  the  hypnotized  person  going  into  the  trance  state  i.e. get's  enchanted ,  all  indicate   a  magical  processes!  In  that  case,  the  hypnotherapist  is   just  a folk  healer  or  shaman  and  the  suggestibility  of  the  hysterical  personality  is  nothing  but  a strong  belief  in  magical  spells !  If so, hypnosis— is it   an occult science?! [Yoga and transcendental meditation    are    based on    magical   thinking apart from hypnotherapy }.Possession  is  for  associating  with  people ,sprits  and  God  and  it  is  based  on  libido. Disassociation  means going  away  from  people  and  God  and  it  is  based  on  aggression.    


Narcissistic and antisocial Personality:  

They were the “chosen people” to be the head priests in the temple in the past to look after the sacrificial rituals i.e.  Shedding blood either by animal sacrifice or by human sacrifices (the borderline personalities eagerly waiting for that}. The ritual of blood sacrifice is enacted to satisfy the Gods and the God's representatives namely the head of the clan or the King. The blood sacrificial ritual was enacted for promoting fertility {magical belief} in the community.  The  priests  {always  associating  with  powerful  people  like  kings  and  the  beautiful   women   by  the way  of  temple  prostitution }  with narcissistic traits { the  originators   of  magical  thinking} and  the   kings  with  antisocial  traits  perpetuate  these  barbaric  blood  sacrificial  rituals by rationalizing and  intellectualizing  the  magical  beliefs  for  their  ulterior   motives!  {Priests  cheating  the  kings  with  their  pseudo philosophy   in order  to gain  status  and  power  next  only  to  kings, and  the  kings   fooling  the  commons   in  order  to  stay  in  the  power!


Magical thinking and psychoses:  

Paranoid and grandeous delusions are examples for magical thinking . Regression leads to concrete magical thinking   from abstract rational thinking.

Magical thinking in obsessive compulsive neurosis:

Magical thinking is the basis for the obsessive fears and the “undoing” in the compulsive rituals to overcome the loss of control over those fears. Obsessive  fear  arise  out  of  taboos [ related  to  sex  and  aggression} and  taboos  are  nothing  but   magical  beliefs.

Alcohol and drug dependence/ deliberate self harm:

Alcohol,  cannabis  and  other  hallucinogens  were  widely  used   in  the  past  in   religious   festivals  by  Egyptians, Greeks  and  Indians.  Osiris is the beer God of Egyptians.  Dionysus is the wine God for Greeks.  Soma drink was taken by Aryans. Cannabis  is  used  till  to date  by  Indian  sadhus  {Schizoid  people , socially  withdrawn ,     living  in  remote  areas  of   Himalayas   all alone  to  have  rich  magical  experiences } to  have  a    close  association  with     Lord Siva . Middle  eastern  Sufis  used  cannabis  to  achieve  a  higher  state  of  awareness. Rastafarians use cannabis while worshiping God, studying Bible   and during meditation. Alcohol  and  specifically  wine  , are  still used  in  modern  day   by Christians  --Catholics / Protestants   and  also  by  Jews   as  a sacrament  during  worships.     In the remote past hysterical   and borderline   personalities would have taken   alcohol and other drugs during sacrificial rituals for closer   association{ union]   with Gods.  Cannabis  and  other  hallucinogens  were  widely used  by  schizotypal { magicians  and  shamans} people  to  associate  with  spirits   and  to  enter  in to the  spiritual  world.  Salvia  divinorum ,   a  herb  was   taken  by  Mexican  shamans during  religious  healing   ceremonies in    tea  form. .  Russian shamans used a hallucinogenic mushroom called ita muscaria.  North  American  Indians  used  Peyote  , a  cactus  to  trigger  periods  of  deep  insight  and  introspection.LSA—also  known  as   Morning  Glory Seed   was  eaten  by the  Aztecs  as  a  sacrament  to  their  higher  power. Chinese Confuscists used to smoke   opium. Thai  Buddhist  monks  used  to  chew   Kratom  to  achieve  a  sense  of  heightened  awareness  and  euphoria. The oracle of Delphi made her prophesies after drinking Kykeon.  Iranian  Muslims  used  to  chew  Khat  leaves  to  induce  a  sense  of  euphoria  and  excitement.     .In  the  present  days  borderline  personalities    indulging   on  alcohol   dependence   {  from    use  to  abuse   and  to dependence  }is  because,  their  behavior  has  changed  from  “self  sacrifice”  to  “self injurious  behavior. The  anxious   personalities  use  alcohol  in  “Fellowship  programmes”  to    associate   with  people.  In  these  “parties”  narcissistics    take  alcohol to    associate   with  the   antisocial  royals  and  upper-class  people.  Depressive   personality's excessive indulgence in  alcohol   is  to   associate   with their “loved object”  and  it   is also  a  sign  of  self  injurious  behavior { punishing  their  incorporated  object  which  can  be  one's  lover, spouse, society or  the  God   and  the  cosmos.}. People  take  a  vow  , to  abstain  from  alcohol  in  temples [  one  at Salem  and  one  at  Cuddalore  district  in  TamilNadu,  India—Deities  --exclusively  for  alcohol  abstinence}.Offering  alcohol to  God    and  taking  alcohol  in  temple  festivals   in  moderate  amounts   are  behaviors  to  appease  God  and   drunkenness { self  injurious  behavior}  is  to  punish  the  God{ incorporated  loved  object}. Abstain  from  alcohol  after  a vow  in  the  temple  is  to  stop  punishing  the  Lord  and  there  by  appeasing  Him  and    associating   with  Him again!  Alcohol  and  drug  dependence  have  to  considered  under  DSH{ deliberate  self  harm}.    Alcohol use  is  for  associating  with  God  and  people  and   it  is  based on  libido  while  alcohol     dependence  is  for  disassociating  from  God  and  people and  it  is  based  on  aggression .    Is  it  rational  to  talk  about  spiritual  therapy  in  the  management  of  alcohol  and  drug  dependence?  Then, psychiatrists   can do the role of shamans!


Deliberate self harm:

Borderline personality   indulges in deliberate   physical self harm with external tissue damage. Hysterical  personality  indulges  in  intentional   physical self  harm  with  functional   impairment,  without  tissue  damage { female  gender }.Alcohol  and  drug  dependence is  a  form  of  intentional  self  harm  with   internal  tissue  damage!

La belle indifference:

Lack  of    concern    about  their  disability  is  not  only  seen  in  hysterical  symptoms  but  also  in hypochondriasis deliberate  self  harm  including   alcohol and  drug dependence !

Magical thinking /latency period/ oedipal theory:

5-10  year  period  is  the  period  of development  of  one's  psychosocial sexual  identity.  To  develop  this , boys  move  away  from  girls   because  of magical  fear  of  contagion {Frazer's  theory  of  contagion }of  not only  female  character  attributes   but  also  female  body  attributes.  3-5  years old  boys  moving away  from  their  mothers  is  also  because  of  the Frazer's  theory   magical  thinking  thus  disapproving  oedipal  theory.  Thomas szasz's   comment on oedipal complex   is    that, an Athenian myth is transformed into an Austrian madness!

Magical thinking and ego defense mechanisms;                                                                    

                                                                        Fantasy, projection, idealization,

Identification, introjection, possession, possessiveness, disassociation and undoing   are nothing but magical thinking!




                     The  cognitive  structure  of  various  personalities  under  stress   is  the  primitive  magical  thinking. In  fact  the  psychopathology  behind  many  psychological  problems  is  magical  thinking  and  magical  beliefs.  Psychotherapy  in these  clients    magical  beliefs   of  the  community will  be  of  much  value  in  the  primary  prevention  of  attempted  suicide  and  deliberate  self  harm in  the emotionally  unstable , impulsive   adolescents.  Mass  media's    help   is  the  need  of  the  hour  not  only  in  needs  attention  to   their  culturally  transmitted  magical  beliefs .Addressing   the  ‘the  way  they  portray  suicides”  in  the  community  but  also  by educating public  about  the  magical  beliefs  behind  the  suicidal  phenomenon . Is it rational to expect   from them?  Already  they  are  promoting   the  irrational  magical  thinking    in  the  community    through  their  advertisements . For  example; “Beautiful  women  can  give  more  sexual  pleasure”  This  is  a  magical  thinking.  The fact is, any affectionate woman   can give   that pleasure!
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