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The Seductive Perils of Magical Thinking

Updated: Feb 26


Magical thinking is a subconscious way of avoiding pain or anxiety about the future.




When it is used to tolerate a bumpy love life, it can keep us stuck and even sabotage our chances of a healthy love connection. For the purpose of this discussion, I will lump under the umbrella of magical thinking the following: A gut feeling, a knowing, a destined thing, a manifestation and any manner of beliefs and thoughts of mythical powers pertaining to wish fulfillment.

Throughout history, love has often been presented as something magical and eternal.

A fable that has been enhanced and perpetuated by literature, movies, and other forms of entertainment. Women in particular love the feel-good movies, they keep the myth alive, and it allows them to blissfully blur the lines between reality and magical.

I remember for me it was a hopeful way to co-exist with my angst about past break-ups, and the unfounded, but in my mind very real, anxiety of being alone forever. Romcoms were my salvation of these fears. One and a half blissful hours of everything will be ok in the end.

I remember seeing Sleepless in Seattle for the first time, and feeling tremendous hope and a soothing confirmation bias that my rocky path to love would come to a miraculous end like it did for Sam and Annie. Key moments were burned in my mind like when the talented Tom Hanks who played Sam says...

“I was just taking her hand and helping her out of a car, and it was like Magic” and again when destiny came to the rescue at the last minute to bring Sam and Annie together. I might have actually heard the love chemicals squish out of my brain while watching this.

Serendipity also spiked my belief in predestined and magical possibilities of love. When John Cusack’s character Johnathan believes (intuits) he is meant to be with one woman, he frantically runs around looking for the book she wrote her name and number in for him to find, trusting in serendipity and destiny. The audience, me included, so wanted to believe love is in fact this fated occurrence, that they are expected to forget that he is being an unconscionable and duplicitous cad to his fiancé as he searches for another woman he met once. That’s


how much we want to believe love has magical powers beyond our control.

I know, I know. I have been wildly attracted before, it does feel like something out of this world, I also believed at the time that I knew intuitively and quickly when I met “the one” I believed this several times and was still undeterred by reality. My misidentification of true love versus attraction with a dash of old trauma bonds led me into many a hasty decision, and some tragic undeserved loyalty for someone who had not yet deserved it. I stubbornly held these b


eliefs when my supposed soul mate started to slowly pull away because he wanted to travel without ties, or the time another suspected soulmate became insanely jealous and controlling, and then there was the perfect narcissist. The more pain I experienced the more I would double down, abandoning reason for magical thinking that kept me a stitch too long in bad relationships. After a lineup of tortured love affairs, an existential crisis and finally a resignation through learning about psychology, I learned the art of comb


ining my learned intuition and positivity, with conscious dating practices.

Here is the problem with putting too much fate in the soulmate concept, or just knowing intuition trap. It stunts reason, blurs consciousness, and it can really hurt when reality crashes the party.

Let’s break down what intuition is by definition: The ability to understand something immediately without the need for conscious reasoning. As well as the airy fairy, ~ denoting spiritual insight or immediate spiritual communication.

I believe intuition to be very useful in say, contract negotiations, walking alone in the dark when someone is passing you on the street, or any small window of time in which a decision needs to be made quickly. Intuition is when the hairs go up on the back of your neck, or you suddenly feel a tightness in your stomach before something bad happens. These are real physiological reactions activated by our sympathetic nervous system to alert us to danger before we even process it. There is always an unconscious reason for intuition. Like no birds making


a sound before an air raid, or a shadowy figure in an alley that has a lurking posture, or a random stranger approaching with wide wild eyes.

Unfortunately, when someone puts too much faith in what they think is their intuition when meeting a new love interest. As seductive as it is to let ourselves believe that our whole bodies “intuit” or just know when we have met our soulmate, I know enough about our brains and our hormones to caution this kind of thinking.

Let’s consider attraction to another in its basic form. One can experience an immediate attraction to someone, and there is a very real physical reaction to this attraction. Humans are very visual, especially when it comes to making mating decisions. The other senses also play a secondary role, such as hearing, smell, touch, and taste. For example, we meet someone who is visually pleasing to us, and they smell nice, or they have a velvety voice, our response is to be attracted. Dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin receptors become activated. This is a physiological reaction that is both strong and unconscious. Because it feels so wonderful, it is no surprise that the more romantically inclined begin to believe that it is magical, meant to be and destined. The desire to get swept away is incredibly powerful, but before disappearing into the horizon of happily ever after, I am here to ask those who lean towards the whimsical to slow down, and let your conscious mind catch up with your unconscious wish fulfillment mind.

Here is w




hy. Intuition and attraction are primal evolutionary reactions that have been in place for over 50,000 years to ensure our survival: One is to act quickly when in danger, the other to propagate. Both cause a sympathetic physiological reaction. One senses danger the other, well it wants to have sex.

Sometim


es the two converge. An interesting behavioural study conducted by Dutton and Aaron found that fear can increase sexual attraction. Let that sit for a minute…. Fear can increase sexual attraction. The theory is that some naturally occurring emotions can be relabeled as other emotions. In other words, the physiological reaction of fear can get muddled and added to the physical attraction. That certainly explains a lot of the action movie instant romances. Now let’s apply this to women who always fall for the bad boys, and men who can’t stop obsessing over the aloof, unattainable women. Could their intuition of imminent danger have converged with their normal attraction and making it feel extra special, m


aybe like what they think love should feel like? Could these physiological responses be validated and explained away with a bit of socially acceptable mythical ingenuity? You bet your crystal orb it can!

I have a lot to say about magical thinking because I have encountered so much of it, and personally experienced and seen how it keeps smart women, (it is mostly a female problem) from making rational decisions for themselves.

Let’s consider how magical thinking can accelerate the wonderful process of falling in love.

I have two theories on this. The first is movies, books and other forms of entertainment that have romantic themes tend to spin the idea that it can’t be real love unless it happens fast, and with a considerable amount of tension before the unbridled passion. Many believe this is how love happens.

The second is that people who are particularly prone to getting high off the love chemicals in the brain, need to rush all the love milestones. Feeling love at first sight, saying I love you on the third


date, getting engaged after 3 months and so on. I wonder if they subconsciously know reality might catch up with the fairy tale and break-up the party like parents coming home early. This would explain rushing all the love-related decisions. Interestingly people with ADHD are often more susceptible to these neurotransmitter spikes, which lead to having some degree of love addiction. Statistically, rushed love leads to hurt and disappointment. Patience is key when choosing a partner, it should not be a flash fry, but rather a delicious bubbling crock pot of discovery.

Our fascinatio


n with psychics, palm and tarot card readers has not ebbed in the last century. I get it, it is fun and good light entertainment. Until it is fully believed as, dare I say it, gospel. Once we leave what is arguably the most important decisions of our life to the occult, we need a dating mentor or someone to gently bring us back down to earth.

I don’t want to rain down too hard on your great date story. Go ahead and enjoy the lovely feeling of meeting someone special. That’s what nature intended, but let reason have a seat on the bus and practice conscious dating.

I would be remiss in not adding that sometimes our intuitions is correct. Like when we see the guy with the motorcycle boots who actually has several motorcycles and you want nothing to do with motorcycles, or in today’s dating app world, a quick peak at someone’s social media can reveal any strong ideologies that point in the opposite direction to yours. These are learned intuitions, and they are good.

Hey, sometimes lust happens. That heart thumping, weak at the knees feeling is your brain letting your body know it finds this person attractive, and that your hormones are in good working order. Awesome. Don’t label it as anything else.

Here is the good news! It is ok to be in love and let yourself bask in its wonderful light. As long as you understand that it is the most complex human emotion linked to our primal self, our hard-wired sex hormones, and our ever-evolving psyche. That’s what makes us different from other mammals. Sometimes our decision-making skills have been tainted by our past, acknowledging this is called consciousness. Consciousness will make us better humans to ourselves and others.

It is no wonder so many of us are having trouble with love. As humans develop an ever more complex sense of awareness, we need to examine more than just physical attraction, we have evolved


beyond neolithic man, in today’s world we need to be aware of our core values, our goals and how we hope to grow. Knowing the answers to these questions about ourselves will help us find a better partner and keep a more lasting love.

.

Peace and love always,


Lisa


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