The Power of a Little Superstition
We were in the car on our way to the vaccination center for his first shot. While I am driving, my grandfather is looking casually at the grasslands through the side window. It looks like my dad and I didn’t inherit our fear of needles from him.
Suddenly he gets a call. It’s my grandmother. ‘Keep your distance and don’t forget to drink hot water right away!’, I hear from Grandpa’s phone. The conversation does not last long and she soon hangs up again.
I thought it was remarkable that Grandpa had brought his thermos for the –in my view– short ride. However, when we were on vacation a few years ago, he also brought his own sandwiches, so being self-sufficient is a pretty common trait of his. Out of curiousity, I asked him about what I just heard.
“Oh, that’s to improve blood circulation so the vaccine works better,” he says, like it’s the most ordinary thing in the world.
I shake my head and laugh to myself as I take the last turn and drive into the parking lot.
I was not raised in a religious home, but superstition is omnipresent in my Asian family. It can found be in the smallest of things. For instance, when sweeping in the garden, my father always tries to sweep the twigs and leaves towards him instead of away from him. Just as you have to “rake in” happiness to yourself, he once said.
People always laugh when I tell these kinds of anecdotes, but since reading Michael Pilarczyk ‘s book Master Your Mindset , I’ve become a little less skeptical about the usefulness of superstitions. In short, according to the author you can realize all your deepest wishes by positively changing your way of thinking.
A nice thought, but on the other hand I also know many superstitions that have to do with bad luck. A well-known example to my knowledge is tetraphobia : the fear of the number four . In several East Asian languages, including Chinese, as well as Japanese and Korean, this sounds like the word for “death” (‘si’ or ‘shi’).
However, tetraphobia is so entrenched in some Asians that it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy . For example, the British Medical Journal once examined deaths between 1973 and 1998 in the US. Among people of Asian descent, it was found that on the fourth day of the month, an additional 13% of them died of chronic heart failure compared to the other days.
This was regardless of the deceased one’s diet, alcohol consumption, amount of exercise, or medication. Thus the researchers concluded that the increase in heart failure was due to psychological stress.
Whether this is statistically correct or not, I’ll leave to the experts, but I can well imagine that the way you look at the negative can also influence your physical health.
I wonder what my grandfather thinks about the idea of a four-leaf clover. I guess I will have to ask next time I see him.