Fear, the root cause of superstitions

Fear - Superstitions
Superstitions are beliefs or practices that are based on fear and have no proper origins or explanations. Photo by Melanie Wasser on Unsplash

Have you ever blown your fingers when touching your neck for no absolute reason? Do you know why you do it? Do you remember someone compelling you to do it or telling you that you would get goitre the next morning? Turns out that not blowing your fingers after you touch your neck will not give you goitre after all and this practice is one of the most prevalent examples of superstition.

Superstitions are beliefs or practices that are based on fear and have no proper origins or explanations. There are many superstitions followed all around the world. Superstitions may vary in different places.

Unreasonable actions

Photo by Clément Falize on Unsplash

Have you ever heard someone ask you not to cross the road since a black cat just passed by? Who would have thought of this idea? Most of the superstitions come to the surface with the main idea of keeping people disciplined by linking them with fear or with some targeted personal benefits.

Asking a child not to leave the house at night, as night is the time of ghosts and spirits, justifies the idea of superstition. As a child, not wanting to come in the way of any ghosts or spirits, you would believe what is said to you and do accordingly, which makes it easier for the parents to take control of you.

Ever wonder why most superstitions are linked with ghosts, spirits, or the religious system overall? It seems like people have found it easier to control others by relating events to culture rather than reasoning, which isn’t completely wrong.

Let us say, for example, that someone is asked not to sleep under the peepal tree at night, as at night it releases carbon dioxide instead of oxygen, they are less likely to follow it as compared to being asked not to do it because a vicious spirit will possess you and destroy your life or, worse, kill you.

Superstitions are crafted in such a way that one would not risk finding the actual truth.

Fear of the unknown

corporal punishment question mark for credibility
Representational image. Photo: Pixabay/ Anemone123

The fear of the unknown controls us, and the controllers make use of it. Also, everyone not understanding the scientific explanations behind practices could be the reason for it to end up being associated with religious beliefs and potentially turning to superstitions.

Even with a growing percentage of literacy, superstitions are still prevalent, and one of the major reasons for this is fear of the unknown. But apart from fear, there could be another reason for the continuity of the existence of superstitions: the feeling of a placebo.

Do you sometimes wonder why your day has gone horrible and then realise that you forgot your lucky ring, and suddenly everything from missing your bus earlier to receiving terrifying grades in the report you received today for the test you took a month earlier is justified?

But the next day, when you put on your lucky ring, you just know your day is going to be good. Even though the above-mentioned events could have been a coincidence, having your lucky ring gives you confidence, and you would not want to regard it as a superstition, causing you to follow it till later in life.

Superstitions are sometimes easy to follow, harmless, and could also give you confidence, so is it something we need not worry about? Some superstitions may appear to be harmless until they become a social problem. Some superstitious beliefs with no evidence, like witchcraft have been used to burn women alive, considering them a hindrance to society. Witchcraft has been used as a base for domestic violence and gender discrimination. This is where people have to see how serious of a problem a mere superstitious belief can be.

People are likely to be confused between culture, tradition, and superstition, as superstition has already been ingrained in our daily lives. Superstitions are shaped by culture, but they are not culture itself.

People can find superstitions to be both comforting and destructive. We must learn to follow practices with enough evidence to prove them right and let go of the fear that chains us to many evidence-less beliefs.

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Adhikari is a student in Kathmandu University.

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