PROBABILITY VS. SUPERSTITION

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PROBABILITY VS. SUPERSTITION

The terms “luck” and “superstition” seem to go hand in hand. Since most people do not know what luck actually is, nor how to produce it in their lives, they tend to believe that luck is something that simply “happens” to them through some outside force. In an effort to influence this outside force in a positive way, man has created a number of “luck-producing” symbols.

These include charms, four leaf clovers, rabbit’s feet, and many, many others. There are also actions that are felt to be luck producing such as knocking on wood, or tossing salt over one’s shoulder. Most of these practices are cultural in nature, and none have any basis in reality.

Superstitions have existed since the beginning of time. From a belief in omens, superstitions have gradually developed through the ages, particularly on certain days. Consider the following examples:

The First of January – If, upon going to bed, a young woman drinks a pint of cold spring water that contains a mixture composed of the yolk of a chicken’s egg, the legs of a spider, and the pounded skin of an eel, her future destiny will be revealed to her in a dream.

Valentine’s Day – If the first person a single woman meets upon leaving her house early in the morning turns out to be a woman, she will not be

married that year. If, on the other hand, she encounters a man, she will be married within three months.

St. Swithin’s Eve – Decide upon three things you most wish to know and then write them down with a new pen and red ink on a sheet of finely woven paper, from which you have previously cut off and burned all four corners. Fold the paper into a lover’s knot and wrap around it three hairs from your head. Place the paper under your pillow for three successive nights, and your curiosity to know the future will be satisfied.

If you find the foregoing superstitions little more than a laughable, consider this! A research project in which I was involved while studying psychology revealed that 83 percent of the participants were superstitious! In one experiment, a large ladder was placed on the side of a busy downtown office building to the curb of the sidewalk.

There was only a foot or so between the ladder and the curb but approximately ten feet under the ladder. No one was on the ladder and there was no activity going on in the immediate vicinity.

Even so, 83 percent of a total of two thousand people made a point of walking around the ladder rather than under it! This clearly reveals that, at some level many of us consider our luck to be tied to some invisible outside force.

Advanced scientific explanations have done little to dispel many of our irrational beliefs. Superstition tends to hang on like a cat with nine lives! In fact, according to a recent article dealing with the subject of psychic counseling (palm readers, psychics, channelers, astrologers, etc.), as a nation we spend over eighteen million dollars annually consulting with these practitioners.

While there appears to be some validity to the work performed by certain psychic counselors, the problem exists in separating the wheat from the

chaff. The real danger, of course, lies in believing that there is something outside ourselves that determines our fate and fortune. The point I am trying to make here is that we need to take a close look at anything and everything that encourages our dependency and discourages us from assuming personal responsibility for our lives.

WHY ARE WE SUPERSTITIOUS?

The wise philosopher Epicitus once said,

“superstition comes from the instinctive desire to believe in casual relations, which cannot be proved to exist through the course of reasoning or direct observation.”

In other words, superstition is one way of explaining the unexplainable, providing a reason (of sorts) for why things happen.

While superstition tends to vary from one religious, ethnic or occupational group to another, ALL groups seem to cling to these beliefs in negative situations.

How often have you heard someone say, “When your time comes, there is nothing you can do about it.” Well, I guess there is some truth in this because, when you die, your time has certainly come!

The problem with superstition is that it tends to encourage us to accept and adjust to certain circumstances when we should actually be working at changing them. In the final analysis, it either becomes a matter of being “held prisoner” by your thoughts, or being freed and enlightened by them.

We all have our own inner hopes and fears, which can be tied to our symbolic concepts of good and bad luck. What I want to impress upon you is that it is these concepts and beliefs tend to activate the end result.

THE LAW OF PROBABILITY

According to well-known legal expert Sir William Blackstone, any “law” is a settled rule of action. The word itself suggests a desire for order, which people are constantly seeking in areas concerned with their thoughts, their emotions, health, financial affairs and all other phases of their life.

What we seek to uncover through the law of probability is yet another means of predicting events with some degree of accuracy. Probability evolves out of the use of mathematics, and also, our powers of observation.

Although you may not be aware of it, you tend to predict events on almost a daily basis. For example, you might say, “I would really like to wash the car today, but it looks like rain.” By simple observation, you have predicted the future. Because of some clouds in the sky, it appears there is a probability of rain, although it is hardly a certainty.

Some events happen so regularly that we can foretell them long before they actually occur. For example: the time of each sunrise and sunset, and the date of the next full moon. The changing of the seasons, while more subtly accomplished, nonetheless occurs at the same time every year.

During the seventeenth century, mathematics began to play an important role in helping to determine the likelihood of specific events. Because of his own interest in this field, British astronomer Edmund Halley was able to bring to an end many superstitions that had always clouded the minds of men. Up until then, people had believed that any unusual sighting in the sky was to be taken as a prediction of some forthcoming catastrophe.

At such times, churches became extremely crowded, and priests would walk among the frightened people, giving them absolution for their sins.

In 1066, a great comet had been seen streaking across the sky. Halley decided to find out all he could about the appearance of such phenomena, in particular the years in which such comets were seen.

He discovered that the cycles were about seventy-five years apart. Halley thought it unlikely that a number of different comets would appear at such regular intervals. His own feeling was that what people were actually seeing was the same comet over and over again.

Halley predicted that the comet’s next appearance would occur in 1959, and so it did. Since that time, it has continued to appear on a regular and totally predictable basis.

When seventeenth-century mathematicians began to study the law of probability, they centered their attentions upon coins and dice. They were primarily concerned with making accurate predictions of how a tossed coin or dice would land.

Since those early days, the law of probability has developed into an important branch of mathematics. At present, such studies are used in a variety of ways – in opinion polls, gambling odds, census taking, etc.

Have you ever given any thought to the manner in which insurance companies work with the law of probability? Consider the case of automobile insurance. Each year, policyholders pay specific amounts or premiums in exchange for which they receive compensation for accidental losses.

Insurance companies are able to secure enough income from premium payments and corporate investments to pay off such losses and still generate a profit. To determine how much to charge policyholders for such coverage, insurance companies study the law of

probability to determine how many accidents are likely to occur within a given period. Unless their calculations are accurate, these companies will be forced to pay out more than they take in. In an effort to avoid this, they rely heavily upon statistics.

Statistics are actually a collection of information, involving figures, which help to answer the question of probability on any given subject. Whenever we study probability, it is important to remember that we can only work from what we know.

Facts unknown to us can greatly affect the accuracy of any forecast, and frequently do. The more statistical information we have available to us, the better our chances of making accurate predictions.

Superstition, of course, is not based upon facts or statistics, which, in itself, makes it a totally unreliable tool for determining probability. On the other hand, reliable statistics, when combined with one’s own mental powers, can certainly help us to work things out more favorably.

ODDS AND ENDS

What are your odds of achieving a certain result? In order to be “lucky,” it is necessary to come to terms with reality. Realistically speaking, your odds of winning a million-dollar lottery are about 125,000,000 to 1! You might wish to consider this when people say, “It only takes one ticket to win.” That’s right. The one right ticket out a possible 125,000,000! (That’s one in one hundred and twenty five MILLION!)

At this juncture, it might be reassuring to know that the odds against finding a pearl in an oyster are only 12,000 to 1.

Finally, if you toss a coin ten times, the odds that it will always come up heads are 1 in 1,023.

Where games of chance are concerned, many people can become severely disheartened by the odds, and so, may decide to ignore them and keep hoping for a “lucky streak.” It is an unfortunate decision at best, since luck is determined by probability over an extended period of time.

NOTE: Here again, it is important to remember the manner in which we intend to use our own logic and intelligence.

The human mind is an organ over which man has a specific kind of control. Just as the driver of an automobile is capable of steering in a certain direction but cannot alter the mechanical laws by which the car functions, so too can he focus upon specific goals without measurably affecting the law of probability, which tends to dictate certain events.

Man is free to think or not to think. If he chooses not to think, or thinks unwisely, he will set into motion a complex chain of events that must inevitably bring about an unfortunate or undesired conclusion.

IGNORING PROBABILITIES – A LEARNED RESPONSE

When you were young, most likely you were not encouraged to consider the law of probability in that most children are taught to think in terms of alternatives.

“If you don’t eat your supper, you can’t have any dessert.”

“You had better have this room cleaned up in an hour or we’ll go to the movies without you.”

When confronted with unpleasant alternatives, there is little to think about – or so it seems. Whatever is desired is obviously contingent upon something else.

Do this and you get that. DON’T do this and you get THAT! There is nothing to ponder or research. It’s an Either-Or situation.

Unfortunately, when this concept is carried over into adulthood, it frequently limits a person’s outlook.

He may continue to think purely on a level of punishment and reward, believing he will “win” if he is a good person who deserves to win. If he loses, he is obviously undeserving.

People who are locked into this view find it difficult to consider probabilities. They are also more likely to be superstitious since they tend to equate failure with something outside themselves.

If you can be made to feel that you are a bad person and that only bad things will ever happen to you, you will tend to become highly superstitious where so- called “bad luck” is concerned. You will see it as a condition in life that deliberately seeks you out. It is your cross to bear.

Whatever you do, you can never escape it. Anyone who attempts to show you the manner in which you are flagrantly ignoring the law of probability will be met with an attitude of “None of that stuff has anything to do with me. Lady Luck hasn’t dealt me a decent hand since the day I was born. That’s just the way it is.”

However things are, it is important to remember that they could just as easily be a different way. You are not locked into any particular pattern of behavior or thought. Not unless you choose to believe you are!

BECOMING REALITY – BASED

By now, you undoubtedly understand, or have begun to understand that you will never learn how to make odds or probability work in your favor until you are ready to accept the reality in every situation.

NOTE: Reality is not what you would like it to be, or someday hope it might be. It is what it is. Pure and simple. The nice thing about reality is that you DO have choice of utilizing it in our own behalf.

Of course, this will be difficult to do if you continue to confuse your personal preferences with what reality is all about. Please don’t make the mistake of believing that reality is different things to different people. Reality simply is! It is only people’s perceptions of reality that vary.

You may be sure that your own perceptions will be greatly influenced by whatever has happened to you in the past, what is happening now, and also, by what you would like to have happen in the future.

EXAMPLE: Once you have become determined to win a million-dollar lottery, you will do whatever you feel is necessary in order to bring this happy experience about. In the process, you may well become a reckless plunger, but that will not change the odds (the reality) of winning the lottery. Your chances of winning remain what they always were. You may win – but in all probability, you won’t.

To become firmly anchored in reality is to automatically eliminate most of the problems you have in life. Why? Because most of them stem from your own inability (or unwillingness) to see who is really causing them. Yes, YOU are! Whatever you persist in accepting, believing, supporting, condoning, etc. is the REAL the problem.

The first thing you should ask yourself is “Is it right?” Bear in mind that you only have one life to live.

Can you think of any reason why you shouldn’t constantly strive to make it the happiest, most productive life you possibly can? Is it wrong to be aware of the ways in which you are hurting yourself, or allowing yourself to be hurt? Is it wrong to try to change all that? If you don’t, who will?

An unfortunate fact of life is that too many people simply “wait” for things to get better. Although it tends to disturb them when nothing get better, it apparently doesn’t disturb them enough.

Change, when it finally occurs, is generally forced upon such people. When the negative aspects of their lives finally “back them into a corner,” they may at least make some desperate move; one that is rarely if every based on a logical decision.

Why is it that people wait so long to make a change? Why do they tend to avoid change? The one absolutely predictable thing in life is that circumstances will always change. For better, or for worse. THINGS CHANGE. This is reality!

In order to live successfully, you will need to keep developing your coping skills in much the same way that a professional bodybuilder continues to develop his muscles. Remember! It is not what happens to you, but rather how well you cope with what happens, that will determine your success of failure.

Cease clinging to false hopes and nonsensical superstitions. Throw away that lucky rabbit’s foot. It obviously didn’t work for the rabbit! Heed the law of probability, and carefully weigh your options, evaluating them realistically – without adding any false assumptions and superstitions of your own.

Remember always that reality is what exists quite independent of our own minds and emotions. It cannot be colored by anything you think or feel. It IS what it IS and must be dealt with on those terms.

Once you learn to fully accept this, you will find it much easier to work with the law of possibility since you will then have ceased resist it. At this stage, you will no longer be tempted to bet on that long shot in the tenth race that would pay ninety-nine to one IF HE WINS! His breeding and past performance record clearly indicates that every other horse in the race would need to drop dead before THIS horse could win. 

The statistics are there! The odds are 99% against him. And no, it isn’t going to help that he happens to have a “lucky-sounding” name!

On a more personal level, the same rules apply. You are NOT going to succeed in any job for which you have not been sufficiently trained, and no one else is going to solve your problems, change your life, or give you a million dollars. You are on your own!

Did you feel a little twinge of anxiety when you read that last line? Don’t worry about it. Concentrate on becoming the best person you can possibly be and that feeling will eventually pass.

The stronger, more knowledgeable and self-reliant you become, the less you will have to fear from being on your own. Once you have managed to become the one person in the entire world you can truly depend upon, you will feel more secure than you have ever felt before.

PROBABILITY THINKING – HOW IT WILL HELP YOU TO GROW

Once you are a true advocate of the law of probability, you may notice some interesting changes taking place. These inner changes will

gradually cause you to develop an entirely new attitude toward everything you think and do.

For one thing, you will develop a much more methodical approach to complex tasks. This may astound you at first, particularly if you have always been an impatient or impulsive person.

You may find that you have suddenly developed an interest in books, and that you now have an eye for detail, and some newly acquired skills for cataloguing, filing and classifying materials according to content and relevance.

In time, you will begin to realize that you are becoming an Accurate Thinker, someone whose heightened curiosity, persistence and intellectual attributes are finally being put to good use.

Much to your own amazement, you will notice that other, more “reckless” types, can no longer persuade you to act unwisely. High- pressure salesmen who urge you to make a buying decision “Now – TODAY!” will have suddenly lost their intimidating influence.

Friends and family members who have always been able to threaten or cajole you into doing things you would rather not do, will have to take a backseat to your own “better judgement” which is now determined to weigh all the pros and cons before any final decisions are made.

You will fare much better in personal relationships, realizing how that love and respect are not factors to be automatically bestowed.

If you feel that others do not regard you, as you would like, in all probability, you have not yet earned their affection or respect. Instead of vigorously opposing this thought, you will find you are now able to deal with it, and will begin at once to make some constructive changes.

All in all, you will adopt a much calmer, more reasonable approach to daily challenges, and the benefits of this will be obvious and far- reaching.

No longer willing to leave things “to chance” you will see how advanced knowledge, when carefully and studiously applied, can attract the “good luck” that has always eluded you. It was there all the time. You can BET on it!

Dr. Robert Anthony
WRITTEN BY

Dr. Robert Anthony

The works of Dr Robert Anthony are some of the best kept secrets on the Law of Attraction. Operating without the massive self-promotion and razzmatazz that so often accompanies other ‘Personal Development’ teachers, Dr Anthony has nevertheless provided a guiding direction to some of the most successful people on the planet.

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