Taming Superstitious Beliefs: Is Bad Luck Just Coincidence?

black cat staring intently

Believing in superstitions gives us a sense of control in times of uncertainties. We feel less stressed and powerless when we are doing something to ‘control’ the situation.

In a year when all I wanted was stability, 2017 was anything but. It was, to say the least, an inauspicious year from start to finish. For someone who always sought to enlighten her superstitious mother from her primitive beliefs, I began to believe that there was in fact a supernatural force that operates for or against an individual and that it was out to get Mr Wow and me that year. 

Everything you’re about to read REALLY HAPPENED.

2017: The Crappy Year

Incident 1

29th January 2017 — It was the second day of Chinese New Year and Mr Wow and I had just returned to Singapore from Bangkok. We waited and waited at the baggage carousel for my luggage but it didn’t appear, so we filed a lost report and made our way home. We were still in the cab when an airport staff called to inform me that my luggage had somehow ended up in Da Nang. I was assured that I would have it back by the following afternoon.  

Although Mr Wow and I had never lost anything while travelling before, I remember telling him how lucky we were that the airport was able to find my luggage so quickly.

luggage on airport's baggage collection carousel belt
The first of many unfortunate events: the airport lost Mrs Wow’s luggage

Incident 2

Less than half an hour later — In Chinese, we have an idiom: 祸不单行, meaning bad things usually happen more than once.

When we got back home, a foul smell invaded my nose the second I opened the front door. 

‘Holy cow, what’s that terrible odour!’ I exclaimed, wrinkling my nose.  

Mr Wow walked in and immediately pulled up his shirt collar to cover his nose. 

Although I had never smelt a dead body in my life, I was sure something was decomposing in our house. We traced the source to the refrigerator. Apparently, our circuit breaker had tripped and the power didn’t come back on, so everything was left rotting in the fridge for nearly two weeks. We hurriedly opened all our windows to ventilate the place. The stench of rotting meat was so strong that it attracted flies almost immediately. If we had taken a longer vacation, our neighbours would have called the police for sure. (‘Hello… I think there’s a dead body in my neighbour’s house…please come… hurry!’) 

WHAT A TOTAL NIGHTMARE! We did all we could to clean and deodorise the fridge but the foul smell lingered and gave me a bad headache for days.

Incident 3

3rd February — The bad luck continued. While walking to my parents’ place, an errant cyclist collided with me and I hurt my hands when I tried to break my fall.  

‘You have to be careful! This is not a good year for Snakes (my Chinese horoscope). Your luck will be affected by three inauspicious stars. Your wealth will decline and your health will be poor. Oh dear, it states here that you are prone to accidents and injuries! Look at you now!’ my mum said worriedly. 

‘Oh no, Tigers (Mr Wow’s Chinese horoscope) offended Tai Sui (the guardian god of the year), so they don’t have good fortune too. They might suffer huge financial losses this year; therefore, it’s best to stay low key and not make any major decisions to do with money.’ 

My mum then insisted that I read her book, which contained all the Chinese horoscope predictions for the Year of the Rooster. 

I heaved a sigh. My hands hurt and I didn’t want to argue with her, so I pretended to read it. 

Ever so cheerful, Mr Wow consoled me by saying ‘Well, many people also believe that bad things come in threes, so I guess the worst is over!’

Incident 4

1st April — Nothing bad happened in March, but on April Fool’s Day at around 11pm, I received a text from Mr Wow telling me that he had lost his key pouch (he was out with his friends). 

‘I will be home by midnight. Please don’t sleep as I need you to open the door. So sorry!’ 

I thought he was pulling my leg, so I replied, ‘HAHA… good night!’ 

He called me almost immediately. He did lose his key pouch for real.

Until that point, Mr Wow had never lost a wallet, key or phone in his life. Oh well, there’s a first for everything.

Incident 5

Still in April Some time in the same month, Mr Wow woke up in the middle of the night complaining about a sharp pain in his lower back. It became increasingly worse (to the point that he had difficulty sitting up), so we rushed to the nearest hospital. It turned out to be a kidney stone. 

Incident 6

June — Our kitchen tap burst. I couldn’t get hold of Mr Wow and I didn’t know how to turn off the main water supply. By the time the plumber came, much water had gone to waste.

My mum was extremely concerned when I told her about it. ‘Water represents wealth and your money is flowing out! This is bad! Why don’t you listen to me and follow me to the temple?’ 

She had made the same suggestion to me numerous times but I always said no. This time, I told her that I would seriously think about it. I have never been a superstitious person BUT I was beginning to wonder why Mr Wow and I seemed so unlucky of late. Could the horoscope predictions be right?

water gushing out of a tap
Our ‘wealth’ was flowing out

Incident 7

July — WTF! I chipped my front tooth while biting an apple! Despite a hairline crack due to a bad fall when I was 12, the tooth had remained intact for 28 years till that fateful moment.

‘You are prone to accidents and injuries this year…’ I could hear my mum’s voice in my head. 

Right after making an emergency dental appointment, I called my mum and we went to the temple four days later. In case you’re wondering, we couldn’t go sooner because she had to pick an auspicious day.

Incident 8

September — Alas, the bad luck continued! While watching Korean drama one night, our trusted CRT TV (You know, those box sets that last forever?) started making a series of crackling sounds. The next thing we knew, smoke (A LOT OF IT) was gushing out from the back of the TV! Holy shit! We thought the TV was going to explode on us! Time to buy a new TV.

Incident 9

October — More money ‘flowing out’. Mr Wow and I arrived at our enrichment centre and were shocked to realise that the air-conditioner was on. We had forgotten to switch it off before leaving the place three days ago!

Incident 10

December — Our ‘smelly’ fridge broke down — on Christmas Eve!


The Ripple Effect

Believe it or not, there were other dreadful incidents but the above were the more unforgettable disturbing ones. Faced with setbacks big and small, Mr Wow and I felt like two shit-magnets that year — an unfamiliar feeling up till then — and you have no idea how relieved we were when the Year of the Rooster finally ended in February 2018. 

We were spooked. From being rational people who made decisions based on reason, we (ok, mostly me) became increasingly superstitious and started taking measures to improve our luck. For instance, we avoided our unlucky colours that year — Mr Wow stopped wearing white while I steered clear of anything red. I also became obsessed with the number ‘5’ as it was supposedly my lucky number. I made sure that there was always a $5 note in my wallet.

From being rational people who made decisions based on reason, we became increasingly superstitious and started taking measures to improve our luck.

But THE MOST EXTREME MEASURE OF ALL was to postpone our plan to downsize to a smaller home till 2018. Mr Wow and I had intended to execute the plan in the middle of 2017 but after our kitchen tap burst, I became so paranoid that I decided against it. I just didn’t want to risk encountering complications during the selling and buying process, which might lead to financial losses (hearing my mum’s voice again). Mr Wow agreed with me. Better safe than sorry, right? 

I know we probably sound like complete nutcases to you. Please feel free to laugh at us. Ha!

Coming to Our Senses

Comfort and Control

In this world, there are many supernatural phenomena that cannot be explained by science. Sometimes, strange or unfortunate things happen and we find ourselves questioning our beliefs. We might also try to ward off bad luck and boost our odds of success by observing all kinds of superstitious beliefs even if we don’t really believe in their effectiveness.

Such behaviours might seem silly or desperate but they do, to a certain extent, help to reduce stress and provide a sense of control (FYI, I’m a real control freak). When we are doing whatever that’s perceived to work, we feel less anxious and more confident. That’s why even though the $5 note in my wallet did not have any magical powers, it gave me peace of mind as I felt that it was protecting me like some sort of talisman. (Mr Wow: I thought she had gone mad.)

We’re Only As Lucky As We Think We Are

Many superstitious beliefs are harmless. The problem is we believe and practise them because we fear the unknown. When we are convinced that we are out of luck, we become afraid and insecure, and we allow superstitions to overpower us considerably. We behave and think differently. We don’t feel as positive and confident. Our performance drops — more bad luck. In a way, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

We behave and think differently. We don’t feel as positive and confident. Our performance drops — more bad luck. In a way, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

When the Year of the Rooster ended, Mr Wow and I saw our luck turn around. Frankly, it could well be due to our more positive outlook after the calamitous year. Positive thoughts bring positive results while negative thoughts bring negative outcomes. If we had focused on the law of attraction and adopted a more positive energy to attract success, we might not have to experience so many misfortunes that year. At the very least, we would be happier people. 

If you are going through a rough patch now, remind yourself that there will be better days ahead. Stay positive and focus on what you want to attract into your life. I shall not wish you good luck. I shall wish you success in creating your own luck.

Meme: racoon - you got this

More about life: Why It’s Important to Follow Your Dream | Why Being Knowledgeable is Important | 10 Life Lessons from Clash of Clans | Why It’s Important to Enjoy Boredom

Mrs Wow

Mrs Wow (aka Lynn) became debt-free in 2018, achieved financial independence in 2019, and retired in 2020 at the age of 42. She believes in staying invested even if there’s a level-5 shit storm. A homebody, she spends her free time reading, blogging and listening to music. Follow her on 𝕏 (@wowpursuits).

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