Supernatural thinking: Your brain’s anti-anxiety mode | Clay Routledge

Our great intelligence
causes great anxiety. There’s a burden to our
cognitive enlightenment. As existential organisms, There’s all sorts of supernatural
beliefs that we invest in. There’s the common ones that
most people are familiar with- Related to the religious
traditions that we’re part of- But there’s also all sorts Of other types of supernatural beliefs Such as the belief in ghosts, A belief in other types of spirits, A belief in psychic powers, A belief in almost superhuman
abilities like mind reading. We also invest in things That aren’t necessarily hardcore beliefs, But that we might refer
to as supernatural-lite, Things like UFOs and aliens. Our interest in the supernatural Is probably a story as old as our species. There’s something about
wanting to not be confined By earthly parameters. The story of supernatural
thinking is a complex one, That is there’s not just one source Or one cause of our supernatural interest- But a big one is the
realization of our mortality. Supernatural beliefs give us some sense That even though life
on this planet is short, Even though it’s uncertain, There’s a part of me
that is more than that. There’s a part of me that’s
beyond my material existence. I have some spiritual essence
that transcends mortality. We also have to deal with
the loss of loved ones, And supernatural beliefs
help us deal with loss. When a loved one passes, We gain some sense of
comfort in our sadness

That we still remain
connected to them in some way. In some way, the relationship persists Even though they’re not
physically with us anymore. All animals, at some level, Need to make sense of the external world. It helps to have some basic understanding Of cause and effect. But what makes humans unique Is not only do we need to make
sense of our external world So we can navigate it, but we
also have an internal world. We’re very introspective.
We’re highly self-aware. And so we wanna make
sense of our own lives, And supernatural beliefs Can help us make sense
of the external world By helping make it more
orderly and predictable, But it also plays a critical role In helping us make sense
of our own existence. At some level, All humans are aware of
the fact that we’re tiny. We’re tiny in a lot of ways, right? If you think about our
relative size in the Universe, We’re just a tiny spec on a planet That’s just a tiny part
of a much larger Universe. In addition to that, if you
think about the concept of time, That also makes us feel small. We know that our time on
this planet is very brief In the grand scheme of things. Supernatural beliefs
help us connect ourselves To something that solves
that problem of smallness. Even though I’m only here
for a brief moment in time, I am connected to others who
have been here for a long time, And hopefully connected to others That will be here for a
long time in the future. As humans who are highly introspective,

We have all sorts of insecurities And personal struggles
that we have to deal with. Supernatural beliefs, in
a lot of ways, help us- They help offer guidance, They help us feel like
there’s some sense of order Or purpose in our lives. They’re part of that
dialogue with the self. That’s one of the reasons
people pray for instance, Is they want to have a conversation Or connection with the divine
as a way to help resolve Some of their personal
challenges and struggles. So there seems to be a lot of evidence That supernatural thinking
is natural to humans- It’s part of what it means to be a human, But that doesn’t
necessarily mean it’s good. Critics of supernatural beliefs Would think that they can
make us believe in things That are just scientifically false. Supernatural beliefs can
make people dogmatic, Which can contribute to
serious conflict, even war. At the same time, they are
actually also quite good for us. That anxiety inspires
us as part of the story Of what makes us want to advance
society, and to help others Because we look beyond the mortal self. Supernatural beliefs help
us feel like we’re part Of a meaningful, cosmic drama.

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