Dear Surly Amy,
Today, I defend my PhD Dissertation. Despite my adviser’s assurances and my own knowledge that I will do well I’m incredibly nervous.
I was thinking about this last night as I was getting ready for bed. I spoke to my adviser earlier in the evening and she refused to make plans for after the presentation to avoid jinxing me. Similarly, I have avoided speaking too confidently about a successful defense.
I am an atheist and skeptic. I know that jinxes are just superstition and won’t affect the outcome but to some degree I feel that participating in them calms some of the anxiety that I am feeling.
Is it really a bad thing to feel this way? Does participating in a very non-skeptical act trump my knowing it isn’t real? Do my personal psychological benefits outweigh the fact that to others I am supporting irrational beliefs?
Thanks for any help or advice!
I realize this answer is after the fact so I hope the PhD Dissertation went well!
No, it is not a bad thing to feel or act that way. In fact if you want to alleviate any guilt you might feel by participating in the jinx call it a ritual or psychological/statistical game. That would be the truth of it.
For example, when the Skepchicks are having our behind the scenes chats whenever one of us types and send the same message we type-yell, “JINX. YOU OWE ME A COKE!” In all honesty, I don’t even know how the whole coke thing got started. Well, I know how the whole coke thing got started in the 80’s but that is a topic for a different Ask Surly Amy. The point is, Skepchicks are, as a group, an extremely non-superstitious bunch yet we play along with fun rituals for a giggle here and there as well. Statistically speaking, odds are we are going to say the same things quite often and when we do, we get to see who can type, “JINX” faster. We have appropriated superstition into a fun game. As long as you are aware that there is no definitive link with an action such as, “stepping on a crack and actually breaking your mother’s back” then it’s perfectly fine to skip and jump down the sidewalk if it makes you feel better.
Now, if we were discussing something where harm was involved, like if for example you were getting a coffee enema every Thursday in order to fight a cancerous tumor growing in your chest, then there would be trouble. Otherwise, remember to study and prepare then relax, and have a good time with life!
Got a question you would like some Surly-Skepchick advice on? Send it in! We won’t publish your real name, unless you want us to and creative pseudonyms get bonus points! Just use the contact link on the top left of the page.