Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be a challenging journey, both physically and emotionally. As individuals navigate the healing process, it is not uncommon for them to experience a heightened sense of awareness, seeking signs or finding meaning in seemingly random occurrences. This phenomenon, often referred to as magical thinking, is a rather common occurrence during benzo withdrawal/BIND. It may feel strange or even frightening to experience magical thinking, but it is just a symptom of benzo withdrawal/BIND. It does not mean anything more than you have down-regulated GABA receptors, and your nervous system is hyper-excited. Magical thinking fades away as we recover.
Understanding Magical Thinking
Magical thinking is the belief that your thoughts, feelings, or actions will affect someone’s behavior or the outcome of a situation. During benzodiazepine withdrawal, heightened sensitivity, and psychological distress can contribute to this phenomenon. People might interpret a chance encounter or a series of events as signs from the universe, God, or the universe. They may believe that certain outcomes are contingent upon specific circumstances, creating a sense of control or guidance in their recovery journey. Magical thinking is often a way to cope with anxiety. It can give us a sense of control. I remember years ago, long before I was put on a benzo, having to fly for work. I dreaded the flight. On the way to the airport, I thought, “If I see three red cars on the freeway, I’ll have a safe flight.” My anxiety about flying was the fuel for magical thinking.
The Significance of Magical Thinking
While magical thinking may seem irrational or superstitious, it can serve as a coping mechanism during the challenging recovery process. It provides individuals with a sense of hope and purpose, instilling a belief that they are not alone and that their healing is guided by external forces. This perception can alleviate anxiety and uncertainty, offering a sense of comfort and reassurance. I used to find white feathers on my walks around the block. I began to see them as a sign from God that I would be okay. One day, while sitting in my front yard garden, a white feather floated down next to me, just like in the movie Forrest Gump. I watched it gently sway on the breeze, nothing but blue sky above it. Where it came from, I have no idea. But I held onto that moment as a sign that I’d heal. My magical thinking gave me hope.
However, my magical thinking had a dark side to it. I remember standing a few feet from a trashcan and tossing a wadded-up piece of paper into it. As it sailed through the air, my mind told me, “If it doesn’t land in the trashcan, something horrible will happen to the kids.” The thought was so bizarre; it frightened me. Somewhere in me, I knew it wasn’t true, but I felt fear for a while afterward as the paper didn’t land in the can.
During benzo withdrawal/BIND, we may also attach meaning to numbers. The number 33 became important to me for some reason. I’d be happy when I looked at the clock, and it was 33 minutes after the hour. I felt it meant something. But of course, it didn’t. Now that I am healed, I don’t have magical thinking. Although I must say, I saw a white feather float down outside my window this morning, and it made me smile thinking of how they helped me have hope while I was recovering.
Tips for Coping with Magical Thinking
If your magical thinking worries you or makes you feel uncomfortable, here are some tips to cope.
- Acknowledge and Normalize: Recognize that magical thinking is a common experience during benzodiazepine withdrawal. Understanding that many others have gone through similar experiences can help normalize these thoughts and reduce feelings of isolation.
- Practice Self-Reflection: Take time to reflect on your thoughts and beliefs. Consider whether your magical thinking aligns with your values and goals. Reflecting on the rationality of your beliefs can help you gain clarity and maintain a balanced perspective.
- Seek Support: Share your experiences and thoughts with a trusted friend, family member, coach, or therapist. Talking openly about your magical thinking can provide an opportunity for validation and help you gain different perspectives on the events or signs you perceive.
- Engage in Critical Thinking: As you explore the meaning behind certain events, try to approach them with a critical mindset. Consider alternative explanations or interpretations. Ask yourself if there could be other factors influencing the events rather than a supernatural force.
- Mindfulness and Grounding Techniques: Practice mindfulness exercises and grounding techniques to help anchor yourself in the present moment. This can help reduce anxiety and prevent excessive focus on magical thinking. Breathing exercises, meditation, or engaging your senses through activities like walking in nature can be helpful.
- Find a Healthy Outlet: Channel your energy into creative or productive pursuits that can provide a sense of purpose and redirect your focus from magical thinking to more tangible activities.
- Set Realistic Expectations: While magical thinking can provide a sense of control, it is important to acknowledge that it may not always result in the desired outcomes. Set realistic expectations for your recovery and embrace the uncertainty that comes with the healing process.
- Join my support Group: Receive live coaching three days a week and enjoy the positive focus in the group.
Magical thinking during benzodiazepine withdrawal is a common phenomenon that individuals often experience. While it may seem irrational, it serves as a coping mechanism, offering a sense of hope and purpose. By acknowledging and normalizing this experience, practicing self-reflection, seeking support, engaging in critical thinking, and grounding oneself in the present, individuals can cope with and manage magical thinking during their recovery journey. Remember, it’s essential to find a balance between seeking signs and maintaining a realistic perspective as you work towards healing and reclaiming your life.
Add your voice.
Have you experienced magical thinking during benzo withdrawal/BIND? What was your experience like? What did you do to cope, if it bothered you?