BE PATIENT--Under Construction

Carmen Pineiro, LMHC

  Better Pathways


The Power of Three

Posted by on October 26, 2015 at 8:05 AM

Sometimes things happen in life that catch your attention and make you think. Do bad things actually happen in threes? Do good things happen in threes? Superstition or reality?

While I visited a good friend in the ICU, He explained to me how he believes bad things usually come in threes. He gave detailed examples of how things were happening in threes. His current hospitalization is one of three things that happened to him. Doctors hospitalized him with pneumonia and complications with his lungs, heart and kidneys (three things). His face shined as he recounted events proving this belief. Even his incredulous girlfriend was “seeing the signs.” I used my best counselor techniques, active listening, empathy, and compassion, as they both recounted events preceding his hospitalization. I don’t consider myself superstitious; therefore I never gave that conversation another thought.

Now, a few weeks later, it’s 6 in the morning, and I get the worst call ever. My daughter had a car accident, and she’s in the hospital. I try to ground myself; I take deep breaths, but my mind is throwing at me all types of thoughts. “Was she at fault?” Where others injured?” “Why me?” Etc. I feel anger, sadness, and guilt all at the same time. All normal thoughts and feelings in a moment of desperation.

After I had calmed down, I thought, “Last week your husband got laid off, today your daughter had an accident, oh no, what’s next?” Again my mind began, “is it real?” “How can this be explained?” I had been infected, pre-disposed to the thought bad things happen in threes. I needed answers; I needed proof. I set out on a mission to prove or disprove this idea, thought, or belief system, the power of three. Is it real or just our mind playing tricks on us?

With an open mind, I began searching. I needed information, an explanation. However, the information I found was limited. What I came across was mostly folklore, old wives tales and opinions. For centuries, it has been a common belief that things happen in sets of threes. Some believe that good things come in threes and others believe bad things. But why three? Countries have different numbers they consider either lucky or unlucky. In the United States, people see the number three as lucky and 13 as unlucky. The number 3 is used in popular phrases like, “it’s as easy as one, two, three” or “three strikes and you’re out.” The number three is also used throughout religion and scripture associated with perfection and completion such as the holy trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost). Even in fairy tales like The Three Little Pigs and Goldilocks and the Three Bears and games such as tic tac toe can one find the symbolism of the number three.

Now let’s look at the mind and how it works. According to the clustering illusion, humans have a tendency to see patterns in what would otherwise be random events. We ignore the big picture and focus on meaningful patterns that don’t exist. This is how our brains function and how our mind makes sense of the world around us. Then you have the confirmation bias which is the tendency to favor information that confirms our beliefs and pay less attention to what contradicts our beliefs. Not only are we wired to look for patterns but since we are young, we’re ingrained with the number three. No wonder we will automatically think event whether good or bad happen in threes. After the third, we can sigh in relief.

At one point or another, we all can think back and identify times where good things were overflowing and times where bad things were bombarding us. So do we continue holding on to this mystery that things happen in threes? It’s up to you! If it’s bad then hopefully it’s a coincidence, however if it’s good then let them come in 3, 6, 9’s, etc.!


Categories: Superstitions

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