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I think that what you describe here is a close cousin to divergent thinking, something incredibly useful to a writer. Magical thinking assigns connections that aren't really there to things, but divergent thinking kind of does the same thing- comparisons from one industry or field of study can provide amazing insights into other fields, like the way Murray Gell-Mann took almost a grammatical approach to classifying fundamental particles in the 60s.

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Hello, Andrew! I see the similarity. What struck me also is how that changed the framing- from what Ive read, magical thinking is, at best, considered harmless. Divergent or lateral thinking is associated with creative solutions, thinking outside the box, etc.

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Bingo! It's a great way to apply the same kind of concepts, but in a somewhat more constructive manner. Thanks for the interesting thoughts!

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When I think of magical thinking, I generally think of two kinds: the innocence of childhood and in the minds of the severely disturbed. In childhood, magical thinking allows us to generate hopes and dreams and to know what we truly want. It fosters imagination and emotional coping. In the severely disturbed, this veers into conspiracy theories and delusions, where rigid fixed beliefs are resistant to change, even in the face of contradictory evidence. There is a third kind of magical thinking in between the two. Its the willing suspension of disbelief when we read fiction or watch a film. Its very much like enjoying pretend play in childhood but can help us to explore darker thoughts and feelings that we may not do on a typical day.

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Thats interesting, John. I hadnt thought of magical thinking as a suspension of disbelief. Even as I write the words, its obvious that it is exactly that. Thank you for sharing!

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How amazing that of all the things that could of appeared when you asked for a sign, you actually saw a unicorn!

I really enjoy stories like this, because even if we dont have a rational explanation for it, there is something comforting about the idea that if we ask for guidance we may just get it.

I tend to believe that our ages over-emphasis on being rational all of the time, can sometimes be unhelpful because as I see it, there is no reason to expect our crazy and complex universe to always act rationally. In fact, I think expecting it to do so is irrational.

Great read Priya.

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Hello, Michael! At that time, it felt like a response, and I found it comforting. Since then, I have kept a small unicorn plush toy on my desk to remind me of this time! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Michael!

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As someone who has spent a large portion of my adult life in religious settings I heard many of these types of stories. I've had an evolution of thinking about it but can definitely say this type of thing has brought comfort and hope to dozens of people. Your story is particularly powerful and does feed the little kid in me who longs for the world to be good and generous

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Hello, Jen! How I think about it now is different from how I felt then and you are right, it was comforting. More than anything, it makes you feel supported. The idea of living in a world that is good and generous and offers reciprocity is very appealing. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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I guess my question is: if it really was the universe talking to you by showing you the unicorn, did it give you the right answer? Were you happy staying at the job? Or was it beneficial in some way to your king range hopes and plans?

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Hello, Stace! The answer: its complicated! At that time, I took it as a sign. I didnt start questioning authority until much after that time, and so I automatically assumed it was in my best interest to remain there. And any subsequent memory is colored by that assumption.

I dont know if it was the universe or magical thinking and I have enough doubts that I cant make up my mind one way or the other. I appreciate you asking the elephant-in-the-room question!

What would you lean towards?

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So, when I am driving somewhere and getting frustrated by hitting every traffic light and other delays that slow my progress, I soothe myself by pretending that an angel is looking out for me, and that the delays are to prevent me from some unknown disaster ahead -- by making me just a little late, I'll miss a getting hit by someone running a red light, for example. To apply same mental exercise to your unicorn, perhaps the universe was not telling you, "this job is the right thing right now" so much as preventing you from falling into some worse situation, or making sure you're in the right place for some other critical turn in your future, totally unconnected to the job at all. It's silly, I know, but so is any "what might have been" exercise!

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I agree, and I have definitely done this. I felt let down when I first read about magical thinking, and as a result, I think I have a slightly reactive rationalism. But that doesn't stop me from wishing for the reverse! Thanks!

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Sounds like a bit of synchronicity. Perhaps you needed to be the one to decide to leave rather than giving something else the authority to decide for you. Its a lovely and wonderful story. Lots to think about.

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Thanks for reading, LeeAnn! I think I was at an anxious time in my life and needed to make some meaning!

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Apr 17edited Apr 17Liked by Priya Iyer

Very cool story. Another way of looking at those things, so I'm told, is to watch your reaction to whatever shows up. Since you were disappointed, you could have looked at that as the answer. However, a unicorn appearing is odd enough that I would have been tempted to see it as a message also. Thanks for sharing.

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Joyce, thank you for reading! Yeah, thats a great suggestion to look into what you want the answer to be. I think I was taken back at what looked like the prompt appearance of the unicorn!

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