There are certain situations where one is left feeling helpless because nothing can be done, for example, when facing death or loss. It's very difficult to accept what hurts or destroys us as we often cannot predict what will harm us. Similarly, it's tough to acknowledge the potential for significant suffering in the lives of our loved ones.
Tragedies and accidents exist and leave residues in the mind, body, and heart. It's the human condition, the mishaps of being in the world. Different attitudes can be taken towards this reality. We can accept the inevitable, we can accept our helplessness, or we can always live in the expectation that some magic, some decree, some divine intervention will change everything. Superstitions, as much as believing in the impossible, is a way of masking the inevitable; thus, postponing despair but anticipating insecurity. This magical attitude transforms desire - what one wants - into a possibility, and imagines someone capable of fulfilling it. Lacan comments on this in his concept of the Subject Supposed to Know.
In Gestalt Psychotherapy, we work with the concept of non-acceptance. The best way to understand magical displacements is through this concept; the non-acceptance of reality, the non-acceptance of impotence in the face of events, where what characterizes magic is pretending that what is imagined and desired will happen regardless of what is perceived and experienced.
The other day I read that when Houdini the magician, was giving a demonstration in New York during his tour in the USA, the actress Sarah Bernhardt - at that time one of the most famous actresses in the world (1916) - came to see him. At this point, Sarah Bernhardt was already missing a leg (it had been amputated due to an accident at the theatre in Rio de Janeiro). The actress was so amazed by Houdini's magic, with the impossible achieved and realized in front of her eyes, that in a cry of magical desire, she asked, "Mr Houdini, I want my leg back! Please do it". In an interview with journalists, Houdini confirmed his conversation with her, adding: "She honestly thought I was superhuman". This event makes clear the link between desire and magic, i.e. the attitude of omnipotence generated by transforming what happens according to fixed ideas to be achieved.
Non-acceptance of reality leads to non-acceptance as a person, and as a social being, resulting in omission in the face of demands (i.e. not living in the present). From this non-acceptance comes a lack of initiative, fear, goal-setting, illusions of change, in short, non-acceptance of the feeling of incapacity in the face of present situations that exceed the conditions for action. Non-acceptance of helplessness and non-acceptance of limits gives rise to dreams of magical transformations, creating expectations that, however fluctuating, become supportive, creating omnipotent attitudes: from fervent faith to irremovable obstinacy. Within a relational, non-dualistic vision, omnipotence is always a displacement of impotence.
Omnipotence creates magical perceptions and establishes "supposed knowledge" that is believed to solve everything, generating more expectation, more fear, and more dependence. The classic solutions to the powerlessness of the oppressed, for example through prayers and ebós (works for African deities) are magical forms, displacements of impotence, which create references of omnipotence: magic, where anything can happen. Desire is the magic carpet that leads to other universes, synchronizing references according to one's difficulties and needs.
Waiting for the saviour of the country, waiting for Prince Charming, can be the dedication of a life that, devoted and cloistered, perceives nothing of what is around it. This attitude establishes structures that are favourable to all levels of deception and lies, beliefs, and hopes.