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Psychological characteristics of superstitions

Superstition (lit. - vain, vain, i.e. false) - a belief that contrasts with true faith, formulated in the creeds of developed religions. From a rationalist point of view, all faith in supernatural phenomena [22, p. 632].

At the same time, superstition is a prejudice, by virtue of which much of what is happening seems to be a manifestation of supernatural forces, an omen of the future [159, p. 716] 1.

1 Some psychologists believe that by their psychological mechanism, superstition is close to a neurosis of obsessive states. The fact that it is useless to fight obsessive states by persuasion explains the high survivability of superstitions, even those that contradict the worldview of people (for example, atheists). Other experts identify superstition with prejudice.

However, if the psychological structure of prejudice is dominated by elements of thinking, misunderstanding, usually inspired from outside, emotions may not be present in it, then the psychological structure of superstition is dominated by a sense of faith that inhibits thinking [164, p. 307].

Very clearly and figuratively noticed the nature of superstition Spinoza. He emphasized: “... Fear is the reason due to which superstition arises, is maintained and maintained” [165, p. 8].

In this regard, it seems more correct to single out superstition as an independent phenomenon, classifying it between prejudices, on the one hand, and neurosis of obsessive states, on the other hand.

In accordance with our methodological position, superstitions are a kind of quasi-resource that extends the psychological capabilities of a combatant. They allow you to cognitively organize, structure inexplicable, incomprehensible events, the relationship between objects and phenomena, make life in a combat environment more predictable, requiring less mental cost. For example, a person who believes in the "magical" power of the talisman can sleep more calmly, not experience various kinds of phobias, and act actively in battle until the talisman is with him. And on the contrary, he practically loses the qualities of a fighter in the event of his loss.

The following example from the combat life of the engineer-sapper battalion of the 5th Guards Motorized Rifle Division operating in Afghanistan, testified by one of the officers, can testify to the power of superstitions.

“The deputy commander of our battalion for political affairs had a black cat brought from home. First, in jest, and then seriously, the officers believed that with the advent of the cat, the success of combat operations of the personnel increased, nightly attacks of dushmans on the security organs ceased, the status of the battalion in the division increased, etc. And once the cat disappeared and it was necessary to happen that it was on this night that one of the posts was fired upon by bandits. In the morning, the battalion commander singled out the best unit for the search and return of the living mascot. It’s paradoxical, but true: as soon as the cat was caught, life in the battalion returned to normal. ”

Superstitions in combat are manifested in the form of wearing amulets and talismans, premonitions, enigmas, taboos, mandatory for the implementation of customs, rites, rituals, prayers, conspiracies, myths, fatalism, etc.

Using the provisions of the Explanatory Dictionary of the Russian Language by S. I. Ozhegov and N. Yu. Shvedova, we give definitions of the listed phenomena.

Amulet - an item worn on the body and considered a magical tool against illness, unhappiness.

Very close to the amulet in content is the concept of “talisman”.

Talisman - an item that brings its owner happiness, good luck. Unlike the amulet, the talisman is more focused not on the preservation of man, but on the increase in his joy, happiness, kindness, good luck, etc.

Amulets and talismans are "for all occasions" and amulets from specific misfortunes. As amulets, amulets have been used by combatants at all times.

An example of this superstition is the fascination of the last Russian emperor Nicholas II with the collection of horseshoes, which intensified significantly during the First World War.

Amulets were widespread in the Nazi army. In June 1942, a captured German pilot testified: “We are afraid of Russian pilots who go to ram. Amulets are worn against ram. ” One, a non-commissioned officer, carried a talisman in the form of a "security certificate", which began with the words: "He who has this letter is guaranteed against an enemy bullet." An amulet with the inscription: “This item was tied to the dog’s neck, shot at her, and she was left intact ...” was found in another - corporal — an amulet ... ”[104, p. 24].

S. V. Zakharik describes the following types of amulets that were used by military personnel of the airborne troops in Afghanistan [57, p. 114-118]:

• a text with a prayer sewn into the uniform (usually at the heart);

• PVC pipes attached to the wrist, in which pieces of material were inserted with data about themselves;

• a discharged cartridge with a note (prayer; information about yourself, etc.) and with a chain stored on your neck or in your pocket;

• wrist bracelet with engraved data on blood type and Rh factor;

• home-made medallions;

• tattoos on the left side of the chest, forearm, wrist or in the armpit, etc.

In the study of S.V. Zakharik, it was shown that 95% of the surveyed paratrooper soldiers believed in the unbreakable strength of amulets and the need to wear them. 58.3% of them said that if they have a medallion, they feel more confident, calm, and psychologically stable.

Mystery - an assumption about the occurrence of an event in connection with the occurrence or not the occurrence of another event.

Mystery in a combat situation is closely connected with apprehension. So, the warrior considers rockets soaring upwards and thinks: “If there are more than seven, I will stay alive.” If the missiles turned out to be less than seven, then he has a feeling of near death. It may disappear soon. But after some time, the soldier again makes up his mind: “If three more letters come from the house before the end of the month, I’ll return from the war alive”, etc. It would seem like a strong-willed effort to prevent guessing. However, as the study shows, a soldier plays with fate, as it were, and this brings him temporary satisfaction. In the same case, when the guessing is completed successfully, he receives a powerful resource of calmness, confidence in his invulnerability, fearlessness.

Premonition - a feeling of expectation of something forthcoming and unknown. In essence, a premonition is an assumption (the assumption of an event whose probability of occurrence is not yet known), supplemented by a sense of anxious expectation. The substitution of assumptions with foreboding is especially often carried out in an environment of danger and nervous tension.

Many warriors foresee injury or death. The psychological mechanisms of victimization1 behavior may work, but premonitions often come true.

Prayer is a text pronounced when referring to God, to the saints.

In a combat situation, not so much canonical texts of prayers are used as prayers prompted by mother, grandmother, invented by the military personnel themselves.
Often this is not actually a prayer, but a promise to God to believe in him recklessly and to be his faithful slave if this or that event happens or does not happen.

Custom - the traditionally established rules of social behavior.

An example of a custom that manifests itself in the form of superstition is the rule that existed in Afghanistan not to allow military personnel to be replaced in the coming months to participate in hostilities.

Sign - a phenomenon, a case that is considered a foreshadow of something in the people, social group.

E. S. Senyavskaya cites one of the signs that took place in one of the reconnaissance battalions operating in Afghanistan. “If a wounded man who is in a fainting state touches his genitals, then he will surely die” [154, p. 242].

Ritual - the order of ritual actions, ceremonial.

In a combat setting, many warriors perform rituals in preparation for battle. At the same time, the order of carrying out actions to prepare weapons, equipment, equipment for taking up a combat position, the presence of the same elements of uniform or equipment, including long-worn ones (for example, a vest that has been worn to holes, etc.) is strictly monitored. , etc. For example, the pilots in Afghanistan observed the following ritual: before flying on a combat mission, it is imperative to urinate on the plane’s wheel.

In a combat situation, military personnel also observe patterns of ritual behavior carried out according to a certain algorithm (smile, laughter, banter on themselves, and singing songs from the “ritual repertoire”) [57, p. 114-118].

The psychological “trajectory” of the influence of rituals on combat behavior includes the following elements:

• distraction from traumatic experiences by focusing on following the algorithm of actions, pronouncing words, designing images;

• enthusiasm for the actions performed and their transfer from “protective” to “creative”;

Victimology is a field of scientific knowledge that studies the influence of victim behavior on the formation of the causes of an attempt on it.

• an emotional reflection of the success of performing creative actions - emotional switching.

Rite - a set of actions (established by custom or ritual) in which some religious ideas, everyday traditions are embodied. The rituals of accepting replenishment, departure on vacation, farewell to deceased comrades, etc. are especially clearly observed in the war.

Taboo - a ban (secular or religious in nature) imposed on any action, word, object, use or mention of which inevitably entails social or "religious-mystical" sanctions in the form of punishment, illness or death.

According to Herodotus, masterfully used the taboo that existed among the opponents to kill cats, the Persian king Cambyses. In the 4th century BC e., besieging the city of Pelusa, ordered the soldiers to pick up a cat. And the inhabitants of the city decided: it’s better to give up than to accept a battle in which so many sacred animals will die.

V. A. Mezentsev writes that during the Great Patriotic War some pilots and tankers tried not to take pictures before the battle. And they did it willingly after the task was completed. An equally bad omen was considered to shave before the battle. To some extent, the superstitious mark on the left and right side was related to the pilots: to avoid trouble, you should put on the glove first on the right hand [104, p. 27-28]. When preparing for military operations, paratrooper soldiers in Afghanistan strictly voted on the taboo for photographing, hemming gateways, writing letters home, and considered it unacceptable to ask for a combat mission.

Fatalism (from lat. Fetalis - fatal, Shit - rock, fate) - an idea of ​​the inevitable predetermination of events in the world; faith in an impersonal fate (ancient Stoicism), in unchanging divine predestination (especially characteristic of Islam), etc.

Many combatants escaped from traumatic thoughts about the future by believing that fate decides everything, which represents a person only a specific case when he can die, in other cases, death will bypass him. Fatalism in war rises to the level of a certain worldview.

E. M. Remarque showed it very vividly in his novel On the Western Front without Change. His main character argues as follows:

“The front is a cell, and the one who got into it has to strain his nerves and wait for what will happen to him next. We are sitting behind bars, whose rods are the trajectories of shells; we live in suspense of the unknown. We are committed to chance. When a shell flies at me, I can bend down - and that’s all; I can’t know where he will hit, and I can’t influence him in any way.

It is this dependence on chance that makes us so indifferent. A few months ago, I was sitting in a dugout and playing a ramp; after a while I got up and went to visit my friends in another dugout. When I returned, there was almost nothing left of the first dugout: a heavy shell broke its soft-boiled shell. I again went to the second one and arrived in time just in time to help him dig out - during this time he managed to fall asleep. They can kill me - this is a matter of chance. But the fact that I am still alive is again a matter of chance. I can die in a well-fortified dugout, crushed by its walls, and I can remain unharmed after lying for ten hours in a clean field under heavy fire. Each soldier remains alive only thanks to a thousand different cases. And every soldier believes in chance and relies on it ”[140, p. 142].

E. S. Senyavskaya singled out and classified superstitions and signs that existed during the war in Afghanistan, borrowed from the experience of past wars, partially modified and supplemented by “original Afghani”:

a) a system of taboos (prohibitions) for certain actions on the eve of military operations (do not shave, don’t put on clean linen, don’t give your things to anyone, don’t talk on certain topics);

b) performing certain rituals after returning from military operations (“returned to the unit - look in the mirror”);

c) traditions and customs regarding the dead (do not occupy the bed, do not clean things and photograph for 40 days, the traditional third toast; do not wear the clothes of the deceased, do not take anything from the dead, do not show the place where you injured another, etc.) . P.);

d) storage of amulets and talismans (not necessarily religious symbols, although often amulets and body crosses served as talismans);

e) prayers (not necessarily traditional, often - each has his own, amateur);

f) collective habits developed on the principle of expediency and further secured by the traditions of the military unit;

g) giving any (as a rule, going beyond the scope of charters and instructions) rational actions of an additional mystical load-justification; h) the traditions inherent in a particular military team, often associated with a military specialty [153, p. 246-247].
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