TRISKAIDEKAPHOBIA -Fear of Friday 13th to you and I…

Triskaidekaphobia – Fear of Friday 13th to you and I…

Today is Friday the 13th, and for many this presents a day constantly looking over their shoulder, watching how many drains they walk over, saluting magpies and general crazy behaviour resulting from limiting beliefs. There are a group of people for the fear or phobia of Friday 13th has become so intense that they are quite simply paralysed and unable to perform the simplest tasks or even leave their homes. Triskaidekaphobia is the word used to categorise this and it is derived from the literal meaning as ‘superstition about the number thirteen’. There is another word too, but not yet in any dictionaries, and I will need to type this slowly…paraskavedekatriaphobia, even typing this my spellchecker has melted down!

If we examine this and many other limiting beliefs, they are driven from an overall need to be well, be safe, and be secure. The number 13 has long been associated with bad luck, and has even spawned a number of movies of the same name, therefore reinforcing the belief. People often seek out evidence that there is something true in their beliefs. I mentioned earlier the superstition of walking over drains. It is my understanding from delegates on my courses that walking over three drain lids is considered bad luck. OK, but how do get around the fact that most cities are built on entire drain and sewage systems, surely they could be more hazardous than simply the drain cover? The saluting of magpies also fascinates me, I am sure that in magpie social gatherings that they must have little magpie competitions to see who amongst them can get the most salutes in a day, perhaps they salute certain types of people, perhaps they have a word for ‘salute’ oh and do you think they fly over three drains?

From early childhood we are given a set of beliefs and values that we live by. These represent right and wrong, fair and just. We don’t question them, yet they can have far reaching consequences. Let me elaborate. We are told as children not to speak to strangers. Again fair enough, we do not want to end up in the boot of a stranger’s car, having been molested on the promise of seeing some kittens or rabbits do we? But as life goes on this belief subtly raises its head. With sales people for example. In a study that was carried out by Dudley and Goodson on the issues of call reluctance in sales people, it was established that the sales people who were most reticent about picking up the phone were those who had this belief reinforced to them. As salespeople they are driven by the need to be liked, build rapport and trust and not be rejected. This is the adult manifestation of the belief, with the salesperson not picking up the phone as they believe that the person on the other end of the phone will be mean to them, hurt them or reject them, therefore damaging their confidence and ability to move on. Furthermore, those same sales people were also told as children not ‘answer back’ or ‘speak up to their elders’. Again this creates a belief ‘that other people are far more important than little me and won’t want to be bothered with me’ and that their organisations are more important than the ones they work in. This is known as ‘over respect’ and is a huge driver in sales call reluctance. You can read more on this in their book The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance. Dudley and Shannon (1999) available in all good bookshops and of course the ‘Big River’ online retailer!

These beliefs whilst instilling a sense of order and safety are valid, however as human beings with the ability to think and choose we must be sure to adapt our behaviour further to allow ourselves to be successful and grow in our careers and relationships. Using Mindfulness can be particularly helpful as it allows us to stop, take pause and be present; not judging but observing, and not reacting but responding. The combination of the judging and reacting behaviour demonstrates limited thinking and an inability to take on information and assimilate different behaviours that could give a better outcome. The presence of stress, anxiety or dread can then come about as our levels of aggression and in some cases and passiveness in others kicks in. In direct contrast, by observing and responding we become more considered, allowing for other options to come into play with a sense of reason. The resulting assertive behaviour will then be more productive and constructive. All this from simply stopping, taking pause and being present. Mindfulness truly is quite spectacular in it subtle approach.

Perhaps when people who suffer with a fear or phobia, whether it is anything to do with Friday 13th, Magpies, Drains or even walking under ladders, could just stop, be present and consider exactly what they are doing, by addressing the other options open to them using simple Mindfulness techniques.

Now back to today, and I have just realised that not only is it Friday 13th, but it is the start of the weekend and that should be something to believe is good…

Simon Hares is the SerialTrainer7 and if you need one to one coaching or would like to attend an Assertiveness session please get in touch via

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