Behavior Modification



Superstitions flourished in Terje, a small village in the Transylvania region of Romania that had been a part of Hungary prior to World War I. My mother had been exposed to various rituals and their manifestations that influenced her beliefs throughout her life. Some of them were imposed on me.


In the village there was a deformed boy with a short arm and a miniature hand where the elbow should have been. My mother warned me that the Devil races through the village at night and removes or mutilates arms, legs or body parts that extend beyond the edge and safety of the bed. When I went to bed at night I would lay on my back under the covers, with my arms at my side or often with my hands under the small of my back to make sure they would not extend over the edge of the bed. Sometimes I would sleep on my stomach with my hands under my torso. As I grew up, and when I did not fall asleep immediately, this was a more provocative and erotic position.


The association with superstition may also have been an asset in creating the habit of staying covered in the middle of the bed and not falling from it. Even now when I find my arm dangling over the side of the bed, I subconsciously and inadvertently bring it on the bed.




Mother told me that sometimes the heart would wind down, like an unwound clock, and stop. When that happens the person dies. The heart had to be wound up before falling asleep in order to have power to run through the night. When I used to undress for bed I would exercise or run vigorously in place until my heart was pounding, then I would quickly jump into bed, making sure my legs and arms were on the bed and promptly go to sleep. I still exercise before I lie down. I claim it is my concern for health and not because of superstition.


Superstition and psychology may be allied. My mother, consciously or unconsciously, exploited superstition to implant in me, a behavior modification conditioned to induce sleep enhanced by exercise and deep breathing,





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