The Numbers Game

Humans are amazing creatures. We look up, look down and wonder. And in our wonderment, we search for answers. It’s this search that leads us to see patterns, logic, and explanations.

Some of these hold up under the burden of proof, but others falter and are dismissed as folklore and superstition.

During December, January and February, I was going through some really bad times. It wasn’t me who was suffering but my child. There’s not much worse for a parent than to watch your child undergo a medical issues when  you’re powerless to do anything and they’re too damn big to hold their hand (teenagers, don’t get me started).  Mired as we were in medical quicksand, all I began to see was the bad.

And bad things always came in threes (or multiples of threes).

Given that I’d checked most of my sanity baggage at the second hospital, I was making some really weird cerebral connections (cobwebs of which still clog my mind and thus today’s post).

Why do bad things come in threes?

As far as I know bad things can’t count. How do they know when three happens? Do they explode after three, leaving little bad things to sprout up in the debris?

So I looked up this mystical three rule. I found the religious inspired basis of three baddies in the trinity. Apparently, since the father, son and holy ghost make three if you break the trinity three bad things will happen to you. If that makes sense you, you are truly gifted. For me that thought hasn’t sunk in but is still surfing my cerebral fluid, harpooning my ideas at inopportune times.

After wasting, er, researching for fifteen minutes, I found another link. This one referenced three on a match. Somewhere between the Boer war and World War I, there arose a mythology about three men lighting a cigarette with a single match—sight, aim and shot the enemy.

Hence the bad things came in threes folklore arrived in the US after the first World War and stuck.


Bad luck can’t count.  Humans count and things are easier to endure if we know there’s a limit to our suffering. If I asked you to hold your breath, wouldn’t you want to know how long? Ten seconds-no problem for most of us.  A minute? Maybe. Three–pushing it for the average person.

We have limits and deep in our lizard brain we know it. Even the most mundane tasks could overwhelm us so we break them into pieces, limiting them. Motivational coaches call them goals and steps.  And we bracket them in a manmade invention called time.

So why wouldn’t we limit bad luck?

Knowing it has to end, means we can endure for just a little longer. We can count them out, push on, push through until three arrives. Then it’s over. The clouds part, the sun comes out and rainbows and unicorns are everywhere. A switch is flicked and we see things differently–good times ahead.

And maybe, just maybe, this folklore, we dismiss and belittle, serves an amazing purpose. It gives us a finish line to cross, a turning point, a chance to change our mindset.

And a positive attitude has infinite advantages.

So I’ll keep counting to three and just hope my switch doesn’t break:-)

About Linda Andrews

Linda Andrews lives with her husband and three children in Phoenix, Arizona. When she announced to her family that her paranormal romance was to be published, her sister pronounce: "What else would she write? She’s never been normal." All kidding aside, writing has become a surprising passion. So just how did a scientist start to write paranormal romances? What other option is there when you’re married to romantic man and live in a haunted house? If you’ve enjoyed her stories or want to share your own paranormal experience feel free to email the author at She’d love to hear from you.
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2 Responses to The Numbers Game

  1. Dan says:

    There is one major human aspect in dealing with these situations. We don’t like pain in any form and the need for self preservation. Some people can compartmentalize it, others let it completely overwhelm them and others bury it so deep it festers until it erupts. The worse pain is seeing loved ones in need and not being able to do a damn thing to help. In that time we fail to see that we have done what is in our power to help. Trying to get the best medical attention and just being there for the family member is a whole lot more than most do. Some don’t deal with it at all and block it all from their mind or stay away from the problem. That’s why you see sick people in the hospital and they never have many visitors. Having spent months at a time actually living at the hospital to lend what support I could for my wife who’s sister was in intensive care I know what I’m talking about.
    That’s lead to the final issue. We are human and that means we do have others we can depend on to share the pain and who do provide the support by sharing in our pain by just being there, they don’t flee because they can’t cope. So yes, there is some good that goes hand in hand with the bad and we need to recognize this.
    As far as bad things in three what is the time frame? 2 bad things this year and then five years later another so that makes three? OR is it as soon as one bad thing passes another occurs till you reach three? No one lives a charmed life and the number is 0. At least you didn’t come up with the “3 strikes and your out” reference.
    As far as teenagers go of course they don’t want you to hold their hand. You have to be there to offer it but be proud they are trying to cope on their own. If not they would end up living in your basement playing video games the rest of their adult lives.

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