Why Does Bad Luck Always Come In Threes?

People have problems. OK, not the most earth-shattering opening sentence you’ve ever read. But, when people have problems they often complain that several bad things always happen all at once.


We’ve all heard similar hard luck stories:

I was walking to the supermarket and I’d just realised I’d forgotten my keys when it started raining and I trod in a pile of dog poo.

Or maybe a little more serious:

My marriage breakdown coincided with a deterioration in both my health and my mother’s health.

What’s going on here? The universe doesn’t work like this, does it? Good luck and bad luck are just that – luck – and according to the law of averages they should be evenly occurring throughout our lives.

However, most people reading this could pinpoint periods of their lives when they were in a bad place where bad things just seem to follow them around and misfortune was piled upon misfortune.

Similarly, we all remember, I hope, good times when fortune was smiling on us and we were always the grateful recipients of favorable happenstance.

It’s all about the belief system

If you think you are the unfair recipient of misfortune you’ll firmly hold this mindset and will therefore view everything through this prism.

As human beings we are wired to recognise patterns in random data even when there aren’t any. “Bad luck” can often cause a sensitivity to more “bad luck” which will be recognised when otherwise would be ignored.

Be careful you don’t end up in a vicious circle! Even if it seems as though the whole universe is conspiring against you, don’t think it! Your suspicions will turn into convictions and become self-fulfilling prophecies.

So, bad luck doesn’t come in threes. It’s just our imagination. That’s it, isn’t it?

Yes, well, maybe.

Maybe you’re getting all this bad luck now because you can handle it

In his classic book The Road Less Traveled, M Scott Peck recounts that in his professional career as a psychiatrist he came across people that were seeking his help who had witnessed terrible events and had been subjected to terrible and prolonged abuse.

The fact that these people were seeking help and were suffering as a result of their misfortune came as no surprise to Peck. But what surprised him again and again throughout his career was that the patients were in a better shape psychologically than he would have expected considering what they’d been through.

Peck marvels on the resilience of the human spirit to cope with life’s great challenges. But I would take this further.

The yin and yang of the universe means there is good and bad in your life – and I think we all accept that. I would like to think there’s more good than bad – but that’s another point.

But if you had a choice of how you’d like the good and bad to come at you, how would you like it to arrive? Bad and good in equal measure throughout your life? That may be your first choice. But would that really be the best thing? Would life become a predictable dirge of frequently space out bits of rubbish?

Wouldn’t it be better to get the bad times over with quickly?

When you’re down you’re down, another bit of bad news doesn’t really register. It may not seem nice but all these bad things happening at the same time are good because you can handle them. One bad thing is enough to take up all your crisis-handling reserves – a couple more crises won’t even register.

So where are we going with this?

My point is bad luck can come in threes, fours, fives sixes. It doesn’t matter. We can handle more bad luck during those challenging moments.

So, smile through the bad times. It may be that they’re insuring that you’ll have even better luck afterwards. The universe will look after you.

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  1. Well, its all uphill from here! I have officially hit rock bottom. I am an Ivy League hopeful who applied to too many reach/match schools. My matches waitlisted me. Now I have worked so hard just to attend a state university this fall. While crying over my rejections, my tears seeped into the trackpad on my laptop, by the time I saw the small puddle collecting, it was already too late. My new laptop broke. Today I got a warning for missing work. I absolutely love my job, but I had read the work schedule wrong twice and showed up at the wrong days. I was mortified at being disciplined when all I wanted was to leave a good impression for my new boss. Now I still cannot muster the courage to talk to Dad about my going to a state school. He has sacrificed too much for me. This is as low as my life will get, hopefully.

    • Rob Cubbon says:

      Lilian, I hear you. But it will be OK. these lows are for you to learn, even though it really doesn’t feel like it at the time. I’m sure by now your life will be turning around. Thank you so much for your honest input. I really appreciate you. Keep at it. You’re amazing, Lilian!

  2. Inura Factitia says:

    The idea that things happen in threes comes from MacBeth, by Shakespeare.
    “Thrice Mine and Thrice Thine…”

  3. nothing_workingout says:

    It’s really tough when you hit a bad patch. I’d rather it was distributed evenly – some people just can’t take it when it comes in threes. life was great until last month. we were living the life. turned 40. had a surprise birthday that the whole world turned up for. this was last year. i seem to remember how good life felt back then.
    Then came 2014. January. Fired from work. Tried to get re-hired. Got close to it. And got turned down. And again. And again. Many times over. Doesn’t matter how many buttons I push. Nothing. Tried to dispose off some assets to realise cash. Just no one wants to buy at the moment, at any price. Have mouths to feed. Children go to school. Tried to get fit by running. Did my right knee. Facing prospects of bankruptcy. Tried to apply for a business franchise. Excitement. Spend days getting used to the idea of a new life/opportunity. Then receive email that offer beaten by someone else. Can it get any worse?

    Don’t like bad patches! If there was a formula to postpone any more bad news, I would apply it in a heart beat.

    • Rob Cubbon says:

      Sorry to hear about all this, my friend. At the age of 40+ you have the advantage of knowing these bad times can pass quickly while we’re busy thinking about something else. The process passes quicker when we stop focussing on the bad news. That has happened. It’s over. No need to recount and recall. Things are already better now.

  4. Bishop Anderson says:

    I got arrested last weekend. Then I got into a car wreck on thursday. Then I get a speeding ticket in my rental car on sunday. That has to be some of the worst luck anyone could have. The good news is I’m alive and well and that should be all the bad luck for me.

    • BOBO the CLOWN says:

      Start taking public transportation once you get arrested and resolve that issue. This has nothing to do with luck, rather a lack or rational judgment. The great news….. is you get to change.

  5. 2 deaths in the immediate family in two days, my sister diagnosed with aggressive stage 2B breast cancer on the next day. You think things will get better? Give me some help here please!

  6. 3 weeks ago i found my boyfriend was cheating on me, we got in a fight, My elbow got broken really bad, had surgery, the next day he dumps me while i am in the hospital, breaks into my house, got all his stuff (and a little of mine) and moved immediately in with the girl(who i thought was my friend) and refuses to talk to me except through angry texts. He says i did it all to myself. 2 weeks later i watch a good friends house burn to the ground in 20 minutes. The next day was my Birthday which turned out horribly. Today, (3wks ago tomorrow i broke my arm) i took my dogs for a drive to clear my head. I cant work because of my arm so i am trying to figure out how to pay my bills. I wasn’t feeling any better so on the way down the mountain , i run head on into a pickup truck. Both vehicles were driveable so i headed on down. I hit a rock and popped out the back tire of my car. i finally managed to get a ride home and then i discovered my wallet missing when i was checking my account balance. Now in the state of bad events that have occured i didn’t renew my drivers license and now have to file an accident claim but cannot renew online because i just cancelled my bank card. I dunno about extra bad things not affecting you because of the original because these all seem pretty major to me. But I guess my 3 is a 3 week period i can only hope, but the work and tasks coming out nof this period are way more far reaching. Its not life threatening but SUCKS all the same.

  7. I’m 17, and I know my problems won’t seem as serious since I’m so young, but i went through 3 part time jobs in 8 months. I could never hold down one cuz I was never good enough. I’m very awkward and clumsy but I can’t help it. I feel like a kid, while everyone else around me thats my age has their life already together. And it certainly doesn’t help when my parents keep asking me why I can’t be more like them. Sorry for the rant.

  8. On saturday i ran over my 8 year old german shepard he escaped with i gash on his leg today sunday i ran over my 12 week old germanshepard puppy he has a broken leg both hapoend whilst getting the cows to the shed going about 3 kph …….. That is to much to be a coincidence im scared of the 3rd

  9. I just got eliminated from my dream law enforcement job after something popped up in my background check and I have NO idea what it could have possibly been, and am under disbelief and stunned that, even though I have a clean record, something came up. I went through months of interviews, tests, and exams only to get eliminated on the final part of the hiring process.

    All the while, in the same day, my dog suddenly fell sick and is a very real possibility to have to put her down, it’s heartbreaking. My wife and I have no way of paying for the vet bill, but we can’t give up on our dog, so we have to look forward to that conversation with the vet tomorrow.

  10. I’ve just found out “maybe” that my bad luck runs in days. Every 11 days I have bad luck

  11. I feel bad after reading all theses but yes I am sick and tried too. I went to Paris for a photography exhibition and got mugged lucky it was only new phone although I only had it a month, soon after my wallet got stolen and then the person used it to spend my money though contactless. My parents keep pushing their problems onto me and I can’t stand the thought of seeing them at Christmas after they told me they are getting a divorce then today my car brakes down. So I have no money to fix my car and no phone I’m scared to leave the house not to mention I got a £110 car parking fine last week …… Defiantly won’t be paying that. :/

  12. I’ve been going through a lot this year, the harder I try something always happen. I’m a 34 year old women that’s been through it, from homelessness, addiction and raising my daughter on my own. But those things only made me stronger. The real shit that is taking place is becoming hard for me to bear, which is , I transferred to a college to take up nursing, I did fine on all my classed except one, I failed the class by not even one point, prior to that my brother ran off with 2400 dollars that I gave him to fix my care. Didn’t hear from him in like a year, then the other day he sends me a letter to sue me in small claims court, the irony he takes my money and turns around to sue me. Now I’m facing the decisions on whether to stay in this school to continue my success on becoming a nurse, the class cost about 4000 dollars money I don’t have, I’m on public assistance and raising my daughter buy myself. Talk about bad luck happening, on top of all of that I’m in trouble of being homeless again because I had an agreement with the landlord I will pay the difference for the year on the lease, I can’t do that because the refund I get is not enough for me to even move , especially only going part time because of the academic retention (probation ) I was put on because of the class I took that didn’t even count towards my major , I’m so pissed that the three years I’ve been in college can end up being worth nothing in the end.