This time of year the Halloween marketing campaign is in full bombardment mode. The local shops are peddling candy, costumes and pumpkins. The television is churning out the usual suspects film wise. The film channels such as Netflix and Lovefilm have upped their scary movie quotient. And your favourite websites and blogs if they follow current trends will probably have written an article or post or two about something frightening, ghoulish or trick or treat related, the more intellectual ones may have touched upon the origins of Halloween or one of the other celebrations which occur around this time of year which have a similar concept.
Humans have a fascination with fear, it is almost as though we love being scared as much as we hate it. It all depends on the type of fear of course and how it affects us. But most of us enjoy a bit of a frisson. Like children enjoy playing boo games. Boo – scream – laugh.
Celebrating the things which scare us is a clever way of confronting some of those fears. The things which frighten us the most usually tend to be unknown, as in the terror comes not from what we know could happen so much as what we don’t know could happen. A horror movie is less likely to raise the hairs on our head if we’ve seen it before or seen something similar, we know what’s coming so we’re prepared, we brace ourselves and then roll our eyes when what we expected happens. A film which follows none of the predictable plot lines or which deviates dramatically from the usual is more likely to shock and scare us because we were not prepared for THAT!
Just as with everything, there are different types of fear.
Primal fear tends to only kick in when we are in actual danger, and the adrenalin boost which it gives us fuels our action to get ourselves to safety. Survival instinct takes over and if we survive the danger we often don’t know how we did it or who did it as we get to see a part of ourselves we rarely see… unless we are always in actual danger.
Phobia is a cross between primal fear and imagined fear. We often react to our phobias the same way we would when in actual danger, except our thinking is more confused because we know it’s a phobia. We are overwhelmed by the need to escape whatever it is which terrifies us and boosts our anxiety levels. Some phobias seem irrational. One day we are fine with spiders and the next day we find one in the bathtub and want to burn our house down to get rid of it. We have no idea where the phobia came from, but it has taken hold and no amount of reasoning and logic will make it go away. Some phobias are caused by a traumatic event. Films often use our phobias to frighten us.
Imagined fear takes many forms. It can be anxiety which grows and grows often until the levels reach a generalised anxiety disorder. Everything becomes a What If which paralyses us. It can be focused on one thing, such as having to be in a social environment, talk to people, be seen by people, be with people, strangers. We are perfectly fine when we are in our comfort zone, but the moment we have to go out of it we undergo a change which turns our usual self-confidence into an insecure wreck who has a slew of coping mechanisms to deal with something which seems impossible to deal with, but we still have to make it possible. It can also be that tiny worry which nags us but which we ignore. A moment of butterflies in the stomach which we shush. There but not there. Worry, worry, shhh, shhh.
Imagined fear in many ways is the most powerful one as we carry it with us all the time and it shape shifts. Governments, belief systems, businesses and even those we consider to be friends and family use our imagined fears to manipulate us. We also use them to manipulate ourselves and others. I know one person whose fear governs their entire family, everyone caters to it because they love this person and because if they don’t the person goes off the deep end of anxiety. So their coping mechanism is everyone around them.
But where do imagined fears spring from and why are they so powerful? We sometimes see them in our dreams and those dreams turn into nightmares. Occasionally we face a fear in our dream, and occasionally that ripples out into our waking life and we feel different. A weight has been lifted. Sometimes a nightmare will increase our waking fears. The nightmare may fade from our conscious mind, but we feel the invisible tentacles of it clinging to us, sucking out our vital juices, chilling our natural warmth.
What scares you? What is the fear which dominates all the other fears in your life? Your worst fear?
Contemplating this question I found myself changing my mind repeatedly. It was like trying to answer the question – What’s your favourite colour? – and realising that all my answers were not quite right somehow, they were but they weren’t.
I think perhaps my worst fear is the fear of the unknown fear. Something lurking within me which is affecting me, my life, but of which I am not aware. Its effects are so subtle and hidden behind false fronts, that I don’t know it’s there but it is in everything I do and am. Is it really there or am I imagining it, but what am I imagining?
This may be the true reason why I dig and delve into myself as deeply as I can and question everything I do and am.
What prompted this? The need to have a Halloween-ish post on my blog?
I was standing outside and a wasp almost landed on my chest. I hardly noticed it and bashed it away with my hand. I have a wasp phobia and once I fell down the side of a steep hill trying to get away from one, when I reached the bottom I was bruised, bleeding, and my clothes were dirty and shredded. I was prepared to die to get away from the tiny buzzy thing. So what I did was unusual for me. When I realised what I’d done it sent a jolt of adrenalin coursing through me and that felt very good. I felt powered up.
Strange how something which can cripple us, can also motivate us so strongly.