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Q: Why do I get scared by things that aren’t real?

Posted October 10, 2012 in Advice Column, Clive

Halloween is approaching. All kinds of ghosts and ghoulies will be hitting the streets to scare the pants off of each other. But have you ever wondered why it is that we can be spooked by things that we are mostly certain aren’t real?

After watching Freddie Kruger, I couldn’t sleep in the middle of my bed for months. Sometimes just the idea of a creature returning from the dead to terrorize a neighborhood seems real enough to scare me out of my wits. It’s easy to see how we can fear real-life events like illness and car accidents, but what about things that either are not real or situations that would likely never happen?

Sometimes, we are just as scared by the imagined as we are by a real-life event. It’s an ability unique to us humans. It is our mind’s ability to respond to images and thoughts, even images or thoughts that could never happen or are not real. I think we can learn from this observation about ghosts and ghoulies, too. Thoughts have a power to push us around and create fears whether they are real or unreal. And yet we are also given an ability to see thoughts as thoughts, nothing more and nothing less. This ability can give us a way to cope with a scary world and do what we need to do to live effectively.

Information provided by Eric Rainey-Gibson, Ph.D, 6600 Westown Parkway #240, West Des Moines, 515-401-1016.

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