Much of what we don’t know about being human is simply in our minds. As the human mind is such a complex organ, it creates mental horror stories. Let’s look at how it performs the roles a storyteller and a listener when it comes to dealing with negative thoughts.
It’s nearing the end of October, and Halloween is about to begin. This is the time of monsters. The time of vampires, werewolves, mummies, and other horrific figures. People dress up in all sorts of ways to represent humanity’s deepest and darkest fears. In reality, however, people’s biggest fears look a bit different than what horror movies often try to sell us on.
According to a recent survey by the Chapman University in California, Americans mostly fear corrupt government officials, followed by their loved ones dying (there’s a match with horror movies), loved ones getting seriously ill, civil unrest, another pandemic, and financial collapse. It will require serious creativity to turn any of these fears into suitable party costumes.
How The Human Mind Creates Mental Horror Stories
The greatest horror story ever told doesn’t happen in the pages of a book, or on the movie screen. Instead, it happens inside of your own head. The human mind is a masterful storyteller, and it creates the most elaborate horror stories of your own personal hell.
It may tell you that “you will get into an accident on your way to work”, that “you have cancer without knowing it”, that “you will never be good enough to achieve your dream”, and that “all of your friends secretly despise you”. Your mind knows your biggest weaknesses and insecurities, and it will not hesitate to use them against you.
It may sound like a bad joke, but there’s actual logic behind it. Your mind doesn’t get pleasure from torturing you, but instead attempts to warn you of possible calamities. By predicting horror scenarios – even though they are unlikely and won’t happen – your mind prepares you for the worst-case scenario. Better be safe than sorry.
Evolutionary speaking, it ties into a process that may have helped our ancestors survive longer, which is why we all have brains that frequently predict danger. But human language and cognition put that healthy caution on steroids allowing us to carry it ten steps too far. Ironically when we over react to our fears that very reaction plugs into a self-amplifying circuit — its as if our own fearful reactions PROVE we have something to fear.
Your mind may mean well, but it doesn’t change the fact that these personalized horror stories can hinder us in life. They may reel us into struggling with our fear, isolating us from others, and preventing us from doing what is important and meaningful to us.
I suspect that’s part of why we deliberately create fear on Halloween — in order to play with it and detune an unhealthy process of amplification.
So, let’s go with that! Let’s put on our witches hat and this week if we notice fears that are getting the best of us, let’s try to be S.P.O.O.K.Y.
The S.P.O.O.K.Y. Formula for Mental Horror Stories
S = Spot
Before you can effectively deal with your thoughts and feelings, you need to notice them as they happen. You need to spot the horror story as it unfolds in the moment. You can acknowledge it out loud, or just internally to yourself. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that you take notice of it as it happens.
P = Pause
As your mind throws you into the deep end of difficult thoughts and feelings, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. For this reason, it’s important to pause. Allow yourself a moment. Breathe. You can and will take care of the matter, but you don’t have to do it in a frenzy. Pause and take a moment to yourself.