In today’s world logic and science have their place and, when faced with fictional terror, should tell us otherwise right? Seemingly not especially this time of year, even the most logical minded individual may, after watching Michael Myers reap havoc and terror, will check all the windows and doors before bed and quite possibly have a disturbed sleep filled with the images that only hours before they were watching and seemingly enjoying, on the big screen. So why when we know this is fiction do we still have an element of doubt that is strong enough to disturb our sleep sometimes to the point of waking in a cold sweat?
Amongst the psychoanalytic community, including Freud, sited that horror came from the “uncanny” emergence of images and thoughts of the primitive id that were being suppressed by the civilized ego.
Jung thought that horror movies tapped into primordial archetypes buried deep in our collective subconscious e.g. shadows.
Millions of years of evolutionary psychology have ingrained in our minds certain fear triggers…a survival instinct.
1. Fear of the dark where predatory animals lie in wait
2. Fear of animals with sharp teeth who would make a short meal of us
3. Fear of poisonous spiders who will kill with one bite
Research by Christoph Koch shows that the portion of the brain associated with fear learning, (right amygdala) responds more to images of animals than people or objects.
This may explain the shape and appearance of our movie monsters, creatures with sharp teeth or snake like appearances.
Along with our survival evolution we also have centuries worth of superstition and spiritual faith centuries of tales that bred fear or worry.
We worry about numbers 666, 13, though no logical explanation is there but the fear is stemmed from past superstition or tales;
666 was assigned to a beast that appears at the worlds end,
13 has been feared, since biblical times when Judas was the 13th person to arrive at the last supper and betrayed Jesus.
Friday 13th was the day that Jesus was crucified
13 amongst occult religions is a symbol of rebellion against Christian values.
Our fear or suspicion is so great of the number 13 that even in everyday events great lengths are taken to avoid it. Construction will not have a 13th floor for example or a house number 13 in a road, instead donating the number by 12a etc.
However not all cultures follow suit in China for example 13 is thought to be lucky.
With Tarot cards, the death card is number 13 but does not necessarily mean death but great transformation.
“We are so affected by these fearful stories and images that they can penetrate our dream lives and this is probably because of the ancient evolutionary principle ‘better safe than sorry’…the ancient people who allowed their fear to linger a bit but not
too much were the ones who survived and became our direct ancestors so we too let our fears seep into our dreams…” (Prof Patrick McNamara)
So our fear, apprehension, anxiety of the dark and all things that go bump in the night especially after a horror/thriller movie, although illogical by todays standing are actually tied up in Centuries worth of survival evolution and old superstitions tied into history and spiritual faith.
But the images and connections we make while dreaming after viewing a movie or reading a thrilling novel, aren’t totally random, they’re guided by our emotions – maybe working through a recent trauma or dealing with angst and fear.
Will you enjoy this years Halloween or will you check under the bed before you go to sleep?
If you have a nightmare don’t forget to use the new add nightmare button on the app and website.
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