The Lure of Scary Stories
The intrigue of scary stories has crept its way through time and cultures across history. They have grabbed our attention because we are wired with a natural human instinct of self-preservation. Scary stories through the ages kept us safe from dark and terrible forests or strangers. We needed to know how to stay alive. Psychologically we found it could be fun for our imaginations to explore themes without prejudice and to do it safely.
In the past, we tried not only to explain the unexplainable, we especially wanted to protect our children from going too deep into the woods, so we would tell stories like “Little Red Riding Hood”. We wanted to make sure that the kids stayed in bed, so we developed stories about the boogie man under their beds. Some stories were then passed down through generations, and re-written to adjust to the needs of society.
The beautiful news? Because we are curious humans, we outgrew much of the fear and need for control and are learning how to teach through inspiration as a society!
Still, it can be fun to learn where these stories started. In history, you can see where superstition led people into deeper fear instead of a celebration of the psyche, and have gone so far as to forbid the celebration of Halloween. I admit, it’s not my most favorite holiday, but did you know it was originally celebrated as a Celtic festival called Samhain? It was meant to bring in the new year, and to simply ward off ghosts going into the colder months. Long-story-short, in the eighth century, Saints Day used some of Samhain's traditions that then eventually combined to make Halloween, celebrated in multiple countries.
Halloween was a way to celebrate those who had passed and to welcome new beginnings by honoring the death of what was. This holiday brought ways for some societies to look at fear and death and be able to talk about it, share stories, and teach ourselves and children different dynamics of the wheel of life. This is reflective in other cultures and societies, too, through their explorations of holidays, myths, legends and celebrations.
As you might already know, Mexico celebrates the Day of the Dead, a day to honor those who have passed. Families take the fear out of their celebration by bringing in lots of bright colors and decorations. On this day, stories of those who have passed are shared and deeper connections are created in community and family.
Chinese culture celebrates two holidays similar to this. One is called the Qingming Festival, where people visit their dead. The other is called the Hungry Ghost Festival, where the dead visit the living! Both of these holidays allow curiosities, connections, and stories to be explored.
Most of us enjoy a scare sometimes, and a way to safely experience fear and laugh at
it. I think an important question to ask is, how can we explore alternative realities without fear and judgment? How can we do so with joy and curiosity? When celebrating Halloween, I take kids and grandkids to get all dressed up and go to strangers' houses to ask for candy, seek out haunted houses to feel our hearts JUMP! (And then I go home and watch a Disney movie to calm down those nerves.)
Personally, however, I have written books regarding some of the darkest stories of humankind. After being forced to explore shadow, these humans have been able to transform into beautiful strength, light and contribution.
How can you be real about fear in your own story? Hiding it or making it smaller than the truth doesn't allow you to grow in the writing, or readers to grow in the reading. Mystery and intrigue are aspects of a book that can draw people in, when done with the intention of gifting inspiration.
There are higher energies and lower energies. When we are writing our own story, it's important to look at all sides, but not from fear and judgement. Believe me, with the authors that I teach, I see fear and judgment are the two greatest forces of chaos that quickly stop you from writing and getting your book out! Instead, I invite you to be curious, to allow yourself room for safe exploration. It can be fun, but it’s not always fun because most of us have skeletons in our closets. However with safe and curious exploration, you are able to open doors to greater discovery about all the facets of you. I promise, this inevitably leads to a deeper and more meaningful story for you and for others.
I even have a name for this. I call it “the Deepening”. Suddenly you realize that there is so much more meaning and value to your story than you ever dreamed or realized!
My challenge to you is to write your transformational story, one that no longer controls your ways of thinking and even how you live life. Learn from history. Evolve. Bring in color and nuances into the dark and shadowy places. Bring celebration into the light. Your own stories do not have to be ones of terror but of strength and resilience and overcoming.