Who likes scary movies? I haven’t watched one in years. I absolutely hate to be afraid.
The other day a preview came on TV for an upcoming horror flick. You know the kind—the one that includes a face mask and some ominously silent guy wielding a knife over some girl’s head. Normally I’d turn that off faster than Tonya Harding can do a triple axel, but I surprised myself by thinking, “Why in the world is that girl running away? Why isn’t she running straight at that idiot? I’d kick the you-know-what out of him before I let him think I was afraid.”
That’s when I realized how ridiculous and fake the mask looked. It was nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
It made me think of the morning my husband had taken our dog for a walk in the fields. A turkey had run onto their path and started yelling at them. Ray said he had been so startled he ran, and our dog, who is a big chicken in general, ran right along with him. After being chased for a few seconds Ray realized what he was doing—he was running away from a turkey! So he turned around, waved his arms over his head and yelled, “Ahhhh!” at it. The turkey stopped on a dime. It turned around, flapped it’s wings, and flew off in the opposite direction.
Ray said he laughed so hard he almost peed his pants. One, because he couldn’t believe a bird with a 20 pound belly could get in the air as fast as it did, and two, because he couldn’t believe, for the tiniest of moments, he had let his fear overtake him.
He had let his fear overtake him…
I recognized that I do this all the time, and not just when I watch scary movies. I get a thought that feels frightening and I allow it to overtake me. The thought can be as simple as “if I eat this I’ll get fat”, or as complex as “what if this dot on my arm is really melanoma and it spread to my lungs and I die and I have to leave my kids and what will they do without me and…”
Things go south fast once I latch onto these kinds of thoughts. I can lose myself for hours in made up scenarios.
There’s a wonderful children’s book that was on the NY Times best seller list for 18 weeks in 2017. It’s called “What To Do With A Problem”, by Kobi Yamada. It’s about a little boy who has a problem, and because he tries to avoid the problem it gets bigger and bigger, and he becomes more and more afraid of it. Soon his whole world appears dark and ominous. When he finally faces it, the problem disappears.
I find it brilliant that someone has addressed this topic for children. Maybe the kids who are taught not to run away from their fears will never be afraid of a monster under their bed. They’ll know that if one ever dares appear they’ll pummel it to death. And maybe, when they grow up, they’ll face all scary thoughts this way; knowing that they’re all just smoke and mirrors.