Halloween may well be an adaptive mechanism to help us to engage in fear exposure. It is my belief that this drive may in fact be genetic. If you think about it, there are many things us humans do to purposefully confront fear, and we seem to derive a rather intense pleasure doing it. So why is it that we watch horror movies, go on death defying roller coasters, attend haunted houses, go bungie jumping, parachuting and so on. Halloween itself may be a manner in which we confront our fears of death, the night, monsters, demons and other fear drenched archetypes in a controlled manner. My guess is that humans of all cultures engage in some behavior or rituals that at least in part serves a function of confronting fear.
Why might this be? It seems that such an endeavor would have evolutionarily adaptive features and therefore might be selected for. If organisms did not confront their fears, they would ultimately become paralyzed by avoidant responses and therefore their inventory of behavioral responses and activities would diminish which would, over time, threaten survival. Fear and anxiety which is not confronted and exposed will not spontaneously diminish or habituate. Time, in and of itself, is not a factor in diminishing fear. It is what occurs in time that matters. Fear cues left unexposed stay perfectly conserved. Research is unequivocal in concluding that the most critical aspect to diminishing fears is Stimulus Exposure! Simply stated, what that means is that by confronting the cues (external or internal) that produce a fear response ( that was most likely the result of conditioning and learning), we in a sense come to learn that there is no actual danger. Stated another way, our brain learns that the anxiety cue no longer predicts the onset of a biological danger. There are a number of ways in which this can occur. The next blogs will focus on the use of powerful imagery techniques to help us face our most disturbing fears….not monsters, or ghouls…something much more terrible and frightening. Duh…duh….duhh….(organ music goes here).
So have a Happy halloween and have fun exposing you fears (and fantasies).