Halloween is the sanitized actualization of people’s worst nightmares. We’re confronted with demons and ghosts and ghouls and zombies, but we welcome them. We’re thrilled by them.
But what about when it’s not Halloween? What about the demons and ghosts we carry every day – the ones only we can see? What about the demons and ghosts of our pasts?
What if we work to exorcise some of our own ghosts this Halloween? What if we make it so these shadows from our past are relegated to the status of Halloween costumes: terrifying at first glance, but eventually enjoyed?
RECOGNIZE AND CONFRONT THEM
Recognition of what’s haunting us is the crucial first step. People can go years with a persistent ghost and have no idea that it’s actually there, which is what makes it so hard to get rid of.
Something I’ve learned over the course of my still-fairly-young life is that if the mention, sight, or familiar smell of something triggers an adverse physical reaction—the feeling of your heart “dropping”, shortness of breath, general anxiety, etc.—there’s probably something there that needs to be dealt with. Whether it’s a relationship we can’t let go of, a trauma we’ve suffered, or the regret of a mistake we’ve made, it’s important to recognize it so we can confront it and move on.
Our natural reflex is to want to shut out the bad as soon as we recognize it. We want to slam the door in its face and walk away in the hopes that it’ll leave us alone. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.
These ghosts from our past – the things we carry with us – are persistent and they will wait us out. It could be three weeks, it could be 10 years, but eventually these little buggers are going to find a crack and wriggle their way back in. The key is to confront them sooner rather than later. Think of it as an exercise in delayed gratification: Do I want to feel at ease now by turning my back on this thing and worrying about it later? Or do I want to confront it and deal with the pain now so that I can be happier later?
Confronting them is scary, I know, but there are ways to do it. We can talk to a friend or a professional, or we can welcome the ghost in, sit with it, and try to figure out why it makes us feel the way we do. Doing this, though incredibly uncomfortable, will allow us to build a greater understanding of what the ghost is, making way for its eventual exorcism. After all, it’s much easier to combat a familiar foe than an unfamiliar one.
Only after identifying and confronting what is it that’s haunting us, can we finally let it go. This doesn’t mean it’ll be erased from our hard drive, it’ll just be another tick on the timeline of our lives and not the driving force it had been. Life is silly like that; things never totally leave they just leave an indelible mark that changes us forever. For the better.
If we can bring ourselves to accept the past as it happened, and learn to love the scars (both physical and emotional) that the past has left on us, the future holds nothing but brightness.
Life is hard, and messy, and unfair, and cruel. But it’s also beautiful, and special, and incredible, and everything in between. It’s up to us to decide what we want out of it. It’s easy to find the bad in life, the trick is finding the good.
We’re not afraid of the ghosts we see on Halloween. It’s time to no longer fear the ghosts we carry with us from our past.
Until next time – Trick or treat?