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The Psychology of Ghosts

Everywhere we look, we are surrounded by people that say that ghosts are scary. Hollywood makes a fortune off of scaring people with ghosts. They are murderous and vengeance ridden, chasing after half-naked teenagers with axes, or dragging sleeping people out of their beds. For what purpose? Generally the storyline, the motivation isn't important. The main thing is that there is a ghost, and it is terrifying.

   To be completely honest, this is a perception that everyone has, Heck, that's something that we even struggle with. It's sometimes scary to be alone in a room, and have the lights suddenly turn off, or to hear someone speak when you're the only one around. Or to walk down a hallway, and have someone grab onto your hand, or poke you in the side, or tug your hair. That is an absolutely terrifying experience.

   But why don't we run? It's a question we hear often when we give talks. Someone will raise their hand, and ask what was the scariest thing that happened to us. We'll tell the story of the time we were out in the woods, at a remote cemetery, and a dark shadow began banging at the car as we drove off. Or when we got there, and it hid in the woods, growling at us. Inevitably, someone asks us why we didn't run. And the answer to that is simple.

   Ghosts are like us. With a few rare exceptions, when a location is haunted, it isn't haunted by a monster. It isn't haunted by the angry spirit of a man wielding an axe. It's haunted by someone who once was a mother, or a child, but someone who was loved and cherished, and it's hard to be scared of that. Lots of people will report seeing the spirit of a loved one, and feeling comforted and safe. When you see a spirit, it may not be the spirit of someone you loved, but it is the spirit of someone who was loved.

When someone dies, and becomes a ghost, all they lose is their physical body. If they were kind and caring in real life, it's no different in death. Sure, just like all people aren't good people, there are some spirits who aren't all that nice. But just like among the living those people are rare, they are just as rare among the dead. The problem that occurs is that spirits are limited in how they are able to communicate, so it becomes easy to interpret an expression of interest on their part as an expression of aggression. Sometimes the effect of their actions isn't the intended one. They may mean to touch your arm, but what happens is they grab it hard enough to leave bruises. They aren't intending to hurt you, it just happens accidentally.
   So next time you're in a place that's haunted, and the lights turn off, don't think of it as the axe-wielding psycho-spirit making it easier to kill you. Or if you hear someone whispering in your ear, don't assume that what you are hearing are threats instead of words or encouragement. And if you're walking down a hallway, and you feel like something's holding your hand, maybe it's the spirit of a small child, looking for the love they had in life. And if you start to think of it that way, maybe next time you won't be so scared. 

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