As if the world is not a scary enough place with all the murders, rape, terrorism, killer diseases, government dysfunction, and economic problems in the news, Halloween is oddly embraced by people around the globe as a celebration of all things scary. Umbrella Revolution protesters could even be found dressed for a friendly fright as they face down the Chinese government. Ironically, the very holiday that makes light of violence falls on the last day of a month dedicated to fighting domestic violence. It also takes place just days before the next US election.
(Considering Republicans are asking for voter support to block President Obama’s agenda while Democrats are campaigning on a platform of government doing something, the 2014 Midterm election is shaping up to be a frightening holiday. If Republicans take back the Senate, the government probably will become even more dysfunctional as an emboldened GOP will likely be thoroughly uncompromising when dealing with President Obama.
If Democrats maintain control over the Senate, a hurt Republican Party may lead to more GOP House members willing to support the President. Unfortunately, individual Democratic candidates may have their own platforms addressing the issues of their constituents, but there is no unifying platform of solutions from which Democrats can create an agenda for the 114th Congress, which means the policies they may pursue might not be such a treat.)
That said, this writer found himself just days ago wondering through a local “haunted mansion” with his head covered by a black bag. As I was guided through the dark with the aid of a rope and the screeches of menacing figures pushing and grabbing me, I could only smile thinking about how people I know, who are less “controlled” in their reactions, would respond to the very committed acting of my guides.
Flitching at the sound and flash of a firecracker on the right, my thoughts soon turned to what would happen if I really were lost in a dark room of monsters. (As a huge Walking Dead fan, the notion sounds cool, but it would probably be far from it.) Being ordered to let go of the rope and turned around several times before tripping over a raised platform, I then start to think about people facing war from the Palestinians and the Israelis to the Ukrainians to the Syrians and the Iraqis to everyone else trapped in a conflict zone.
Unfortunate events in my life have desensitized me to violence, tragedy, and unsafe conditions that would traumatize others, so it is clear to me that those who have survived in warzone have ways of dealing with frightening experiences. Just as my reaction to stressful situations is to focus on more intellectual matters, i.e. intellectualizing is a defense mechanism where information is processed in a logical manner instead of as an emotion or as a trigger to some intuitive response, those in warzones develop means of avoiding the emotions of traumatizing events.
Eventually being ordered to crawl on the floor then finding myself being dragged in one direction then another, my thoughts turn to those who have been kidnapped, such as the children abducted by Boko Haram. Even the human mind has limits and coping mechanisms fail when someone enters a state of duress, i.e. under too much stress for too long.
If I had not been thoroughly grounded in the moment and found the joy in what should have been a psychologically terrifying experience, I can definitely see why this would be a frightening experience. For children with far fewer coping abilities, even if they do happen to live in a warzone and have a high tolerance for dysfunction, or adults with little experience with high stress situations, the kind of panic and dread would be unbearable.
Sent crawling through a very long, narrow tunnel and breathing heavily through my hood, I emerged on the other side, only to have my hand stepped on by a very apologetic employee. Showing me to the exit, where I expected to find my brother, who had entered the maze five minutes before I had, I assumed a tricked was being played on me as my guide reentered the building to find him.
After seeing my brother’s car still empty and eventually sending three more employees into the maze to find him, he was discovered ten minutes later. True to his innate sense of direction, he had somehow managed to get lost on this guided- tour through a one-way maze; he someone ended up on the second floor of the building in another attraction.
With that in mind, the distrust I felt is the kind of reaction distressing experiences instill into people. Watching people rescued from earthquake-toppled buildings and trapped miners, they will often clutch onto whatever survival tool they managed scavenge with every ounce of their strength as though it was the most important thing in the world, even if it is something like a bottle of their own urine.
The lack of trust people, who undergo traumatic experiences, act on is often misinterpreted as dishonesty, i.e. a reluctance to divulge information to others, or a lack of knowledge/rational thinking, i.e. a lack of trust dissuades hurt people from relying on others to be honest in economic and social arrangements.
This dynamic is no more obvious than in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict where neither side is willing to trust the other to honor their end of a peace agreement. Where Israel will force peace onto the Palestinians, the Palestinians feel compelled to fight Israeli dominance with whatever means possible.
For the Ukraine Crisis, the same is true of the Ukrainian People’s feeling toward Russia while anti-Western sentiments resonate well among many in Russia, especially those who fear Western dominance. Africans hiding individuals infected Ebola, of course, face similar trust issues thanks to a long history of dysfunctional government and oppressive foreign intervention.
Moreover, Halloween may be a time to toy with the darker side of human nature, but it is important to recognize those aspects of humanity are ever present in the lives of many around the world, especially our endeavor ends with a piece of candy.
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