From ghoulies and ghosties / And long-leggedy beasties / And things that go bump in the night, / Good Lord, deliver us! Scottish Poem
Our older son, Hoby, at three became terrified of going to bed at night. Why? Bats. A buncha bats, evil ones, coming out of nowhere. Flying everywhere.
I tried reasoning with him. There was no place a bat could get into the house. There were no reports of bats hanging around. Bats weren’t such bad things anyway.
We tried night-time stories. Back rub. Threats. Rewards. No matter. Those bat images ferociously clung to his brain. As Halloween closed in, the bat business intensified.
Then an idea popped into my mind. One planted there by a popular motivational speaker, Lou Tice (though Lou is dead now, it’s worth checking his story out if you don’t know about him). We attended Lou’s seminars. Watched his videotapes. Went to his ranch southeast of Twisp. Lou introduced us to self-affirmations.
Now I bet as soon as I use that self-affirmation term you think of Stuart Smalley on Saturday night, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” Well, that’s kinda it. And kinda not it.
Hoby repeated after me, “I’m strong as a lion, brave as a tiger, and….” something else we have forgotten. He loved it. He said it by himself without any guidance eventually. It worked! We all got a good night’s sleep.
Now I cannot say exactly why it worked for Hoby. Researchers know a lot more about self-affirmations these days. They report that affirmations work best if the things we say, we truly believe about ourselves.
To quote Psychologist Natalie Dattilo, “This is about accurately and authentically encouraging yourself or using words of encouragement or acknowledgment that are consistent with your truth.” If Dattilo had been Hoby’s mother she might have encouraged him to say, “I want to believe that I am strong as a lion, brave as a tiger….”
Anyway, there are many more studies and recommendations out there these days both related to affirming ourselves and affirming others. We need to admit that’s it’s not just about kids and their fears. These days many of us are dealing with unruly scary emotions, it's part of the anxious times we live in, which seriously hurt our quality of life.
A very adventurous couple recently told me they had given up some of their favorite activities because they didn’t want to go anywhere near crowds. The fear of being killed by a suicide bomber kept them close to home. Truly.
Listen in. Our conversations are not nearly enough about adventures, but rather about COVID19, climate change; earthquakes, loss of social security, loss of jobs, loss of healthcare.
Add to the generic fear of all manner of ghoulies and ghosties to other specific haunting worries. The terror of a presidential election; the anger and disgust with politics and polarization; worries about children, parents, money, and health…and you start to see what’s happening.
Our world has morphed into a nasty, haunted house inhabited by all sorts of long-leggedy beasties. Don’t get me wrong. We need to be serious about our local and global challenges. I’m very concerned too.
I'm compassionate about our human situation. I’m also tired of all this coming apart at the seams. It's totally unhelpful. We need to pull ourselves back together into the land of the brave, the adventurous, and the strong. And we can. We, humans are resourceful.
We could start with an affirmation. “I live in the land of the brave, the adventurous, the strong. This is part of my inheritance.”
Or maybe it’s not about affirmations for you. Maybe what works best for you in terms of dealing with your ghoulies is movement. Physical activity is good for just about anything you can think of …including helping us get in a good emotional space.
Socializing. I am simply amazed at how getting together with others, not necessarily even my best friends, can stabilize my emotions. Others have told me that talking to people who have been through wars, earthquakes, or various difficulties helps them gain perspective on their circumstances (so does reading history). Physical touch from others like handshakes and hugs are calming. Good stuff for warding off ghosties.
Here’s another one that I’m trying more lately. Be okay with not being okay.
I am getting better in accepting that discomfort is a part of life, a part of being human. This is probably the hardest practice and one of the most helpful. Several people have told me lately that they fear death. I get it. Life is scary too.
The human experience is not always hunky dory. Everything isn’t always just the way we want it to be, nor are we always the people we want to be. Maybe that’s just fine.
Discomfort can help us grow and develop. Being in tough, difficult places can bring forth our best. The more advanced souls see crises not as catastrophes, but as possible catalysts for igniting genius, transformation, and togetherness.
And accepting some anxiety and insecurity keeps us from fighting reality and separating ourselves from each other in an effort to feel safe. In his 1951 book, "The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety," Alan Watts writes, "There is a contradiction in wanting to be perfectly secure in a universe whose very nature is momentariness and fluidity. But the contradiction lies a little deeper than the mere conflict between the desire for security and the fact of change. If I want to be secure, that is, protected from the flux of life, I am wanting to be separate from life. Yet it is this very sense of separateness which makes me feel insecure....it is just the feeling of being an isolated 'I' which makes me feel lonely and afraid.
October is coming up. We can prepare ourselves for a crucible month of facing our ghoulies and ghosties. We can try self-affirmations, exercise, socializing, and being okay with not being okay. Experiment. I'm curious about what works for you.
How might we journey together to The Good Life by facing up to our demons and things that go bump in the night?
(Feel free to email me with how you are dealing with the fears that go along with being on this human journey, email@example.com)