Halloween reminds us that we like to scare ourselves. We like to watch horror movies, visit haunted houses. These imaginary scares give us a thrill because our bodies don’t fully recognize they are imaginary. “Surviving” a pretend haunted house, so far as your body is concerned, is a lot like surviving a real shark attack. When the “danger” is over, pleasurable chemicals such as dopamine are released, and you feel focused, energized, vibrantly alive yet relaxed and at ease.
These “controlled scares” are perfectly healthy. The problem is, most of us don’t know when it’s time, metaphorically speaking, to quit buying tickets to the haunted house.
What’s your real life haunted house? Tax season? Your annual physical? Your relationship worries?
Consider this: Maybe whatever causes your stress, anxiety or fear on a daily basis, is in some ways imaginary. Without realizing you’re doing so, maybe you actively dread these things, over and over, because a part of you gets a thrill from the scare. You agonize over your upcoming meeting with your boss, and when that meeting is done, you feel a rush of relief, a temporary high. This is what it means to be addicted to drama in your life. It’s like repeatedly putting your hand in the fire, just so you can enjoy the relief of pulling it back out.
Next time you find yourself constricted by fear in your day-to-day life, ask yourself if your present situation might be less “dramatic” from some other viewpoint. Ask yourself if you are somehow (albeit unintentionally) engaging in repeated thoughts, feelings and behaviors that intensify your fear. If you can let go the need for constant drama, the need for intense ups and downs in your life, you might find that fear is no longer so compelling.
For tonight, however, bring on the scares!