With Halloween upon us, is it time to befriend your own ghosts?
With the nights and weather drawing in, and the ghost and skeleton costumes coming out, I have been reflecting on people's relationship with their own ghosts.
These may be aspects of yourself that you avoid or even fear, and don't display in public. They may be feelings of guilt about past events. Or feelings of jealousy or anger you have about others. Or feelings of ‘not good enough’ or shame.
These feelings lurk like old ghosts in the dark recesses of our minds. And our tendency is the keep them securely locked away. If they rise to the surface, we swiftly push them back by keeping busy, or over-exercising or numbing them by addictive behaviour such as alcohol or shopping.
We keep hoping they will crawl off into the night, never to be seen again.
But they don’t.
They continue to prowl and gnaw and haunt, making us feel unsettled and fearful and unfulfilled.
And if ignored they find ways to seep out anyway. Sometimes in the form of depression or anxiety. Sometimes as a physical illness.
As part of my own therapy, I had to pay weekly visits to these hidden aspects of myself. And rather than fear them which was my initial tendency, I had to learn, at first, to tentatively and reluctantly greet them and make an effort to get to know them. To be curious about them. To learn to sit with them to understand their origin.
And by doing so, something pretty amazing happened.
I realised that the fear of sitting with them, talking about them and understanding them was so much worse than actually sitting with them and talking about them and understanding them.
Not only that, by facing them and understanding them actually started to slowly dissolve and release them along with the negative associated feelings.
It was like Harry Potter casting his spell and sending the Dementors off into the night.
This release can take on many different forms. It may be through tears or expressing anger or just talking things through and reaching a new understanding. Reaching an acceptance that these feelings are perfectly normal.
What I learned is that feeling all feelings is part of being human. They all have a message to give us. If we deny feeling some, we deny feeling all. We go through life feeling flat and numb and unfulfilled.
So on this Halloween be curious about how you treat your ghosts. How do you deal with them? Do you push them away, or do you embrace them and listen to their lessons? Learning to accept them as part of being the perfectly imperfect human being that you are will lead to a happier, more fulfilling life.
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Marie is a BACP qualified counsellor and psychotherapist whose mission is to help you live a happier, more fulfilled life. If you would like to learn more, or are wondering if therapy is the right choice for you, please get in touch for a free 30 minute free telephone consultation.