Why are we – some of us – fascinated by scary stories?
I find a few different ways of looking at it.
In an evolutionary context, it makes sense that we are drawn to explore scary things through stories. It helps us mentally prepare for similar situations in our own life. We get more familiar with the possible situations and how we may react, we get a bit desensitized to these types of situations so we may be more calm if or when something similar happens in our own life, and we get a chance to mentally explore different ways of dealing with it.
When I take a story about something scary as true, my attention tends to be drawn to these beliefs and what they are about. Again, it’s an invitation to mentally explore these situations in a safe setting, and how I may deal with it if something similar should happen in the real world. It’s also an invitation to explore these beliefs in themselves. Are they realistic? What’s more realistic? What’s more true for me?
An impulse to wholeness as who I am, this human self
What I see in the wider world is a reflection of what’s here. So far, I have found how each one of my stories of the wider world – including anything scary – equally well applies to me. As long as I think some human quality or characteristic is only out there in the world, or only in me, it’s painful and uncomfortable. When I find it both in the wider world and in me, there is a sense of coming home and it’s much more comfortable. In this sense, being drawn to scary stories in an invitation for me to use it as a mirror, to find in myself what I see out there in the world, and whether the scary story is from “real life” or made up doesn’t matter much.
Finding a characteristic both in the wider world and myself, I can also relate to it in a more relaxed and level-headed manner, so this impulse to find wholeness also makes sense in an evolutionary perspective.
An impulse to clarity as what I am
There is also an invitation to find clarity here. When I take a story as true, it’s uncomfortable. And finding more clarity on the story, it’s more comfortable. So when I am drawn to what I think of as scary stories, there is an invitation for me to identify and investigate any stressful belief that may come up. Through this, what I am – clarity and love, that which any experience and image happens within and as – notices itself more easily.
I also see that when I take a story as true I tend to get caught up in reactive emotions and one-sided views, and finding more clarity helps me function in a more healthy, kind and informed way in the world.
Summary: Evolution, and who and what I am
It makes evolutionary sense for me to be drawn to scary stories in all of these ways. (a) I become more familiar with the different scenarios of what may happen and how I desensitize to scary situations to some extent, so I can be more calm if or when something similar happens in my own life. I get to mentally explore different ways of dealing with it, in a safe setting and before it happens. (b) I am invited to investigate my beliefs about it and find what’s more realistic and true for me. (c) I am invited to find in myself what I see in the wider world, which helps me relate to it in a more relaxed and level-headed manner. (d) And there is no end to the stories I can investigate, including my most basic assumptions about myself and the world, which helps me function in the world from more clarity, kindness and wisdom. Each of these support my survival and ability to reproduce and raise offspring.
All of these also make psychological sense. It helps me function in the world, and find a sense of wholeness as who I am.
It all makes spiritual sense. It helps this human self – the infinite experiencing itself as finite – survive and function in the world. It’s an invitation for what I am to more easily notice itself.
And all of these perspectives – evolution, psychology and spirituality – converge in one sense, and are the same in another.
Note: I have seen a couple of recent stories (1) on this topic in an evolutionary perspective, and they are interesting. For me, it’s even more interesting to look at it from a few more perspectives and “levels”.
– mirror, of what’s here
– surfacing beliefs so can look at
– believe thoughts about it, so drawn to those beliefs, explore them
– familiarize with the possible scenarios, think of how may act in similar situations – mentally prepare, rehearse
– desensitize so if something similar happens, then a bit more calm
– know it can happen, so a desire to feel more free with it if it happens, feel more free with life as it is
– evolutionary perspective, mentally practice, rehearse
– believe thoughts so naturally drawn to it – (a) to familiarize, explore how to relate to it in the world, (b) to investigate the belief itself
– who we are, desire for wholeness, maturing
– what we are, desire for clarity, liberating beliefs from being taken as true (invitation, and motivation bc beliefs are stressful and clarity is peaceful)
In a sense, who we are – this human self – desires wholeness. It’s painful for it to be split against itself, and comfortable to find more sense of wholeness.
What we see in the wider world is a reflection of what’s here. My interpretations of the world happens here, they reflect my way of looking at the world. And my stories about what’s out there in the wider world equally well applies to myself. It’s painful to only see certain characteristics out there in the wider world, or in here in myself, and it’s more comfortable to see them out there and in here.