Have you ever been scared when you are home alone?
Up until a couple of years ago, I had a lot of fears. I'm not just talking about your average worries in life, I'm talking about actual fear, being really scared. Every time I was home alone, I was scared of something bad happening; be it a break-in, fire or something more "supernatural".
When I was out walking at night I was scared of being attacked. You might think I grew up in a rough area, with a lot of violence around me, but you'd be wrong. I grew up in a small town, probably one of the safest places on earth, with a very low crime rate.
I had a lot of anxiety and panic attacks in my life from a very early age, but I never saw these other fears in relation to my anxiety. Eventually though, I was forced to make the connection. One night I was stuck in my living room for hours. I was convinced that there was someone in my house, and too scared to leave the room. I had all these images in my mind, of rapists and serial killers and men in balaclavas. I panicked. I called a friend and told him about my fear. I took him over an hour on the phone with me to convince me to leave the living room.
So why was I so scared? I finally figured it out with the help of a friend: for as long as I can remember, I loved scary stories. I would watch every cop show, every medical show, every scary movie out there. I would read Stephen King books and watch TV specials about serial killers. Every night I tuned in to the news, to find out what horrible, dangerous things where going on in the world.
What I practically did over the course of many years, was feed my mind with suggestions of potential danger "out there". For almost every situation I found myself in, I had a scary scenario in my mind that fit it.
Maybe at this point, you think that this doesn't apply to you, that you are not affected by what you watch and read. You might think that the fears you have are rational. It's a dangerous world out there, right?
Is it really that dangerous? How many times have you encountered murderers, rapists, terrorists in your life? How many people do you know that have been attacked or shot at? If you really think about it, doesn't the vast majority of the people you know or hear about live safe, peaceful lives?
We are all affected by what we surround ourselves with. Your subconscious is powerful, but it is not equipped with a button that separates fiction from reality. Even if you don't feel scared when you watch CSI, your mind is getting suggestions about murder, rape and general violence. The information you feed your mind doesn't just vanish when you turn off the TV or close the book. In many ways, I believe the news is one of the most powerful negative influences we have around us; the news not only scares us, it claims to tell us the "truth" . It needs to be understood that news-shows are about ratings as much as everything else on TV. There is a process of selection and sometimes construction involved in making news, and fear sells.
After the night I panicked in my own home, I decided to change things. I stopped watching anything that could scare me. I started avoiding shows and books that dealt with death and violence, no matter how interesting I might find it. I for the most part stopped watching news. I still keep up with what goes on in the world, I scan the headlines and I figure that if something is really important to be aware of, people will talk about it and I will find out that way. Gradually, over time, my fears started disappearing.
So am I never scared anymore? Well, there are still some scenarios left in my mental library that sometimes come up when I'm out walking on a dark streets, but for the most part, no, I am not scared anymore. Over the last two years, my outlook on the world has changed; I no longer live in a dangerous and hostile world. I live in a positive world, a world where it is highly unlikely that anything bad should happen to me. A world where I never hear about violence, rape and murder, simply because these tings aren't a part of the lives of the people around me or the place where I live. Am I just being naïve? Surely bad things just don't go away when you stop watching the news? You are right; the bad things didn't go away, there never where any serial killers outside my house in the first place.