Ghost stories

When I was very young I was frightened at night of my grandparent’s home in Tokyo because I was convinced that there was a ghost that lived in the hallway (do ghosts “live” anywhere?). In tears I confessed my terror to my grandmother, who, in a quiet matter-of-fact manner, told me that the best way to take away a ghost’s power was to acknowledge it by its name and ask it to stop bothering you. Thus, that evening in that dark hallway, holding my grandmother’s hand, my quivering 5-year-old voice asked Mr. Ghost to leave me alone. He never bothered me again.

It’s human nature to turn away from things that frighten us, part of the fight or flight response to which human action is sometimes reduced. I would argue that those are not the only two choices available. My grandmother wisely posited a third option; to face the thing with equanimity, to acknowledge its existence, and to find a way to live in harmony with it.

These days I find that my emotions are heightened and I’m more prone to an instinctive fight-or-flight response. Some days it’s almost as if I want to put my fists up to any bit of bad news (as if I could really fend it off) and angrily rail against the world; on others all I want to do is flee from the bleak state of things, to avoid it completely, to pretend it doesn’t exist. Neither response is really helpful, of course, and reacting this way exacerbates both my depression and anxiety.

As I’ve written before, it’s immensely challenging for those of us who struggle with mental health issues to navigate these tempestuous times; the instability we face at every breaking news update can’t help but intensify the volatility of our own internal states. It’s challenging not to get into a vortex of anxiety.

And although I know I can’t always follow my own advice, if this sentiment resonates with you, I give you the possibility that we need not turn to the harmful poles of fear or fright. Rather, let’s turn to face that which causes us strife, and see it for what it is, without judgment. Acknowledging it, accepting its existence and moving forward inspire of it – this is the best thing we can do for ourselves.

What is your tendency – to fight or to flee? Have you found yourself more angry or more afraid?

My task today: to get outside even though it’s moody cloudy grey day and I don’t feel like running (the activity that usually gets me out of my house). Just finished a leisurely 2 hour bike ride (done!)

10 thoughts on “Ghost stories

  1. Wayne Zelenak says:

    Sarah, you mention your tendency to fight or flee and I choose neither. I choose awareness; like a fly on the wall. Awareness is the ability to see and feel the beauty in nature by using all of our senses and being aware of the divine intellect in the creation of the universe. A few years ago in college, I took an elective course in the study of astronomy. Each class became a challenge to understand the vastness of space in light-years, and the size of planets revolving around stars and the perfect order in the way that planets move around them.

    Walking in nature, I am in awe of the number of species of plants, animals, birds, and insects, all living on our planet in different realms. Being aware of their plan of existence with defense mechanisms, and their ability to sustain the harshness of weather and mankind, and the ineffable beauty many fail to see.

    Being aware of nature and creation, my personal problems become insignificant in their size and scope of things. Looking deeper, I try to find the meaning of life and how we interact with the rest of the world. I always find it fascinating to ignore the problems of the past and the promises of the future and live in the present. To enjoy each sunrise, sunset, and the moments in between. To cherish each day as a gift to learn new things and share them with others; to engage in conversations with friends and family and to appreciate differences of opinions, and to remember that we are all connected and need each other.

    I choose to observe the world and have noticed that everything that exists is subject to change at all times. Nothing at this moment is exactly the same as it was a moment before or will be in the next moment. This includes my awareness of this magnificent planet that we inhabit.


  2. “Psycho-logic”… It’s all a matter of knowing our own possibilities (limits): so to fight if we can win, to flee if we can’t. Some ghosts are almost impossible to make “disappear”, because they are hidden in us… A PTSD amnesia for instance, as it often happens to children who were victim of violence… All sort of violence… and those children had to fight alone… all alone: a not paid crime; because they can’t put words on what happened to them… Etc.


    1. Wayne Zelenak says:

      I agree with you about knowing our own limits and perceptions. I find that most people don’t realize their perceptions become their reality in a realm that contains boundaries that inhibit their ability to grow and nourish. Fear is merely ignorance of the unknown and the ghosts are fictional and take on many phobias, including bigotry and hatred. I like to refer to them as ANTS. *Automatic Negative Thoughts Syndrom) and sometimes we are infested with them in uncertain times like these.

      I agree with Sarah’s grandmother in her philosophy to face those ANTS and ghosts with equanimity and the knowledge to realize that they exist inside all of us. Fear and worry are contagious and can transfer to each other and can cause panic and anxiety. Inspire others through fact and not fiction and learn through wisdom not worry.

      In any wartime, the best defense is learning as much about the enemy as possible. Intelligence is the key to winning any battle in the field or in our home. Maintain an open mind to glean to enough informational tools in your arsenal to win the war.


  3. I’m so glad to hear you took that bike ride (That photo is lovely! I can’t wait for all our green to come back.). Today instead of fighting or fleeing, I danced with my kids in the kitchen. It worked really well. Walking in the woods also helps me. Have you heard of the concept of forest bathing? I find it to be totally legit.
    Hugs to you. xo


  4. I’m trying to comment if I humbly think it is pertinent. Well, I hope so. One of my anglophone friend told me once that us (French) talk too much. Ah! Ah! Ah! She explained me the ‘Talk is cheap’ and the ‘A still mouth is a wise head’.
    My sister in her rebel teenager years (14) convinced that we (I was 8) should watch together the movie “The Exorcist”. What a bad idea. I was seeing the girl everywhere when I went to bed even with my eyes closed. Geez. Even today that movie scares the hell out of me.
    On the other hand I must face the coronavirus for my job. I’m among the first respondents on my field of duty. I accept to die if it happens. I’m not trying to brag or trying to play the hero. No way. It’s part of my job. I must face it like a soldier who goes on the field without knowing what might happen. I do my best to remain calm and positive.
    I try to put in practice the ‘Carpe Diem’ as teached by late Robin Williams in his memorable performance as a teacher in the cult movie “Dead poets society.”
    Stay safe everyone. Let’s keep the Beacon of hope alive like a lighthouse keeper do in the lighthouse.


  5. Wayne Zelenak says:

    I have found the blogs on Sarah’s Coronavirus Diary very interesting. Each one of us has a story to tell and it is my passion to read them. On Facebook, we have the opportunity to connect through chats and I was wondering if anyone is interested in connecting on FB. I have written many inspiring blogs on my FB account and enjoy sharing ideas, comments, and stories. Let me know if anyone would like to become a friend or share a good chat. This is the time to do it when we all are homebound. E-mail me if you are interested.


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