Saturday, November 2, 2013

Monsters are real

With Halloween come and gone, I had been thinking about the topic of childhood fears. My son is at an age, where his imagination is extremely vivid and he is easily scared. Children fear the monster in the closet, the monster under the bed, the boogeyman. We think of these monsters as big fury creatures with sharp teeth and claws...almost poltergeist like apparitions. We fear the unknown waiting in the wings to hurt us, while our parents sleep in the next room...

                                                 Monster in the Closet by LuthienShadows

Our role as parents is to explain to our kids that monsters don't exist. We show them the inside of the closet, under the bed. We tell them that these things are figments of their imagination, easily vanished by the closing of an eye, the spray of "monster-away," or by telling "it" that you know it isn't real. Here's the thing, though - the fact that we never really face ourselves - monsters are real and they live among us. These monsters disguise themselves in human form and are pretty undetectable to those around them.

Abnormal psychology majors will be the first to agree with this. Sociopaths, for example, are immune to true human emotion and empathy. They mimic the emotions of others to get what they want. Almost all of us have had to deal with these people at one time or another. We often don't know it, until we are hurt by them and, even then, we end up questioning ourselves. Psychopaths on the other hand are the adults that grew up mutilating cats and lighting things on fire. They are a little more out in the open and tend to become a little more notorious without treatment.

All you have to do is look at any news site and the monsters are everywhere. A few recent examples:

I can't imagine how a person becomes this way. At least animals, the majority of them anyway, have reasons for killing. I have almost no understanding of how a person goes from being born into something less than human. Psychology tells us that it is part nature and part nurture - the wiring isn't right to begin with and then the "person" is further broken down. I don't know how much of that really explains becoming the way these people are. How you can live in society with no regard for any living thing other than yourself and your less-than-basic primal needs. I feel lucky that I do not understand this and am not sure I want to.

We can't live our lives in constant fear of everyone and everything around us. To do so is to, in a way, stop really living. Life ceases to be enjoyable and full of awe. Outside of these imagined fears, children live in a world of pure delight. Everything is a new experience, a new hope. Days are filled learning and playing. Real worries for the child with a normal experience (not abused, not ill) are few or almost non-existent. It is the parent who worries for the child.

I often feel weird telling my child that monsters aren't real. I know, at his age, I can't tell him the truth. However, one day the time will come when we need to have the "stranger talk." As an adult with PTSD, this future talk plagues me with anxiety. How do you teach in a way that causes a healthy level of fear for personal safety?

I can't protect my child from everything. He will grow up and life will show him the bad, as well as the good. My hope is that the good will always outweigh the bad. My hope is that the news doesn't snuff out his sense of hope and wonder. My hope is that he will never meet of these monsters in real life.

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