Despite the facts that ghosts are so often associated in our culture and indeed many other world cultures with a strong sense of fear, there is surprisingly little information gathered about phasmophobia (that is the exaggerated fear of the departed or any spirits that may remain behind). For every person who wishes to see a ghost, the general feeling associated with the desire is the excitement that comes from fear. But why do we fear ghosts?
Is it a sense of survivor's guilt? Do the living fear the dead because they symbolize the revulsion we have for our own deaths? Or is it something else? Regardless, it seems ghosts don't seem to wish to harm the living by any means except in very few high profile cases. After all, it is exceptionally rare in history for ghosts to actually harm the living, preferring instead to help those who have a pulse and protect them from harm or warn them away from a similar fate.
In the Charles Dickens Story "A Christmas Carol" Scrooge is beset by several ghosts who warn him of his impending doom, but only the ghost of his departed friend and the ghost of future are necessarily terrifying to him. This is actually fairly telling of many peoples' interpretations of Phasmophobia. Scrooge fears the future because he indeed fears his own death and the breaking down of everything he holds dear to him. Perhaps those who fear ghosts the most are those who find themselves in a situation where they fear their own demise due to a perception that their endeavors on Earth are far from over, or have yet to begin.
Of course this is in stiff competition with another fear of the unknown that so commonly entangles us all. With a fear of the unknown we are not simply fearing the potential for an entity to do bad things, but also the very potential of what a great unknown brings with it. And while death too is a vastly unknown frontier that must eventually be explored by all humans, there is a definite fear of ghosts that seems specifically to come up at times of great reasoning. In the spiritualist movement, science was just beginning to make major changes in daily life and a new world emerging seemingly out of thin air - very much like a ghost does. And yet these ghosts, like this new world were shrouded in mystery. They affected all humanity because all people had the potential to one day themselves become ghosts. And yet only a very select few were able to actually communicate with them in ways that could translate what it was like to "live" as a ghost on an average day.
And then there is the simple fight or flight mechanism response. People on this planet have lived with competition from a number of sources since humanity first appeared on the planet. And yet in society most of our fears and anxieties come from living in that society rather than opposing an external force such as weather, hostile animals, or invaders. And what better final frontier is there than the very question of death itself? And likewise what fear is left? To see a ghost suddenly puts all of our societal concerns into perspective in a way that forces us to reexamine and re-appropriate our concerns and priorities.
And through it all the psychology of ghosts and the fear of them will be the last thing running through anyone's mind in the moments immediately following seeing one.
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