This week kids (and adults) will disguise themselves in masks, makeup, and costumes to celebrate Halloween. And we're all hoping the effects of Hurricane Sandy won't dampen the spirits of Wednesday's trick-or-treaters.
Whether or not you relate to this end-of-October tradition, it provides an interesting lesson on fear and reality. Because theoretically it’s the one time no one can truly be tricked by appearances.
We all know that behind every frightening or creative disguise is the real person–your neighbor down the street, your child’s friend from school, your grandchild. My son was instantly transformed in his white “Morph” mask, made with a fabric that allows you to see and breathe despite appearances. But it’s easy to see that when the mask comes off or the makeup is washed away, nothing has changed about the person behind it.
Isn’t it just as important to uncover the masks behind the issues of daily life? I often think of emotions, like anger or fear, as a bit like a Halloween mask. When a person is angry or afraid, they don’t act like themselves or even look like themselves sometimes. But when they’re peaceful again, it’s as if they’ve taken off the disguise.
Illness can be like a mask, too, covering up our typically healthy, whole, and peaceful identity. To me, that’s our true, authentic, spiritual self that really can’t ever be changed–just like Halloween makeup doesn’t permanently alter the trick-or-treater.
One aspect of this analogy is fear, which–like disease–if left untreated isn’t so healthy either. So finding solutions to dealing with it effectively is important. And since fear begins in your thinking, that’s a good place to start.
Some pretty influential people talked about this relationship:
- In FDR’s first inaugural address, he famously said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
- Shakespeare said, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
In her recent blog, 5 Reasons Not to be Afraid Because We’ve Never Been Safer, Dr. Lissa Rankin writes, ” . . . fear itself is making us sick.” She warns of the problems of over-diagnosing and creating fear of a disease when it’s not even present. She cites for instance, “cancer-phobia” and the endless attention on cancer screening techniques and early diagnosis.
“What drives such obsessive testing?” Dr. Rankin asks. “Fear. Yet fear and anxiety may actually increase the risk of cancer. When was the last time your doctor screened you for cancer phobia and made recommendations for how you might reduce your fear as preventative medicine? Perhaps we must focus as much attention on becoming less afraid as we do on scheduling mammograms and colonoscopies.”
I heartily agree with Dr. Rankin. In fact, it echoes something Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “As frightened children look everywhere for the imaginary ghost, so sick humanity sees danger in every direction, and looks for relief in all ways except the right one” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 371).
The “right” solution Eddy is referring to comes from the wisdom taught in the Bible, which offers this practical advice: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4: 18).
I’m going to let Halloween be my reminder to see the person behind the mask this year.