ANXIETY! (A behaviour to unlearn easily)

Imagine you have a friend, and that they like going to the movies. And like all of us, when they are in that movie theatre/cinema, deeply in the trance of what they are viewing and listening to, there will be times when they laugh, times when they cry, times when they smile with recognition, times that they relax and times that they tense up. All this is normal. We know how to make our bodies change heart rate, blood pressure, chemistry and every other aspect imaginable whilst we watch a movie. We are experts.

And then your friend starts preferring one particular type of movie over others. They start to prefer horror and suspense. They may not be able to explain the reason for this, but they feel drawn, more and more, and often they watch the same movie many many times, producing the same physiological reactions.

And when they think about movies, or maybe movies at a certain time of day or on certain subjects or with certain people, then they find themselves unable to think of watching any movie except one in that scary genre that has become so central to their movie watching.

And as you watch your friend, you see how this relentless habit is affecting their life, changing their habits, maybe restricting what they choose to do, curtailing their enjoyment. Even when they are not actually viewing one of those movies, they are sort of lingering there in their mind: they know that before long they will be buying their ticket once again and locked into that seat with white knuckles on the armrests. They aren’t even sure if that might not be in just a moment.

It is so tough watching your dear friend losing all their joy in this way or battling to be what some people call “normal”, by which they mean watching many different sorts of movies perhaps. And just like them, you may have no idea why this habit has developed and gripped them. Who knows, maybe the scary movies echo something in the past or maybe they scratch a negative itch, the “why” is never really important: what is important is that your friend is able to let go of what is happening and take control once more and feel fine. Feeling fine now heals any past event.

And then you have a thought! In a horror film, if the sound goes down to zero, the spell is broken. Ditto if someone trips in front of you and there is a shower of popcorn, some of which goes down your neck and starts itching against your back. Or if your phone flashes and it is that boy or girl that you’ve been longing to notice you and they are declaring undying love!

And as these thoughts grow, you go to see the projectionist and have a word and ask about various possibilities, and a plan takes shape!

…so the next time your friend goes into that movie theatre for the XXX horror showing, right as they are getting into the groove of high heart rate and sweating and gripping and feeling like shit, a cartoon Bambi starts hopping around, in between the chainsaw carnage; and the soundtrack suddenly changes to Dick Van Dyke singing “It’s a Jolly Holiday with Mary” (unless this was already the nature of the horror flick) and the smell of fresh buttered toast floats over everything… and suddenly your friend is laughing. And they can’t stop laughing. And the more they try to see the chainsaw dismemberment, the more Bambi hops about and the louder Dick sings.

And somehow, after that, those horror movies are just not as seductive and not as important.

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