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Author Topic: {PRS} For Discussion: Understanding the Psychology of Ghosts (Pt.1)  (Read 993 times)
MattM - TornadoKnight
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« on: May 24, 2013, 07:10:03 AM »


In this part, we will examine some of the more common reasons paranormal investigators give to explain why some spirits seem to prefer to stay earthbound while others appear to move on effortlessly. As such, this section will, in many ways, have far more to do with psychology than parapsychology as we examine the ghostly psyche and see if we can figure out what might make a person decide to haunt his old neighborhood when it could well be doing more interesting things with its time. In effect, we will be doing nothing less than exploring the question of what makes a ghost 'tick', which usually makes for lively debate.

While at first glance this attempt to understand the ghostly psyche would appear to be beyond our ability to hypothesize, I disagree. A ghost is only human after all, and we do know a few things about human behavior that we might transpose onto our ethereal colleagues in an attempt to better understand them. Ghostly behavior, after all, shouldn't really be all that different from normal human behavior, even if the consciousness that powers it exists within another context of reality. Hopefully, that should be enough to help us answer many of our basic questions.

Ghost By Choice or By Accident?
Perhaps the first thing we need to do it try and determine what factors go into deciding whether a particular person is likely to become a ghost. For example, does becoming a ghost happen to everyone when they die or only to some? Is it something we choose to do, or can we be trapped on the earth plane and be impelled to roam the world of the living for all eternity? Obviously, we can't know the answers to these questions with anything approaching certainty, but there are some guidelines we might use.

The first thing to understand about a ghost—and I'm limiting the discussion here purely to those entities we've previously identified as personalities (human based ghosts)—is that where human beings are concerned, not even death can change things. I believe that when a person dies, they move onto the next realm with all the personality traits, quirks, prejudices, biases, and a lifetime of accumulated wisdom—and nonsense—fully intact. Working from that premise, then, it's not difficult to imagine how some people would either choose to become a ghost or might find themselves trapped on the physical plane by their own personality flaws. As such, we might assume that the reasons for becoming a ghost may be as numerous and varied as are the types of personalities humans exhibit. Lets look at just a few of the more prevalent ghost types and explore their possible rationale for choosing to remain in the physical realm:

•   The Unaware Ghost
•   The Denial Ghost
•   The Attached Ghost
•   The Jealous Ghost
•   The Fearful Ghost
•   The Melancholy or Sad Ghost
•   The Mission Ghost
•   The Goodbye or Comfort Ghost
•   The Curious Ghost
•   The Mischevious Ghost
•   The Angry Ghost

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The Unaware Ghost: Many paranormal investigators believe that some entities may remain within the physical realm simply because they are not aware that they are dead. As such, they go on about their life much as they did before completely oblivious to the fact that they are no longer a part of the physical realm and remain that way until some sudden trauma or realization goads them into either remembering that they have died or demonstrates that they are, in fact, no longer among the living. This idea has been popularized by such excellent movies as The Sixth Sense and The Others and is a part of many people's beliefs about ghosts (a perception Hollywood has done much to reinforce.)

I, however, find it extremely unlikely that ghosts don't know they're dead. Near Death Experience (NDE) accounts remain remarkably consistent in their insistence that even upon sudden and unexpected death the soul invariably detaches from the body and hovers about nearby, all the while aware of its surroundings and cognizant of the fact that it is no longer attached to its physical body. If these accounts are accurate portrayals of what the human psyche experiences at the moment of death, it seems that to not be aware of the fact that one had 'passed over' would be about as hard to miss as would be the loss of a limb; some things, it seems, are just a little too obvious not to notice. Unless one died in their sleep or was so inebriated when they passed that they never knew what hit them, I should imagine the one thing we could not help but notice is our own death, especially once one started encountering deceased loved ones and, perhaps, various religious figures. As such, I seriously doubt that any recently deceased spirit would be in-or, at least, remain in-a state of ignorance long. It simply doesn't hold together logically.

That being said, however, it is possible that children or the mentally incapacitated might not recognize the situation for what it is and remain attached to the physical plane after their death. Ghosts of children are frequent subjects of a haunting, leading to the possibility that children who are unable to comprehend death in practical terms may well be too confused to move on after their demise. Death is, after all, generally considered a 'grown up' affair that is rarely discussed with children. As such, some may have no real understanding of what is happening to them and so remain trapped in a type of 'sleep state' until they either can finally comprehend what has happened and move on or are rescued by other spiritual entities whose job it is to look out for these gentle souls and guide them along. Such an entity would be more akin to an 'immature' or 'childish' ghost than to an 'unaware' ghost however, though, of course, such distinctions are probably more a matter of semantics. For the most part, however, it is probably safe to assume that most humans will recognize when they are dead and leave it at that.

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The Denial Ghost: While it is unlikely that a mature and psychologically stable person would be unaware that they have died, it is entirely plausible that there could be those who find the idea so traumatic that they refuse to accept the fact and live on in utter denial of their new reality. While at first thought this idea may sound preposterous, it is not so hard to accept when one considers that just as there are people who make denial a major part of their life, it is only natural to imagine that there are those personalities who will make it an integral part of their afterlife as well and so will simply refuse to accept the truth of their own Earthly demise. Denial, after all, seems to be such a big part of what it is to be a human in the first place that I can't imagine it wouldn't remain a big part of some people's identity after death as well-at least in some cases.

Of course, denying one's death may sound very similar to being unaware of it, but there is a big difference. The unaware ghost allegedly doesn't realize it is dead whereas even the most obstinate denial ghost knows, at least on some level, that it is dead and is simply refusing to acknowledge the fact. After all, that's the whole point of denial; it is only necessary when one is aware that there is a truth that needs to be suppressed.

Now how this might work is a source of some debate. Some personalities may simply choose to go on as if nothing has happened and ignore every obvious sign that they no longer exist within a physical context in the process. This is possibly what happens to many historical personalities who refuse to vacate a particular location; they won't leave because they can't bear the idea they might be dead and so they remain, going about their day-to-day affairs as if nothing has changed. They are like the elderly Hollywood starlet who bemoans the lack of privacy her fame has brought long after her name has been forgotten, and refuses to open the door in any case because a part of her knows the adoring throngs of fans she so disdains will not be there. As such, they can be the ones who remain earthbound the longest, for human pride can be as powerful and dehabilitating on the other side as it often proves to be on this side of eternity, which can make it especially difficult to convince them to give up the charade and move on.

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The Attached Ghost: Though in many ways similar to the denial ghost, this type of ghost knows and even fully acknowledges that it is dead, but is so emotionally attached to the things of the world that it refuses to let go of them. This is often their home or some place they truly loved, resulting in their energy being too enmeshed within the physical realm-their emotions and perceptions still too 'earth heavy'-for them to move on (or, for that matter, even begin to explore their new dimensions of existence.) And so they stay behind, always hovering on the edge of human perception but rarely if ever able to interact with it in any meaningful way. To many of these entities then, death is seen simply as a tremendous impediment in their enjoyment of life that they do their best to ignore or work around.

Such ghosts also often remain around for years or even decades, so great is their attachment to the things of the world. Even if they can no longer enjoy the things they own or even be able to interact with their loved ones, it is still better than not having them at all (or so it might be reasoned from their perspective.) They tend to be the more possessive ghosts who insist that new residents leave their home or attempt to interfere in the lives of those they left behind, sometimes in rather significant ways. If strong willed enough, such entities may stay a very long time, usually not leaving until either their home has been bulldozed or so dramatically altered as to make it 'unlivable' to them. Only then may such ghosts begin to fade and dissipate, though it may be some time before they finally are willing to concede the futility of remaining behind and move on.

As such, people of a possessive or sentimental nature who are extremely attached to the world, or who are otherwise incapable of functioning outside of the familiar walls of the tiny world they have created for themselves are good subjects for becoming an attached ghost. Over-identification with one's profession or trade can also produce this effect (ghosts of librarians or school janitors, for instance, are examples of this) and elderly couples and shut-ins who have learned to isolate themselves from the outside world especially run this risk, and so need to consider the potential repercussions their self-imposed exile may have in the next world if they are not careful. It is never helpful to attach great importance to anything in the physical realm, for it is a temporal environment that is constantly in a state of flux and beyond anyone's ability to control. Attached ghosts are simply those individuals who have yet to realize that fact.

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The Jealous Ghost: Though exceedingly rare, there are accounts of ghostly entities attaching themselves not to things, but to people, and interjecting themselves into earthly relationships, usually out of some misguided notion of possessiveness or outright jealousy. This could be anything from an over-possessive spouse that can't accept the thought of their mate remarrying to a spurned lover who took his or her own life only to come back and attach themselves to the source of their unrequited affections later. Active only around the source of their possessiveness and then usually only when in the presence of that source's newfound affections, the jealous ghost can be among the most difficult, frightening and hard to get along with of all.

However, while this type of ghost is very similar to the attached ghost in that it refuses to break its earthly links because of something in the physical realm it has over identified with, its source of attention is so limited and fixed that it can usually be gotten rid of fairly easily. Once the still living partner remarries (or otherwise makes it abundantly clear to the interfering entity that they intend to get on with their life) it will usually dissipate and move on to other pursuits (though not without usually loitering for a while longer just in case the source of their affection changes their mind.) In some cases, however, it is only the death of its partner that finally ends the haunting, meaning that if it is obstinate enough, a jealous ghost could end up hanging around for decades (though this would be unlikely.)

As such, overly jealous, possessive, or controlling individuals need to be especially careful they don't end up stuck on the physical plane after they die because of their stubborn unwillingness to give up that which they don't truly own in any case. It takes very little, it seems, to stay attached to the temporal realm, so one would be wise to do some introspection where relationships are concerned to see if they may be a good candidate to become a jealous ghost, and what changes they might need to make in their life to avoid that fate.

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The Fearful Ghost: Due to cultural or religious conditioning, some personalities are simply too afraid to find out what fate has in store for them and so prefer the mundane existence of a haunting to the potential punishment a final judgment might portend. Often these are individuals who did considerable harm-or believe they did-to others and so fear being called out for their offenses and punished. To them, then, remaining within the comparative safety of the physical realm is their only means of avoiding this judgment and the punishment they believe they so richly deserve, and so they cling to the material world the way a frightened child might cling to it's mother's leg on the first day of school. In essence, then, fearful ghosts are doing nothing less than hiding from Hell.

It's not just evil doers who find themselves in this state, however, but ordinary people who have been subjected to various fundamentalist religious teachings from childhood—teachings they are certain they have failed to live up to—and so retain a fear of being eternally punished for 'backsliding' or for committing some other real or imagined transgression. Guilt and shame can be powerful fear inducers for some people, especially among those who have grown up in a background of religious intolerance or maintained firmly held beliefs in such things as divine wrath, original sin, eternal retribution, judgment, and the reality of hell. As such, then, people who have had strong religious beliefs drilled into them from childhood and feel they have not lived up to them are good candidates to become fearful ghosts, especially if they believe God is angry with them and they have not had a chance to 'repent' or had their sins absolved by a priest before they died. Fear is almost as strong an emotion as love, and can keep one tied to the earth plane as completely as denial, possessiveness, and jealousy can, and is easily capable of making us our own worst enemy and more adroit at inadvertently torturing ourselves than any external foe—or Deity—could ever be.
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