Trick or Treat


Photo by Vino Li on Unsplash


As holidays go, Halloween is a relative newcomer. It arrived in America around the 1840s with the migration of Irish immigrants during the great potato famine. But it wasn’t until 1921 when city officials in Anoka, Minnesota declared it an official citywide holiday for the first time.


Most scholars believe Halloween was derived from an ancient Celtic holiday, Samhain, which is pronounced nothing like it appears. 2000 thousand years ago, November 1st was the first day of the year for the Celts, and they believed on the night before, mysterious and spooky looking creatures from “the other world” came through a portal and wreaked havoc on their town. The villagers dressed in scary costumes to make those creatures believe they were one of them so they would not take them away.


Several cultures and countries celebrate holidays at this time of year, and many of them include some kind of spirits or ghosts in their traditions. The ghosts don’t always exhibit haunting roles, but it’s what we’ve come to expect when we encounter the idea of a ghost.


Visiting ghosts


The holiday Dia De Los Muertos is an example of ghosts being celebrated with lots of food. Families gather with great hope that some deceased relatives will return as spirits and visit their loved ones on this earthly plain. These are ghosts from our past whom just about anyone would love to be visited by.


Other times, there are unwelcome yet familiar ghosts who haunt us not only for Halloween but all year round. These are the ghosts from our past; the memories born out of difficult events which have troubled us far too long.


For some people, these ghosts cause more fear than any spirit could ever muster. They show up at the most unwelcome times and there is no limit to the number of their visits. They are frightening in a different way and we often wish there were some magical potion that would permanently eliminate them.


Sometimes, we attempt to dress ourselves up in costume so they won’t recognize us. But no one is being tricked. We try so hard to avoid them that we even picture them in costume hoping we won’t recognize them. Eventually, just like Halloween, the costume comes off and the makeup is removed.


The Trick


Although these ghosts are ones we wish would stay in the land of the dead, their intention is not to scare us. Since they are born out of our own traumatic experiences and difficult moments, they are merely reminders that we must work to resolve these situations in a healthy manner.


They are not playing pranks on us. They are merely a reflection of what occurred in our past. The trick is to become aware that they are reminders to help us become a better version of ourselves. As difficult as it may be, we must face these ghosts and take steps to recover from them.


Our first reaction is to ignore them because of the previous pain we suffered. But if we listen to them, sometimes they can reveal to us steps to overcome their anguish. If seeing them brings feelings of embarrassment or shame, they may be trying to tell us we are being too hard on ourselves and may need to forgive ourselves for having feelings of inadequacy or failure.


Perhaps, they are memories when we disappointed someone or neglected our integrity. If we perceive these ghosts as failures, we will never overcome them. When we recognize them as shortcomings and vow to do better, they transform into characters of inspiration and motivation.


Learning to embrace these ghosts will help us face our demons and find ways to conquer them. Once we have reached victory, they will no longer haunt us but remind us of the work we did and become a source of pride in our efforts.

The Treat


Many of us have created dozens of these ghosts throughout our lives, and because there are unlimited ways they can be brought into existence, there are countless ways to approach the road to victory. For many of us, it requires help from a counselor, coach, or a therapist. Being guided on this journey can better assist us through the scary, daunting, and frightening times.


We don’t always have the right weapons or intuition to help us triumph over these challenges, but the answers lie deep inside us. Our fears, hesitations, and misunderstandings are what stop us from becoming victorious. We can’t simply walk up to a door, ring the bell, and expect someone to open it and put treats in our bag that will automatically fix or cure our issues.


But when we are able to work through these tough moments and conquer our fears and the spirits from our past, it is better than any treat we could imagine ever receiving. The understanding that we accomplished this, even with the assistance of a good counselor, is fuel for our fire and a celebratory treat we will be able to savor again and again.


This time of year marks the beginning of many celebrations by decorating our homes, wearing costumes and makeup, and giving gifts. When you hear that knock on the door and it happens to be a ghost from your past, treat it as a reminder that you will do everything in your power to overcome the obstacles it reminds you of, and don’t allow it to trick you into thinking you don’t have that power.


If you or someone you know is being haunted by ghosts from your past and you need help with overcoming them, feel free to reach out to me for some additional guidance. Feel free to email me at john@shamedoctor.com.


My thanks to Vino Li on Unsplash for the beautiful picture and I look forward to your comments.