Halloween is coming. The time of year when we take our worst fears and transform them into cute dancing skeletons, fake blood fountains, plastic tombstones with puns on them, and sexy-scary costumes of vampires and lingerie kitties. It’s a time of catharsis and candy. A time to join together as a community and fight back the demons together with the joy of the season.
But maybe terror isn’t meant to be managed. Terror is the body’s reaction to the unknown, the space where our knowledge meets the infinite abyss of possibilities. That also means if you feel terror, that can be the place to move toward growth. (If you don’t die, I mean.) Terror is not just a way to know if you should run or not. It can be used as a barometer to guide you to the correct place to break past the limits you’ve set yourself.
So maybe you’re tired of going to disappointing, ramshackle haunted houses with 16 year old ghosts and giving candy to kids dressed as Elsa. Maybe you want to peer into the wide, gaping maw of existence and find the magic contained within. Maybe you want to transform, from the scared little bitch that you are, into a strong, capable hero who can stare right into the face of the dragon, with its venom dripping jaws, and pull its heart out.
Maybe you really, truly, want to scare the shit out of yourself.
1. Upload a Bare-Faced Selfie with A Confessional
I once heard that the #1 fear is speaking in public. Not being eaten by sharks. Not being struck by lightning. Not being gunned down in the streets. Speaking in public. We have a deep, riveting fear that we’ll embarrass ourselves and be ostracized. Because if we’re ostracized from our tribe, that means we’re doomed to die alone in the woods from sickness, or torn apart by enemies. We’re no longer dependent on a small tribe to survive, but without the social approval of our peers, we’re still. Hence the fear. So we hide our true selves, and oftentimes grow weaker because of it. The fear steps into the shadow of we used to be.
You might not have a speaking engagement you can sign up for anytime soon, but you have social media. Upload something that you’re scared other people will judge for you. Upload a confessional. A love letter. Upload an embarrassing secret, or a selfie that isn’t facetuned to hell. Show your naked body with all its imperfections. (But cover the nipples, for god’s sakes!) Reveal your sketches you never show anyone. The rows of empty liquor bottles beside your desk. The terrifying dream about your co-worker, who you secretly have a crush on. Your secret stash of Jennifer Lawrence collages, lovingly arranged amongst pressed flowers.
Show the world who you really are. Maybe they’ll like it. Maybe.
2. Face Your Personal Demons
Yes, this is 2nd on the list, but it’s probably the hardest to actually do.
I know you’re avoiding something. And I don’t know what that is, but I know that you know what it is. What have you been putting off? What gnaws at you in the middle of the night, when you can’t sleep? What haunts your dreams? What makes you suddenly think about it in the middle of the day with a pang of regret, that forms like a pit in your stomach you can fall inside of? The thing that you frantically try to distract yourself from, but that’s always waiting in the quiet moments when you’re driving, or in the shower?e Yeah, that.
Deal with that. Whatever it is.
3. Sensory Deprivation
We’re sensory creatures, and that means we rely on our 5 senses to orient ourselves in the world and understand what’s going on. Not just in the outside precepts, but inside of ourselves. But when we deprive ourselves of our senses our brains are still trying to create a sense of place, so we begin to hallucinate, and our minds roam free. This can be terrifying or liberating, depending on your perspective. If you live in a city with a “float spa”, you can get an hour 1/2 session for about $60 usually. There, your mind can be allowed to descend into madness. But why not just DIY it? Get some earplugs and a sleeping mask , lay back in your bed, and let your mind transport you.
Okay, this isn’t always scary. But for added spook factor: Put on some scary music. Your taste will of course vary.
Still not scary enough?
Set a timer from anywhere to half an hour to 3 hours. Then allow yourself to be bored. Past the point of novelty and mild discomfort. Allow yourself to take a deep dive into the edges of your mind and do not stop even when you really just want to get up, crack open a beer, and forget about this whole experience. Once you allow boredom to creep in, that’s when things can begin to get really interesting. That’s when your brain will explore the things you’d rather leave forgotten. Welcome to real fear.
4. The Three Kings
Okay. In the spirit of Halloween, let’s get a little paranormal. But forget the ouija board or summoning the neighborhood demon. (He’s a little bit old and musty, anyway, and has mostly resorted to pranking 14 years old). That’s baby shit. That’s stuff your grandma used to scare herself. We’re trying to reach the edge of experience. We’re trying to delve down into the mind.
So let’s try the Three Kings game. There’s a whole subreddit dedicated to the game. Here’s a link to the directions. (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Three_Kings_Ritual)
The basic set-up is that you put two mirrors in a dark room, a fan, a candle, and an alarm that goes off at 3:30 A.M. At 3:30 A.M, you light the candle and take your place in the middle of the mirrors and look out into the darkness. If you know about human psychology, this is a potent mixture of sensory overload to make you hallucinate some fucked up shit. So enjoy!
5. Parkour at Night
Grab your running shoes and a heart-pumping Spotify playlist and hit the streets. Then go climb some buildings. Scale some heights. Jump from roof to roof. Scale bridges. Jump from tree branch to tree branch. Find the nooks and crannies of the city you’d never thought to explore, and find a way to get inside, across, and around them. Experience the thrill of being alive on the near precipice of getting your legs broken. We’re designed to run and hunt. We’re designed to jump, climb, and scurry. Remind yourself what it’s like to be a living being, interacting with the world at its root level. We used to be conjoined with the fear, and the thrill. Remember. The sound of feet slapping the pavement, and your hurried breath will bring back those ancient memories.
6. Leave Yourself in a Strange Place With No Phone and $20
We used to only rely on our wits to survive. Now we’ve got the modern day comforts of air-conditioning, Internet, and GrubHub. Get a friend to drop you off in a strange and random location, and try to make your way home with just $20 in your pocket. (Or $5, or $10, or whichever increment your city allows due to inflation.) Remind yourself that you are but a speck in a vast ocean of dangers, stripped naked of your cyborg status. Without your phone and your car, you are vulnerable to the things around you, and at the mercy of the whims of the great machine you exist inside of.
At this point, it’s either survive or perish. It’s either rise to the occasion, or flounder in the depths of your ineptitude. I’m sure you’ll get home fine though.
7. Remind yourself that You’re Going To Die
Ah, yes. There it is, isn’t it? This is what it’s really all about.
Autumn Christian is a fiction writer from Texas who currently lives in California. She is the author of The Crooked God Machine, We Are Wormwood, and Ecstatic Inferno, and has written for several video-games, including Battle Nations and State of Decay 2. Her novel GILR LIKE A BOMB coming in 2019 from CLASH Books. When not writing, she is usually practicing her side kicks and running with dogs, or posting strange and existential Instagram selfies. She blogs at autumnchristian.net and you can find her on Twitter & IG @teachrobotslove