Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ghosts as Scapegoats


In working on my “Was That a Ghost?” book, I had to set aside a section just to discuss this phenomenon. No, it's not paranormal, but it is abnormal.

It has come to my attention over the years of house calls and interactions with people contacting me about their ghost problems that there are occasions (and not that infrequent) when people use ghosts as an explanation for other more weighty issues in the home.

One woman, had a bad marriage after buying a home that was way beyond their means. Her husband began working overtime, acting remote and being irritable. She didn't want to think he might be overstressed or having an affair. Instead, she started to notice noises when he left home for work. She focused on his behavior and was certain the house was haunted and somehow affecting his behavior.

Another family had an angry rebellious teen but the focus on anything out of place had them all focusing together as a group on the haunting. This brought a family together in a single purpose that was them against “it” instead of dealing with the real issue, that their daughter felt she couldn't live up to their exacting standards and as an only child she was weighted down by the responsibility.

A middle-aged man had trouble getting a job after getting laid off. With time at home and lots of anxiety and worry about finances, he started to notice he couldn't find things. He'd put them down and forget where they were. Instead of blaming it on his distraction with other matters, he decided to check into the history of the house, interviewed neighbors about the previous occupants and eventually worked him up so much he was afraid to sleep at night because of sounds and was certain they were ghosts.

Figuring out if a ghost is a scapegoat can be easy if one does a good investigation of the timing of the events in relation to any dynamics in the family or changes in family situations, whether work, financial, relationships or illness. Probing just how they began to notice it, who began to notice it and how much the other occupants are involved in the process can shed some light on it.

It's not necessarily a healthy way to handle life's issues, but it's not at all uncommon for families and individuals to look for a distraction from a real issue they don't want to face. I've seen people fall into goo-goo love and forget the rest of their lives and focus on the feeling from the new love interest as a way of escape. I've seen people seek alternative health remedies, vitamins and rigid diets to make things better. I've seen people search for escape in bottles of liquor and drugs. Ghosts as scapegoats is not that farfetched and if you watch any episodes of “Paranoid State” (okay, okay “Paranormal State”) you have seen some families who use ghosts as scapegoats.

It's not an easy task as the counselor in these situations. You can't exactly hit them in the face with this dysfunctional behavior and expect them to be happy you said that they're all messed up and it's not a ghost. Instead, it's a little like dealing with a child at the checkout stand who notices the candy for sale. You divert attention.

If a good counselor opens up about issues going on in her own life, share the up's and down's of marriage and parenthood, she can discuss that making a strong family makes a better front against anything that might be attracted to the dynamics. Discuss ways they can come together on a project that will strengthen their connections as a family unit. I often suggest time out, vacations, garden projects, renovating a bedroom or family bowling night. It's crazy, but if they just throw themselves into the real world, the spirit world explanation becomes less important.

21 comments:

  1. You know, I kinda get it; it's a defense mechanism and people obviously find it easier to deal with their stuff that way. It's easier to blame someone or something else for your problems than facing the hard truth, I guess.

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  2. Memeaday;
    It happens. I've seen families blame all their problems on one family member's actions when the actions are actually a reaction to everyone else's treatment of them, hence, the black sheep of the family or family scapegoat. Having something out of their control (ghosts) to deal with seems easier than having to actually make family dynamic changes and admit that someone is at fault.

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  3. Great post. It's an oft-ignored aspect of paranormal investigation. I'm glad you broached the subject. I'm going to post a link to this on my blog.

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  4. Hey Cullan;
    Thanks. Nothing is off limits for me. I'm practical and logical, but I'm also open-minded enough to recognize true phenomena when it occurs and question other factors when they occur.

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  5. You do a great job of looking at all sides.

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  6. Vapor;
    Thanks. This blog really suits me because I never stop questioning things and seeing it from all angles. Hence, all these ghost hunting theories.

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  7. You're definitely right. I've had a few cases where people needed a good psychologist or counselor instead of an exorcism. The hardest part is trying to find a polite, courteous way of telling them it's probably not ghost-related without getting the "you don't know what you're talking about, I'll find someone else" reaction. But that's in part because too many people think that looking for logical answers before jumping to the ghost conclusion means you don't believe in ghosts.

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  8. Ken;
    Boy, do you know the syndrome, or what? Yes! I have found that giving people cognitive skills to deal with the "ghost problem" gives them something else to use within their own lives. Many times, I've just had people write up how they feel about the ghost and then I ask them if they feel that way about anyone in their life as well. Sometimes, the lights go on. Sometimes they don't see it at all. What I do know about human nature, though, is that when you know there's a reality out there you don't want to look at it, it haunts you far more than any ghost and eventually in the right time and situation it catches up. So, there's no need to dispute a haunting's existence, instead just say "I'm going to give you some skills that will help you to deal with this." When there is a genuine haunting, I find that simply a change of perspective helps. My parents taught me as a kid growing up in a Civil War hospital that the ghosts were soldiers who died away from their families and their booted footsteps at night are them standing guard over their new family. That change of perspective made me quite content with the existence of some parallel beings.

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  9. You are very much right. Isn't it great to have stupid and wrong people. Only by their existance and wrongness right can be known.

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  10. Echo;
    You are an optimist like me. Even when I make mistakes or having horrible things happen, I learn so much. We never learn so much as when we make an ass of ourselves (hence, me never getting shitfaced drunk again since high school and streaking through a neighborhood and rolling down a hill into a cactus garden).

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  11. Where are you getting all these pictures of my family ?
    Is there something I should know ?

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  12. Max;
    Your great uncle sent it to me and told me he wanted a post about him. Since he's the family scapegoat, well, he inspired this post.

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  13. It's a form of escapism. I think we all need a bit of that in our lives.

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  14. SS;
    Yes, he does. I think he cut in line in front of me one cold rainy morning. I would have confronted him about it but, with those horns, I gave him a wide berth.

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  15. People worry me. Creating an apparition and forcing the whole family to deal with the manifestation of it instead of growing a pair and dealing with issues. Wow. My husband and I fight some times, but never have I thought of creating a ghost to make me feel better about his actions...that is sheer loony.

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  16. Yakoi;
    Thankfully, it's bliss to deal with rational folks such as yourself, but yes there are people who make up stuff to get attention. It's a lot like hypochondria. You see that in dysfunctional families where people are overwhelmed by responsibilities and feel insecure about their ability to cope so they're constantly sick to get out of doing stuff and get coddling. People do this with haunting too. People immediately feel sorry for them and want to help and worry for them. Getting a conversation going amongst family members about the day to day stuff really gets it out there. You find them not focusing on noises and such as much because they don't need something "tangible" to be wrong. They feel relieved of things they've been carrying inside. Whenever you check out a haunting in a home, you're entering a family's intimate mix. If it's haunted, it affects it. If it isn't haunted, it is still affecting them. Help the family, you help them whether they're haunted or not. Win/Win. Those are the odds I like.

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  17. Helping others? Win/Win! Cutting in line in Starbucks? "Baaa"-d! That's plain rude. :-)

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  18. What I have seen in ghost re-enactments is that they attribute the haunted house with the changing attitude and behavior of a family member. Have you noticed this as well?

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  19. Israel;
    Good question. I'll explain my own take on the process. Should a home be haunted, I do believe that people are highly sensitive to emotions and if there is a residual angry or depressed emotion to it, they can tend to take on those feelings and not be aware of why. It's very much like objects that I do psychic reads on. If I were to wear an angry person's necklace, I might become irritable and short-tempered and not realize why. Emotions can be transferred. So far as evil and demons and such, I do not believe in either in the least, so I can't tell you that a person can become possessed or any other such nonsense, but if you go to a very backwater church where people sway, cry, and faint, then you know the power of belief. Humans can get quite hysterical and are often times easily influenced by something they believe. Just look at anyone who got punk'd by Ashton, they can get pretty worked up when they believe their car just got towed.

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