Thoughts for No One in Particular

Phantom fear

“Ghosts, seen hither and thither, are really just silver grass withered.” [my translation]


This is a phrase in my mother tongue to illustrate how we come to be afraid of even the most harmless things when we let fear and doubt take over our mind. But psychology suggests that fear and doubt are very basic instincts that help individuals avoid and survive through danger. They provide us with innate knowledge on what may be harmful to us, even if we have never experienced them before in our life.


So it is not wrong for us to fear and doubt… to a certain degree, anyway. They function in us from birth to make us be cautious. They are supposed to keep us from engaging in reckless behaviours and tell us to make more informed assessment on the situation we are in. Yet, when there are too much of them, they make us believe irrationally in things, like ghosts, that do not actually exist and cannot actually be sensed.


The phrase is also used to teach how something we believe to be scary often turns out to be nothing threatening when we get to know it better. Psychology suggests that, when we become full of fear and doubt, we tend to want to stop coming in contact with their objects to avoid feeling any more stress. We shut down our senses and switch on our thinking to add them to our knowledge of dangerous and harmful things.


But by doing so, we deprive ourselves from opportunities to update our information on the objects of our fear and doubt. We cannot know for sure if they are still dangerous and harmful to us, or if they ever were to begin with. While knowledge becomes outdated and deteriorated, our fear and doubt remain real, feeling them as strongly and clearly as ever. We rely only on our senses to believe danger continues to exist, even if ghostly, and forget to reason that there is not enough knowledge to deduce such a conclusion.


Maybe we think we know, even when we have not experienced firsthand.

Maybe we feel we believe, even when we have no logical grounds.

Maybe where these inconsistencies arise, fear and doubt grow.

And maybe that is how we start to see scary ghosts in silver grass.


Maybe we need to be more empirical with our knowledge and rationalistic with our beliefs.

Then, maybe we can stop phantom fear from causing prominent pain.


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