How Shadow People Taught Me About Creativity

in writing •  2 months ago

The phrase “Do one thing every day that scares you,” lifted from Eleanor Roosevelt to populate the fancy boarders of Pinterest memes and personal quotes to live by on OKcupid, is almost laughable. It’s quite Buddhist in its intention, our emotions don’t need to rule us, we can walk through them and quietly observe them, and if applied properly you can make your life quite interesting

Of course, if you live with anxiety disorder just waking up and going to the shower to get ready for work can be a terrifying experience. “Do one thing a day that scares you?” Well, what the hell DOESN’T scare me? I’m scared of conversations at Subway, at the gruff people outside the mental clinic, by missing keys and Passports, by children, by movies that remind me of my childhood, by failure, by weight gain, by sideway glances.

I used to be terrified of those “write about yourself” projects in school because I couldn’t actually write about myself. I could only write about the fear surrounding writing about myself. “I’m terrified of people. I’m shy and awkward.” I feared that I was misrepresenting myself. Now, I don’t think I was. My early memories are ruled by fear – the chair thrown across the room, the hippo at the Oklahoma City zoo opening its mouth wide, the first day of school, a birthday party in which I had to smile and be social for more than a few hours.

Once I slept on a couch at my dad’s house and woke in the middle of the night. A second passed, and then a shadow-like being rushed past me in the hallway. Probably just a remnant of a dream, my brain not fully awake. But I couldn’t go to sleep after that. And for years afterward, I feared its return. I thought it watched me while I closed my eyes. I had sleeping problems for years. Fear of the dark. Fear of my own shadow. I’d seen it once and I didn’t want to see it again.

What is a shadow person? Depends on who you’re talking to. Some believe they’re beings from another dimension, glimpsed in brief glances. Either beings of pure evil from lower planes, or guardian spirits. The concept has been around for a while. According to Cherokee legend, a witch called the Raven Mocker comes to sick people as they sleep, transforming into a shadow-person like being and tormenting them until they die. And then they eat the hearts. Why? Because there’s a tradition to uphold, I suppose, or hearts are tasty.

Many meth addicts report seeing shadow people because of lack of deep sleep. So perhaps insomnia and sleep deprivation play a factor. Others say the shadow person is a result of hallucinations developed by sleep paralysis. There’s an archive of personal accounts of shadow people on the Internet you can browse through if you’re looking for a timesuck.

Lucid dreaming. I learned the technique young, from my dad, who was big into meeting up in dreams, dream manipulation, and keeping journals of the places we went when we slept. I had these horrible nightmares as a child, and he taught me how to beat up the monsters and stop running.

Lucid dreaming can be an exhausting process. Once you realize you’re dreaming, your brain will do anything it can to lull you back into ignorance – including forcing you to wake, “false awakenings”, and blackouts. It’s an ability that I still have yet to master, but if I want to lucid dream that night often all I’ll have to do is set a timer or reminder and ask myself every half hour, “Am I dreaming?” This will often carry over into the sleeping world and force me into a lucid dream.

Ever notice how the dream warps to your feelings and thoughts? If you get into a car with a strange man and the stray thought passes that he’s a serial killer, the car will swerve and he’ll start pointing a gun at your head. The external becomes a direct reflection of the internal. So when I found myself running through an abandoned warehouse, weeping in the darkness, unable to turn on a lightswitch (Lightswitches, they NEVER work in dreams. Try it out for yourself.) while demons from the netherworld chased and tormented me, I, well, I woke up.

It’s like bursting through a membrane.

I started laughing. Dancing. The monsters that were chasing me started dancing too. The darkness was no longer a terrifying place, but a beautiful one. As long as I kept dancing, as long as I kept making light of the situation, the monsters couldn’t hurt me. Because in my experience – no horrible apparition can survive laughter. Frivolity is our weapon against the darkness, against fear. Fear can only survive in a moment of dark consequence. When there is no consequence, the fear dissipates, and the monsters dance.

I’ve come across dinosaurs who breathed steam as I hid in ventilators. When they knocked down the grate I hooked my hands into their nostrils and breathed laughter back at them.

Shadow children have held hands and ran circles around me, growing teeth when I was afraid, and laughing when I smiled, their consequence shrinking as my fear of them dissipated.

I’ve come across women who threw me in front of a mirror and dared me to see how ugly I was. At the fake reflection I laughed, grabbed the woman, and kissed her. We rolled down together in red velvet.

There are dreams I have yet to conquer – dreams that are such reflections of real life I can’t yet wake myself up. I have a lot to learn. But I’ve pulled through some of the worst parts of me, and come out laughing.

What does this have to do with the writing life? We’re going to be faced with threats and doubt. The demons in dreams are a direct reflection of the kind of negative thoughts that can destroy us if we’re not careful. As a horror writer, you thrive in darkness, but you don’t allow yourself to become mired in it. (And do I have a problem with miring.) The monsters can only destroy those who are willing, and those who forget that the only destruction comes from not reminding yourself to laugh. Even someone with extreme anxiety disorder, in the days when the mundane seem terrifying, can go deep into the well of lucid dreaming and pull up humor to get through the day.


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I know almost nothing about shadow people, probably because I have never had an experience with them, your experience with them seems to have thought you alot.

Laughter definitely does offer great relief in terms of fear, tension or unpleasant circumstances, not only in dreams but in real life as well. We walk through life with grace when we learn to always remind ourselves to laugh...

Thanks for this great piece!

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Laughter seems to put everything into context, and reminds us of what's important. It also helps us to face things we fear. That's why it's a useful too.

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Oh yes, it is!

Not everyone can make such a beautiful post. Not everybody tries to do this. Well posted beautifully. Thank you

This makes me want to start my dream diary again, thank you for great post! :D

What does this have to do with the writing life? We’re going to be faced with threats and doubt. The demons in dreams are a direct reflection of the kind of negative thoughts that can destroy us if we’re not careful. As a horror writer, you thrive in darkness, but you don’t allow yourself to become mired in it.

I think that any writer will draw from their own life to some extent or another and in our own life we all have fears and darkness. The thing is to be able to express these thoughts without being dragged down with them. The curse of being a writer.

The dreamscape really resonates with me. And the 'shadow people' like to slip out of those dreams. Sometimes, when you think you see a movement out of the corner of your eye and turn quickly, nothing there, that's them.

A figure in the room, in broad daylight, over there by the lamp? Turn your head quickly, no it was just the jacket you forgot to hang up, draped over that chair...or was it.

I actually try not to dream. Or at least lock them out. I have a particular little ritual I use at night to keep my dreams shut up tight, mostly as I don't find mind too enticing.

Sometimes I think it's that very thin membrane between our timelines, our endless instances of the same ME making choices, this way or that, this road or that, making another path open up. And it feels like dreams are a slit in that fabric and I don't always want to see in or let them through.

I like the opposite of Elanore's advice and I try to do one 'thing that makes me elated' a day. :)

I'll have to check out your books.

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I spend a lot of time in the dreamscape. And that makes sense we see people in our periphery - our brains try to "build" objects sometimes when we can't see them clearly.

In my dreams, it often feels like the timeline is an illusion - that the continuity of me is a thin little lie. That I could be anyone or everywhere. In my dreams I often have fabricated memories, entire histories of things that never happened. Makes me think of how fragile these things are in the construction of us.

The monsters can only destroy those who are willing

I think this is the most important part of either dreaming or in life. We get defeated if we yield, we get bullied if we just keep quiet, we lose opportunities if we do not try and so on. So yes, we should find a way to turn the table around and make those monsters follow us instead of them manipulating us. And to your point, laugh at them because they can't win over us.

You have a very good approach of turning a problem into an opportunity. Keep going!

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I've said before that laughter destroys bullshit, because bullshit requires us to take it seriously.

In my own experience, dreams are dreams. I don't actually go deeper on understanding them. I recall some part of my dreams and that's all, then do the daily routine of life. I don't interpret dreams. I guess every person has his/her own experience.

But I got some points on your post that we have to fight the negatives in our lives, just like the demons in dreams.
Demons are real, not only on dreams. As long as we're still live, the spiritual battle continues.

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I don't think dreams always have some symbolic meaning. There are several dream theories but the one that makes the most sense to me is that our brains are still active, and create stories without direct input from real stimuli. Which would also explain why sensory deprivation tanks work the way they do.

Still, I think we can take important information from all portions of our lives - dreams included, if we look for it.

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Great insight Chrisitian!
I did also dreamed years ago that I could walk in the air. When I started to walk fast I eventually floated in the air while walking. I was thinking after the dream, maybe it would happen when my spirit/soul separates from my body when I die lol

Anyways, its been 6 days since I commented. I guess you're some kinda busy the past days.

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I must say I got a bit distracted and almost forgot to comment. So glad you left a link to the Amazon page! Also was happy to find links to lots of blog posts over there.
Take it from me if someone reads enough blog posts they eventually want to read a whole book. Can you tell that happens to me often?
I think writing can be very therapeutic for anxiety. I have read a few studies that indicate this is the case. I know it often works helps me a great deal.
Congrats on the @curie feature. That is how i found you.
Now I am off to follow some links.

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yeah you follow alot of rabbit trails.

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And just how would you know anyway? 🐇🐇

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haha! man I can't say nothin around here without getting caught! I guess I don't, if I tried to follow you on here around I'd probably fall asleep.

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You may just discover some very interesting things you would have otherwise missed. Like the @janton bobble head.
Someone hid that darn thing around here somewhere like a easter egg.
At any rate you are moving up in the world with folks making you into art.

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headchange! what in the world are you talking about? no one made me into art!

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How the heck would you know? 😵 Mr. Never pay attention to anything too busy with big important comment work🙄

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haha! well that's true I'm too busy researching post material and commenting but that's about the only way I know of the grow my account. so I admit my guilt!

Fear and necessity. At some point we have to understand our demons, even come to love them, are the only ones who may understand our fears, even though our anxieties increase, but are there for something, I have always said that these demons can not be entirely bad, something healthy must have so much darkness and uncertainty. Dreams may just be an entrance, a test of courage, to see if we are capable of what we want.

Greetings to you, thank you for sharing your experience with a mirror of your life.

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It's important to remember that demons only exist in our minds. But as a symbol they have been used throughout history. They represent in many ways the things we're afraid to face.

Hi snowmachine,

This post has been upvoted by the Curie community curation project and associated vote trail as exceptional content (human curated and reviewed). Have a great day :)

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I think being a writer has made you pay a lot of coigniscance to these feeling, events happening as well that definitely takes place that a lot of people definitely do not know about.
I think sometimes when the mind is unbalanced and the psyche is troubled these blackouts, seeing shadow people, hallucinating or thinking of evil things according to one's physical predicaments.
I have never had these issues, maybe being a meth patient or suffering from dementia, but all I know is that the Mind is very creative most times being mentally unsettling maybe about previous experience that's happened in one's life can unravel a whole lot.

Beautiful write-up here I love it.

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The mind is definitely creative, and plays different tricks on different people. I don't think there are "really" shadow people, but I've always been someone who has put deep meaning into minor incidents!

I like to recall what was my dream because i do believe by dream, it can reflect something happen in real life. And I can have same dream over and over again (haven't figure out why).
In your story, you got a method to hook the reader with your story and would like to know what is the ending. and the photo is a kind of scary but it fit well with the story.

It is a very interesting and profound topic. It happens to me personally and the truth is that the first time I suffered from paralysis I had to make an effort to calm down because the fear I felt has been one of the worst in my life.

Once it happened to me that sleeping, I suddenly had an episode of those "lucid dreams" with the character of the shadows that you mention, and it was worthy of the worst horror movie: I was lying in bed and suddenly I felt a FAIR presence on my face, all black, looking at me face to face, millimeters away, floating there.

I think I can consider myself a brave person, after having survived that. Hahaha Very cool and interesting post, congratulations!

I was attracted to this post by the title. Shadow people have always fascinated me. Even though I have had no personal encounter with them, i have read a lot of stories about them. Your account is quite detailed and downright scary. I have always felt our dreams are just an extension of reality. You dream what you feel or think and sometimes you have premonitions about things that are about to happen. I had that a lot as a child. I would be so scared to fall asleep sometimes when I feel I would something bad was going to happen and I knew I would surely dream about it.
Thank goodness I don't have them anymore. Did you experience any of that?

Laughter is indeed a balm to a sad lonely soul, nothing like a good laugh when you are feeling low.

There is beauty in each individual struggle and as a collective. You just need a twisted humor to appreciate that suffering is comedy on a different mask. Or maybe my humor is the one that is twisted. I can relate with what living with anxiety means but each form of anxiety is different from each person I supposed.

While others fear the dark, I fear the light, the thought of being noticed, the thought of being more visible than anyone else. The thought of not being able to find a moment alone and thriving in false solitude. I'd like to think that my dreams have meaning but it goes against my generic logic for dreams to have meaning outside the ones I'm willing to ascribe to them.

howdy from Texas snowmachine! that's a very interesting username bytheway..but I think you have such a powerful antidote to the monsters and that is laughter, it's one of the most powerful spiritual warfare weapons against demonic attack so it's a Biblical principle that you are using. I use it too.
I've also known fleeting black figures to be demons.
Such an interesting post, I hope it wasn't scary to write! Have you talked to others here on steemit who have similar experiences or who do lucid dreaming?

Hi snowmachine,

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I have severe sleep paralysis since a child... sleep paralysis is related to the sightings of shadow people as well as temporal lobe epilepsy. I have both... though it was overall a scary thing, I channelled as well the experience into art... So I paint the creatures I have seen, even if they're figments of my own fear. I even made an entire illustrated music album about it... it's called "The Underliving" (living but not alive) which release quite a while ago. So I always thrill to see other fellows writing about it... when this was a problem as a child there was no internet and struggled a lot, now I understand the physiology about it and embrace it and incorporate it into my own art. In fact if you google Shadow people many sites use my illustrations to "portray" them.

I learned to lucid dream as a safety mechanism but my problem relies in severe sleep paralysis though.

Congrats on your @curie by the way, really deserved

Once again, glad to read your blog. Came up on the Curie page--so thanks, curie!
I've seen the shadow people too as a child and dream a ton, but really do feel the figures were outside of my own creation and not merely a dreaming.
Like you, I have had and continue to have many nightmares and so I do my best to stay away from any movies/books/stories, whatever that highlights such as I feel I have enough of that on my own. There are times I can manipulate my dreaming (lucid) and others when I can't. But, I definitely agree that the dreaming is a lot of work, sometimes more than I do in the waking and that's a concept difficult for many to understand.
Really enjoyed your first paragraph linking the OKcupid's and general population linking of, "Do something you're scared of." :) And, how you explained your own relationship to mass culture.