Once during the Halloween season a friend and I decided to go to a restaurant for a meal. As we entered the small diner, we were startled by a wall-mounted mechanical pumpkin that jumped out at us while making spooky noises. It didn’t take long to discover that the pumpkin had an electric eye that caused it to automatically lunge from its hiding place whenever anyone came within a certain range. Once we knew its secret, what had been a scary moment for the two of us became a funny one. We laughed at ourselves, and, of course, everyone else who got scared by the “frightening phantom” that was no more than a mechanical toy.
It’s the same with our minds. A thought comes by and somehow sets off the mechanical responder within us. Until we understand that both the scary thought and the scared self it creates are just figments passing through our psychic system, we have no control over the initial scary situation, or the false self it creates to rescue us. But once we understand all this, we have a choice. When we realize that the “threat” never had any real power to hurt us, we are no longer compelled to produce an unconscious, automatic response of fear or anger.