I've had a problem since I was a kid with a single digit age. Back then, Freddy Kruger, Jason, and their grisly compatriots haunted me. I'm sure they haunted a lot of little kids, but they really wormed into my brain and set up camp.
That wasn't my problem.
My problem--all my own making, of course--came from my inability to turn off the bad stuff. I never learned to “look away.” If a television ad for Nightmare on Elm Street popped up while I watched Different Strokes or The Facts of Life (simpler times, people), I quickly turned the channel... and then turned it back. I remember snapping the rotary dial back and forth, catching snatches of nightmare fuel with each click.
Yes kids, televisions had a rotary dial back then:
I knew the commercial would trigger a fear response well into the night, well past my bedtime and sweaty blankets-clenched-under-my-chin minutes before exhaustion overwhelmed. I knew what would happen and my first response was to turn off the bad stuff. But my brain isn't happy with that. No, I've always had the tendency to turn back. I've always had to “look again” no matter how bad I felt afterwards.
A glutton for punishment, I guess my mother might have said. She dealt with the aftermath as much as I ever did.
My problem with negative “images” manifests today with Amazon reviews, YouTube comments, and just about anything on the internet. No good comes from reading YouTube comments. Ever. But what do I do? I read them. I digest every little piece and let the negativity and ick seep in. Then, in the night, when sleep doesn't come easily, I play those negative tapes and let the darkness pour through the tiniest pinprick.
The last few months have been especially charged with the election and aftermath. Freddy Kruger is a creampuff compared to the hate and vitriol dripping on some Facebook posts or comments on our local newspaper’s web site. God forbid anyone wander further afield into the world of extreme right-wing or left-wing “news.” It gets weird fast, people. Weird and scary.
But I can’t look away. The monsters no longer have claws, but I’m still pressing my eye against the keyhole and looking for them, checking to see if they are still there. I’m flipping that rotary dial, click-click-click, and finding more darkness than I should.