Imagination – The Dark Side February 04 2014, 1 Comment

Imagination is a good thing, right? We all agree that having an imagination is key to being able to think of new and innovative ways to solve problems, to come up with new ideas, from picture books to wedding cake designs, areoplanes to iphones. Imagination is a vital, very necessary element in life.

But what happens when too much imagination is a bad thing? When reading a ghost story at bedtime results in being unable to go to sleep, because you think the boogie-man is going to get you. When seeing a documentary about volcanoes results in months of bad dreams and an ongoing phobia (true story – my daughter saw the volcano exhibit at Auckland Muesum and got seriously freaked out. We live in Auckland, and are surrounded by cone shaped hills that were once volcanoes – this has posed problems!).

I'm sure most of us can remember a time when we have scared ourselves silly over nothing at all. If you are a Anne of Green Gables fan, you'll remember how Anne and Diana imagined the Haunted Wood.

"Diana and I just imagined the wood was haunted. All the places around here are so--so--commonplace. We just got this up for our own amusement. We began it in April. A haunted wood is so very romantic, Marilla. We chose the spruce grove because it's so gloomy. Oh, we have imagined the most harrowing things. There's a white lady walks along the brook just about this time of the night and wrings her hands and utters wailing cries. She appears when there is to be a death in the family. And the ghost of a little murdered child haunts the corner up by Idlewild; it creeps up behind you and lays its cold fingers on your hand--so. Oh, Marilla, it gives me a shudder to think of it. And there's a headless man stalks up and down the path and skeletons glower at you between the boughs. Oh, Marilla, I wouldn't go through the Haunted Wood after dark now for anything. I'd be sure that white things would reach out from behind the trees and grab me."
You can read the rest of the chapter here.

Crying Child

Having children with this sort of imagination can be seriously limiting. I can't take my kids to the movies, regardless of the rating. I have tried on numerous occasions, and not once have we made it through without tears and 'I want to go home!' wails. On one memorable occasion, we went to see Alvin and the Chipmonks: Chipwreaked. Who knew it had an exploding volcano in it! We didn't even make it through Tinkerbell. Movies are how off the agenda.

Playing spotlight in the garden with friends resulting in screaming heebie-geebies in the middle of the night, which continued for the rest of the evening, whenever Miss 5 opened her eye's and saw a shadow – roughly every 20 mins. Her poor little heart was racing, and she tried to crawl into my skin each time. Not much sleep was had that night!

This has also happened after reading books. We got as far as the first chapter of Wizard of Oz, were Dorothy's house was swept up by a cyclone/twister. Guess what the bad dream was about that night – and Miss 7 has put it firmly back onto the shelf and won't listen to my reassurances that Dorothy and Toto would be perfectly ok.

What to do about it, though! Do I emulate Marilla and force her to face her fears (I can't see this happening!) or do I continue to shield my children from things that frighten them? By shielding them, am I ensuring that the fears continue? Do they need to be exposed bit by bit to develop a harder shell? 

Do you have a child that has an overactive imagination? What are your strategies to help them over their fears?


Photo by:  Marco Nedermeijer via photopin cc