HORROR: why can’t we look away?

Oct 29, 2020

Why can’t we look away? The hair on the back of our necks bristles in response to the horrors of the uncanny. Transfixed by shock, awe, dread and fascination, we can neither dare the dangerous darkness nor turn away. The mysteries of the unknown take us into realms of transgression and taboo. Enthrallment and abhorrence mix in encounters with all that is alien and dispossessed.

We face our own human monstrosities and the traumas that create them. We also meet the dark, nonhuman otherness of the collective unconscious; it threatens to possess us and can annihilate our sense of self. Whether we shudder in disgust, quiver in fright, or feel forbidden attraction, we are forced to more fully acknowledge the awful portent of ominous misfortune and confront the abyss. Only consciousness can break the spell. 

Here’s the dream we analyze:

“In my dream I was talking with my therapist on Zoom. The topic of our conversation wasn’t clear, but I had the sense that my therapist kept misunderstanding what I was saying. He then did the “share screen” feature on Zoom to show me that he had been keeping a record on his computer of the different ways that I was wrong about who I thought I was. For example, he said that I thought that I was a kind person, but he had determined I was only kind 40% of the time. As he showed me this, a graph appeared across my face, and I had the sense that he had been spending our time together taking measurements of my face and wasn’t listening to what I was saying. The dream then changed and I was outdoors standing next to a Native American man in traditional dress. The man was working with cloth. I approached him and he told me that he was working on creating a garment similar to the one that he was wearing that he was going to give as a gift to his son.”


Greg Mogenson. God is a Trauma: Vicarious Religion and Soul-Making (Amazon)  https://www.amazon.com/dp/0882143395/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_1WRMFb52PEKF8

Lisa’s quotation from Thus Spoke Zarathustra, by Friedrich Nietzsche


It’s time to join DREAM SCHOOL: https://thisjungianlife.com/enroll/


  1. Judy G.

    When you were discussion fear of demonic possession in Christian communities I was reminded of mind-control themes which shows up often in fanfiction and also in tv shows. In particular I’m currently watching a Chinese drama, Guardian, which has mind control as a plot point. It also interested me that these works are the types that cultural elite would look down on as referenced by your Philip K. Dick quote.

    Also, when you mentioned the idea of Pagan gods seeking revenge as an element of horror films. It’s my understanding that Lovecraft crated his Cthulhu monster when reading Revelations. He saw something in the text and thought “That’d make a great monster.”

  2. Todd

    Wow. So many thoughts… So a great horror film that demonstrates this psychological conception of possession is ” The Babadook” …. i won’t spoil it for you, but it’s a great film illustration of the exteriorization of essentially internal phenomenon such as you discuss here.

    My own mother suffered later in life from something that was eventually deemed as “schizophrenia” however, she was convinced by my father and others from her calvinist church that she was instead possessed by demons. One doctor seemed to think that her delusions “made too much sense” to be schizophrenia ….revolving mostly around being shocked or having neighbors shooting electrical charges at her. Her father, a lineman with a major power company, also suffered from PTSD acquired from a horrific experience in WWII was an abusive alcoholic who beat the mother and the kids…sometimes severely…for decades after the war. Unfortunately her worldview as too rigid and anti-science to let her engage in psycho therapy and unfortunately she was almost completely catatonic and drugged out on anti psychotics by the time she reached age 50.

    I would not be surprised if more extreme neuroses emanate from cultures of fundamentalism (in which i was raised myself in the deep south). So many serial killers seem raised with a fundamentalist backgrounds and usually also have a fraught relationship with their mothers. I think it’s because extreme brands of fundamentalism unify so many essential components to create a “perfect storm” for extreme neurosis: 1) a traumatic conception of God; 2) a rigid worldview with its self reinforcing system of reasoning that does not allow for expansion of the self but instead results in extreme forms of repression; 3) a vilifying and minimizing of the nurturing role of the mother and an emphasis on the power of the father; 4) a deploring of the human body and it’s functions which are deemed evil and “fallen” to be controlled or repressed; 5) an extreme bifurcation of good and evil; 6) a strong inclination to ritual as a primary mediator to the unconscious… without any real consciousness.

    When asked why Americans were so pre-disposed to brutality and violence (via slavery and repression of American Indian for instance), Jung once told a group of American psychologists that we should not be surprised because “Prudery often masks brutality.” i believe that what is happening at the individual level with people like my family is also at the root larger social problems that we now observe as the roots of a new emerging fascism.


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