The Fear Factor
Thinking about Halloween
by Helen Gwynne-Kinsey
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To encourage us to consider the positive and negative effects of fear.
Preparation and materials
- You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (The Fear Factor) and the means to display them.
- Show Slide 1.
Read out the names of the phobias and ask the following questions.
- What do these words have in common? (Answer: they are fears connected to specific things.)
- Do you know what any of the words mean?
Listen to a range of responses.
- Show Slide 2.
Explain the meaning of each word.
- Explain that fear is a normal part of being human. However, psychologists have identified that, at birth, we are hard-wired to be scared of only two things: fear of falling and fear of sudden loud noises. These fears help us to survive: for our very early ancestors, it enabled them to respond in a way that might help them to identify danger and either face it or flee from it.
- The other fears that we accumulate as we go through life tend to be ones that we learn from other people, or that have come about as a result of an unfortunate or frightening experience. Psychologists would say that fear is a vital survival mechanism. Being scared doesn’t mean that we are cowards; it means that we are aware of potential threats, which enables us to be ready to react in the right way.
- Our primitive ancestors did not have the knowledge about the world that we have today. They lived in a mysterious world that they believed to be inhabited by spirits and other-worldly powers. Sometimes, they felt threatened, and one response to this fear was to create rituals and practices so that they could have some control over the world around them.
- As Halloween approaches, we are reminded of one of these practices. It was believed that, on this day, the barrier between the spirit world and ours became weaker, allowing ghosts and spirits to enter the earthly domain. This was a very frightening thought, and one way to deal with this danger was to dress up as weird creatures and gather together in an effort to scare them off.
It is strange to think that this primitive practice is still popular in modern times. However, we should reflect carefully on our actions at this time of the year. People have differing views about Halloween and the traditions that are associated with it.
Time for reflection
At the start of the assembly, we talked about fear and how it can be a positive reaction. Unfortunately, however, Halloween can be a time when some people take pleasure in frightening others for no real reason.
Some might argue that there is no harm in gathering together at Halloween as long as we don’t affect others in a negative way. Whatever our view on Halloween celebrations, it is important to take time to consider our actions, and to be aware that there are people in our community who do not look forward to it at all. This is a time to think about things like trick-or-treat. Is it safe? Is it simply good fun, or is it an unfortunate occasion to scare others or make them uncomfortable?
You may wish to encourage the students to discuss these questions in groups.
Please guide our actions at this time of year
So that instead of the darkness of fear,
We bring light into the lives of those who live around us.
‘This little light of mine’ sung by Odetta, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2kDsqGeoLU (4.51 minutes long)