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10 Reasons Why Believing in Ghosts Can Be Good for You

Pondering the undead serves psychological purposes.

Key points

  • Although ghosts have never been proven scientifically to exist, their enduring presence in popular culture proves that we need them in some way.
  • For believers, ghosts are a kind of supernatural role model that can achieve enviable, impressive space-and-time-defying feats.
  • Believing that human spirits or souls can outlast physical death is a state of mind that engages spirituality, creativity, and empathy.

Are you afraid of ghosts?

If so, then you believe in them—which, in many ways, could be good for you.

From disembodied screams to Shakespearean specter-kings to white comic-book blobs, the undead have scared the living for millennia. A Babylonian clay tablet whose incised figures are visible only at certain angles is said to be the first known depiction of ghosts. Eidola, phantom lookalikes of the dead, were standard features in ancient Greek plays. Halloween aside, several cultures hold annual holidays based on greeting and feeding the undead.

Nothing—not even extensive parapsychological research at major institutions, including Duke University and the University of Edinburgh—has ever proven scientifically that ghosts exist. Yet belief in ghosts persists, suggesting that believers want or need to believe that such belief serves psychological purposes.

Consider this: Believing in ghosts helps us to investigate, however gropingly, life's most baffling mystery: death. Such belief also fuels our hope that some aspects of personhood, such as love and watchfulness and connectedness to a place, can outlast physical death.

Here are 10 more ways in which believing in ghosts can be good for us.

1. It spurs an adrenaline rush.

Feeling scared is literally thrilling. While long and chronic stress-hormone flows can cause harm, in short bursts, they spur physical and mental acuity and a sense of adventure, making us feel adventurous and alive.

2. It keeps us curious—about life, death, the unseen, and the unexplained.

And curiosity is healthy: Studies link it with such positive outcomes as happiness, optimism, empathy, academic achievement, workplace engagement, and overall satisfaction.

3. It's a form of spirituality.

Lacking the rules, rituals, and dogmas that define organized religions, belief in ghosts is a form of faith—in possibilities that defy physics, logic, and time. Studies link strong spiritual beliefs with mental and physical well-being.

4. It reminds us that we're alive.

Sure, sometimes life sucks. But what better reminder of how lucky we are to breathe, eat, and interact here in the known world than the truly-believed notion of restless spirits roaming hazy netherworlds?

5. It connects us with history.

Hearing that a place is haunted makes us want to learn more about what actually happened there that might have made it this way: Was this meadow once a battlefield? Such research makes us better informed, thus, more confident.

6. It makes us more ethical and compassionate.

Pondering spirits whose angst, tragic ends, and unfinished business trap them, undead, between two worlds helps us to think deeply about our fellow humans, alive and dead, in their sorrows and joys.

7. "I'm not alone."

The idea of friendly ghosts helps many believers for whom they function lovingly like guardian angels and invisible friends, offering comfort, companionship, attention, protection—even guidance through the impenetrable fogs of grief.

8. "No justice, no peace."

The idea of vengeful ghosts relentlessly haunting whoever harmed them in life satisfies our yearning for ultimate justice, for well-deserved punishments from which even death can't protect wrongdoers.

9. Believing in ghosts is non-binary.

And binaries are passé these days. We who grew up being told that our every thought and deed were tickets to heaven or hell can find relief in the idea of post-death destinies entailing neither of those two extremes.

10. It makes us feel special.

Inherent in believing in ghosts is the belief that we can perceive them. (If we thought we'd never see, hear, or feel ghosts, they wouldn't scare us.) Such paranormal perceptiveness is a superpower that sets us apart from the crowd.

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