Understanding The Psychology Of Ghosts!

In this part, we will examine some of the more common reasons paranormal investigators give to explain why some spirits seem to prefer to stay earthbound while others appear to move on effortlessly. As such, this section will, in many ways, have far more to do with psychology than parapsychology as we examine the ghostly psyche and see if we can figure out what might make a person decide to haunt his old neighborhood when it could well be doing more interesting things with its time. In effect, we will be doing nothing less than exploring the question of what makes a ghost ‘tick’, which usually makes for lively debate.

While at first glance this attempt to understand the ghostly psyche would appear to be beyond our ability to hypothesize, I disagree. A ghost is only human after all, and we do know a few things about human behavior that we might transpose onto our ethereal colleagues in an attempt to better understand them. Ghostly behavior, after all, shouldn’t really be all that different from normal human behavior, even if the consciousness that powers it exists within another context of reality. Hopefully, that should be enough to help us answer many of our basic questions.

Ghost By Choice or By Accident?
Perhaps the first thing we need to do it try and determine what factors go into deciding whether a particular person is likely to become a ghost. For example, does becoming a ghost happen to everyone when they die or only to some? Is it something we choose to do, or can we be trapped on the earth plane and be impelled to roam the world of the living for all eternity? Obviously, we can’t know the answers to these questions with anything approaching certainty, but there are some guidelines we might use.

The first thing to understand about a ghost—and I’m limiting the discussion here purely to those entities we’ve previously identified as personalities (human based ghosts)—is that where human beings are concerned, not even death can change things. I believe that when a person dies, they move onto the next realm with all the personality traits, quirks, prejudices, biases, and a lifetime of accumulated wisdom—and nonsense—fully intact. Working from that premise, then, it’s not difficult to imagine how some people would either choose to become a ghost or might find themselves trapped on the physical plane by their own personality flaws. As such, we might assume that the reasons for becoming a ghost may be as numerous and varied as are the types of personalities humans exhibit. Lets look at just a few of the more prevalent ghost types and explore their possible rationale for choosing to remain in the physical realm:


The Unaware Ghost
The Denial Ghost
The Attached Ghost
The Jealous Ghost
The Fearful Ghost
The Melancholy or Sad Ghost
The Mission Ghost
The Goodbye or Comfort Ghost
The Curious Ghost
The Mischevious Ghost
The Angry Ghost

The Unaware Ghost: Many paranormal investigators believe that some entities may remain within the physical realm simply because they are not aware that they are dead. As such, they go on about their life much as they did before completely oblivious to the fact that they are no longer a part of the physical realm and remain that way until some sudden trauma or realization goads them into either remembering that they have died or demonstrates that they are, in fact, no longer among the living. This idea has been popularized by such excellent movies as The Sixth Sense and The Others and is a part of many people’s beliefs about ghosts (a perception Hollywood has done much to reinforce.)

I, however, find it extremely unlikely that ghosts don’t know they’re dead. Near Death Experience (NDE) accounts remain remarkably consistent in their insistence that even upon sudden and unexpected death the soul invariably detaches from the body and hovers about nearby, all the while aware of its surroundings and cognizant of the fact that it is no longer attached to its physical body. If these accounts are accurate portrayals of what the human psyche experiences at the moment of death, it seems that to not be aware of the fact that one had ‘passed over’ would be about as hard to miss as would be the loss of a limb; some things, it seems, are just a little too obvious not to notice. Unless one died in their sleep or was so inebriated when they passed that they never knew what hit them, I should imagine the one thing we could not help but notice is our own death, especially once one started encountering deceased loved ones and, perhaps, various religious figures. As such, I seriously doubt that any recently deceased spirit would be in-or, at least, remain in-a state of ignorance long. It simply doesn’t hold together logically.

That being said, however, it is possible that children or the mentally incapacitated might not recognize the situation for what it is and remain attached to the physical plane after their death. Ghosts of children are frequent subjects of a haunting, leading to the possibility that children who are unable to comprehend death in practical terms may well be too confused to move on after their demise. Death is, after all, generally considered a ‘grown up’ affair that is rarely discussed with children. As such, some may have no real understanding of what is happening to them and so remain trapped in a type of ‘sleep state’ until they either can finally comprehend what has happened and move on or are rescued by other spiritual entities whose job it is to look out for these gentle souls and guide them along. Such an entity would be more akin to an ‘immature’ or ‘childish’ ghost than to an ‘unaware’ ghost however, though, of course, such distinctions are probably more a matter of semantics. For the most part, however, it is probably safe to assume that most humans will recognize when they are dead and leave it at that.

The Denial Ghost: While it is unlikely that a mature and psychologically stable person would be unaware that they have died, it is entirely plausible that there could be those who find the idea so traumatic that they refuse to accept the fact and live on in utter denial of their new reality. While at first thought this idea may sound preposterous, it is not so hard to accept when one considers that just as there are people who make denial a major part of their life, it is only natural to imagine that there are those personalities who will make it an integral part of their afterlife as well and so will simply refuse to accept the truth of their own Earthly demise. Denial, after all, seems to be such a big part of what it is to be a human in the first place that I can’t imagine it wouldn’t remain a big part of some people’s identity after death as well-at least in some cases.

Of course, denying one’s death may sound very similar to being unaware of it, but there is a big difference. The unaware ghost allegedly doesn’t realize it is dead whereas even the most obstinate denial ghost knows, at least on some level, that it is dead and is simply refusing to acknowledge the fact. After all, that’s the whole point of denial; it is only necessary when one is aware that there is a truth that needs to be suppressed.

Now how this might work is a source of some debate. Some personalities may simply choose to go on as if nothing has happened and ignore every obvious sign that they no longer exist within a physical context in the process. This is possibly what happens to many historical personalities who refuse to vacate a particular location; they won’t leave because they can’t bear the idea they might be dead and so they remain, going about their day-to-day affairs as if nothing has changed. They are like the elderly Hollywood starlet who bemoans the lack of privacy her fame has brought long after her name has been forgotten, and refuses to open the door in any case because a part of her knows the adoring throngs of fans she so disdains will not be there. As such, they can be the ones who remain earthbound the longest, for human pride can be as powerful and dehabilitating on the other side as it often proves to be on this side of eternity, which can make it especially difficult to convince them to give up the charade and move on.

The Attached Ghost: Though in many ways similar to the denial ghost, this type of ghost knows and even fully acknowledges that it is dead, but is so emotionally attached to the things of the world that it refuses to let go of them. This is often their home or some place they truly loved, resulting in their energy being too enmeshed within the physical realm-their emotions and perceptions still too ‘earth heavy’-for them to move on (or, for that matter, even begin to explore their new dimensions of existence.) And so they stay behind, always hovering on the edge of human perception but rarely if ever able to interact with it in any meaningful way. To many of these entities then, death is seen simply as a tremendous impediment in their enjoyment of life that they do their best to ignore or work around.

Such ghosts also often remain around for years or even decades, so great is their attachment to the things of the world. Even if they can no longer enjoy the things they own or even be able to interact with their loved ones, it is still better than not having them at all (or so it might be reasoned from their perspective.) They tend to be the more possessive ghosts who insist that new residents leave their home or attempt to interfere in the lives of those they left behind, sometimes in rather significant ways. If strong willed enough, such entities may stay a very long time, usually not leaving until either their home has been bulldozed or so dramatically altered as to make it ‘unlivable’ to them. Only then may such ghosts begin to fade and dissipate, though it may be some time before they finally are willing to concede the futility of remaining behind and move on.

As such, people of a possessive or sentimental nature who are extremely attached to the world, or who are otherwise incapable of functioning outside of the familiar walls of the tiny world they have created for themselves are good subjects for becoming an attached ghost. Over-identification with one’s profession or trade can also produce this effect (ghosts of librarians or school janitors, for instance, are examples of this) and elderly couples and shut-ins who have learned to isolate themselves from the outside world especially run this risk, and so need to consider the potential repercussions their self-imposed exile may have in the next world if they are not careful. It is never helpful to attach great importance to anything in the physical realm, for it is a temporal environment that is constantly in a state of flux and beyond anyone’s ability to control. Attached ghosts are simply those individuals who have yet to realize that fact.

The Jealous Ghost: Though exceedingly rare, there are accounts of ghostly entities attaching themselves not to things, but to people, and interjecting themselves into earthly relationships, usually out of some misguided notion of possessiveness or outright jealousy. This could be anything from an over-possessive spouse that can’t accept the thought of their mate remarrying to a spurned lover who took his or her own life only to come back and attach themselves to the source of their unrequited affections later. Active only around the source of their possessiveness and then usually only when in the presence of that source’s newfound affections, the jealous ghost can be among the most difficult, frightening and hard to get along with of all.

However, while this type of ghost is very similar to the attached ghost in that it refuses to break its earthly links because of something in the physical realm it has over identified with, its source of attention is so limited and fixed that it can usually be gotten rid of fairly easily. Once the still living partner remarries (or otherwise makes it abundantly clear to the interfering entity that they intend to get on with their life) it will usually dissipate and move on to other pursuits (though not without usually loitering for a while longer just in case the source of their affection changes their mind.) In some cases, however, it is only the death of its partner that finally ends the haunting, meaning that if it is obstinate enough, a jealous ghost could end up hanging around for decades (though this would be unlikely.)

As such, overly jealous, possessive, or controlling individuals need to be especially careful they don’t end up stuck on the physical plane after they die because of their stubborn unwillingness to give up that which they don’t truly own in any case. It takes very little, it seems, to stay attached to the temporal realm, so one would be wise to do some introspection where relationships are concerned to see if they may be a good candidate to become a jealous ghost, and what changes they might need to make in their life to avoid that fate.

The Fearful Ghost: Due to cultural or religious conditioning, some personalities are simply too afraid to find out what fate has in store for them and so prefer the mundane existence of a haunting to the potential punishment a final judgment might portend. Often these are individuals who did considerable harm-or believe they did-to others and so fear being called out for their offenses and punished. To them, then, remaining within the comparative safety of the physical realm is their only means of avoiding this judgment and the punishment they believe they so richly deserve, and so they cling to the material world the way a frightened child might cling to it’s mother’s leg on the first day of school. In essence, then, fearful ghosts are doing nothing less than hiding from Hell.

It’s not just evil doers who find themselves in this state, however, but ordinary people who have been subjected to various fundamentalist religious teachings from childhood—teachings they are certain they have failed to live up to—and so retain a fear of being eternally punished for ‘backsliding’ or for committing some other real or imagined transgression. Guilt and shame can be powerful fear inducers for some people, especially among those who have grown up in a background of religious intolerance or maintained firmly held beliefs in such things as divine wrath, original sin, eternal retribution, judgment, and the reality of hell. As such, then, people who have had strong religious beliefs drilled into them from childhood and feel they have not lived up to them are good candidates to become fearful ghosts, especially if they believe God is angry with them and they have not had a chance to ‘repent’ or had their sins absolved by a priest before they died. Fear is almost as strong an emotion as love, and can keep one tied to the earth plane as completely as denial, possessiveness, and jealousy can, and is easily capable of making us our own worst enemy and more adroit at inadvertently torturing ourselves than any external foe—or Deity—could ever be.

The Melancholy or Sad Ghost: The fact that some people are so overwhelmed by grief to the point of incapacitation is a sad reminder of the power of unresolved loss to hold a human soul in limbo long after the body that housed that soul has died. As such, we shouldn’t be surprised when this type of negative energy manages to manifest itself without our physical realm in the form of the ‘sad’ or ‘melancholy’ ghost.

Perhaps the most depressing type of entity one can encounter, the ‘sad’ ghost is someone who is so overwhelmed by some tragedy that they continue to wander the physical realm as if in a state of shock that they seem unable to recover from. Suicides often end up as ‘sad’ ghosts, for the same factors that drove them to take their own life frequently keep them bound to the very physical realm they took such pains to rid themselves of. As such, they can also be among the most difficult to ‘rescue’, for they are often too self-absorbed in their own pain to either recognize the need for salvation or care about it. They truly are the most lost of all souls, and may require significant intervention on both the part of the living and other spiritual entities to pull them towards the light.

Melancholy ghosts often announce their presence by filling a room with an air of sadness or despair that can dramatically impact the still living in often profound ways. They may also be the source of many cemetery hauntings, for in their grief at their loss of life and happiness, they may be drawn to the physical remains of what had once been their only earthly source of joy. In essence, a ‘sad’ ghost may be drawn to the physical remains of themselves or a loved one in the same way a grieving mother is to the casket of her child. They simply cannot let go of their loss long enough to even notice their own unfortunate state, and so remain walking a never ending treadmill of pain, regret and despair.
As such, people who suffer from chronic depression or are suicidal need to be aware that they could be setting themselves up to be an earthbound spirit, as could people who have so made another person such the centerpiece of their existence that their loss would permanently cripple them emotionally. That’s not to say that grief itself could result in a person becoming a ghost, but the inability to come to terms with it that could do the trick.

The Mission Ghost: A generally more ‘upbeat’ and even lively entity, his type of ghost stays around in order to take care of some unfinished business that was cut short by their unexpected death. This ‘mission’ can be as simple as revealing the location of a hidden will or as major as trying to find justice for a life cut short by murder, but in either case ‘mission ghosts’ seem intent upon achieving some goal they’ve set before themselves and feel they cannot rest until they have been succeeded. As such, they will often be among the most persistent and frequently appearing type of manifestation, for they have important things to do. On the flip side, they are generally also a short term entity, interacting within the physical realm only long enough to accomplish their goal, after which they abruptly move on. As such, ‘mission ghosts’ are usually gone in a few weeks or within a couple of months at most.

A unique type of ‘mission ghost’ is the ‘legacy ghost.’ This is a personality that stays not to accomplish some specific task, but to continue to interact with the physical realm as an outlet for its creativity. The case of Mrs. Rosemary Brown of England is a classic example of this sort of manifestation. In 1964 this widow and untutored musician who possessed only the most basic knowledge of the piano began composing sophisticated works that she claimed were dictated to her by the spirits of Liszt, Chopin, and Beethoven (among others.) Over a period of almost ten years she wrote a number of unique and never before heard symphonies of tremendous complexity and professionalism in the styles of several famous musicians, pieces which were largely beyond her own ability to play and that were identified by several professional musicians as consistent with the styles of these great composers. Though there were critics who also contended the pieces to be something ‘less than’ these composers best stuff, the fact that an amateur piano player could consistently produce anything even similar to the works of the great masters is nothing short of remarkable, and may constitute excellent evidence that the personality not only survives death, but may be capable of returning centuries after its demise to continue on with its life work.

The Goodbye or Comfort Ghost: Perhaps the most common rationale for a personality manifesting to the still living remains the desire to say farewell. As such, the ‘goodbye ghost’ is a manifestation that appears—often only once—to either say goodbye to a loved one bereaved by their loss or to simply send a signal that they are well and have passed over successfully.

These manifestations can be as simple as turning on lights or tuning a radio to a particular station the deceased was known to favor while alive to something as dramatic as a full-body manifestation. Tales of widows seeing their late husband sitting on the foot of their bed or children encountering the manifestation of their dead sibling in their bedroom are legion, and even recently departed family pets have even been occasionally reported. However, these reports must be examined within the context of the many ways grief can manifest itself in one’s imagination to produce the very fantasy a bereaved loved one ‘needs’ to bring closure to a tragic event. Yet if all such occurrences are psychosomatically induced, they should be exceedingly common and, perhaps, even anticipated among grieving relatives, though that has not proven to be the case. Such instances are still relatively uncommon and, more often than not, entirely unexpected and sometimes even undesirable, thereby reducing the chances that such visitations are hysterically-induced hallucinations. Trauma and excessive grief may account for some cases, but certainly not for all of them.

The Curious Ghost: Ghosts that remain around for long periods of time and seem to be willing to appear to almost anyone could be caused by personalities who know full well that they are dead and are quite comfortable with the fact, but have found the ability to manifest so fascinating that they are choosing to purposely haunt a location-if not for fun-at least out of curiosity. Certainly the desire to experiment might be a powerful inducement to get a ghost to interact with the physical realm, their motive being not to say goodbye or settle some unfinished business, but simply to see what they can do. It’s not inconceivable that they may even be learning to manifest the necessary energy required to appear to us, honing their manifestation skills the same way an earthbound musician might hone his piano playing skills.

I’d imagine that those personalities who in life demonstrated a considerable curiosity about the afterlife or were of a scientific mind might find the opportunity to manipulate matter and energy from the other side to be too good an opportunity to pass up. Perhaps there are even paranormal investigators working the equation from the other side and are even now hard at work trying to demonstrate the existence of the spiritual realm as determinedly as some ‘ghost hunters’ are trying to do from this side. After all, reports of deceased paranormal investigators trying to communicate with their previous colleagues and students are not unknown, making it perhaps only a matter of time before the spiritual and physical realms get together to produce irrefutable proof that human consciousness survives the death of the brain that houses it, and so forcing science to start from scratch in defining what constitutes reality.

I would suspect such personalities, however, to be fairly rare and frequently frustrated in their efforts to get through to us ‘thick mortals’, and so wonder if they might not be prone to tiring of the game and move on to explore other realms of the spirit. After all, if they are curious enough to attempt to manifest within linear time and space, we can assume they might just as easily grow curious enough about other aspects of the ethereal realm to abandon their ‘haunting experiments’ and move on. As such, while curious ghosts might prove the most likely type to help us demonstrate the existence of a spiritual realm, they may also be among the most ‘flighty’ in that the very curiosity that makes them willing to try and communicate with us makes them equally likely to leave to explore other aspects of their new existence as well, which would at least be consistent with their personality.

The Mischievous Ghost: Similar to the curious ghost but of a somewhat more menacing vein is that which we call the mischievous or ‘playful’ ghost. It is different from the curious ghost in that it isn’t as interested in demonstrating the reality of the supernatural realm as it is in simply frightening the still living. It is as though haunting is one great amusement to it, and it will spend any amount of energy necessary to play the game for as long as it can.

Obviously, then, such ghosts are immature and childish (like the personalities behind them) and are comparable to the practical joker who thinks everything he does is hilarious and can’t understand why others can’t see the humor in his often mean spirited and usually embarrassing shenanigans. It can also be among the most frightening type of ghost in that it is actually trying to scare people (whereas most ghosts do so unintentionally.) This can manifest itself in something as innocent as making a chair rock, hiding a piece of jewelry or pulling the sheets off a bed or to something as serious as tugging hair, slapping, or even tripping people! Clearly, they are, at a minimum, the most difficult sort to live with for they want to make a nuisance of themselves and, in fact, go out of their way to make living with them almost impossible.

Additionally, being that these are very interactive ghosts, they may be the source of at least some-if not all-poltergeist activity. This is not a popular theory, however, for poltergeists are frequently though to be the result not of a ghostly entity, but of uncontrolled bursts of psychic or telekinetic energy put out by a particular living person. However, as with most ghostly theories, it could just as well be that mischievous ghosts are able to utilize the traumatic energy such a person puts out as a means of moving things; in other words, a nervous teenage girl may simply be the perfect conduit for inadvertently providing the very energy a mischievous entity requires to do it’s mischief, without which it would be unable to manifest itself. This would also explain why poltergeist activity frequently ceases when the ‘source energy’ (the person) leaves the vicinity-it no longer has a source of energy-or why it sometimes follows the individual to other places (the ghost is attracted to their energy and follows them.) Of course, this doesn’t explain why all similarly high strung teenagers don’t have poltergeist activity happening around them all the time (such activity is, after all, comparatively rare.) One possibility is that such ghosts are themselves exceedingly rare, or that people put out different psychic energies and mischievous entities are attracted to only certain types (or, perhaps, frequencies?). In any case, the idea that there are personalities willing to pull stunts on the still living should be no more remarkable than the fact that such fortunately uncommon individuals exist in the physical realm today. An immature personality is no more likely to suddenly ‘grow up’ once it is dead than a mature one is likely to revert to it’s second childhood once it dies. People will always be people, after all, regardless of whether they are dead or alive.

The Angry Ghost: While a mischievous ghost might be, at its heart, relatively benign and even potentially amusing at times, an angry ghost is another matter. Negative energy is a powerful force so the idea that anger, rage and hatred might keep a personality earthbound has to be considered. Certainly people have been willing to endure tremendous hardship and great personal loss in the quest for revenge, so the thought that an angry personality might be willing to endure the personal hell of an earthly wandering in search of vengeance is not difficult to imagine. In fact, it would be entirely consistent with what we know of human nature.

How the manifestation of an angry entity would ‘look’ and ‘feel’ is a source for considerable debate. It could be as simple as an oppressive or uncomfortable feeling one might experience upon entering a particular room to something as frightening as an air of overpowering hatred and dread hanging in the atmosphere . In more extreme cases, it may even manifest poltergeist-like activity and do such things as hurl objects at the observer or even physically attack a person, so the ability of an angry ghost to do real damage should never be minimized or ignored.

In any case, the angry ghost has gotten itself so deeply enmeshed within the periphery of the physical realm that it is truly stuck and, in some cases, may be entirely incapable of moving on to higher plains of existence (without perhaps considerable help from other spiritual entities.) Could this be one reason religion frequently teaches the importance of forgiveness and controlling ones anger? Fortunately such entities are relatively rare, but even so they present the greatest challenge to the ghost hunter, for they truly are capable of being dangerous, especially if one feeds into their anger by sending out the very same negative emotions they are sensing from them. Anger is a destructive force that grows more powerful with time and can only be dissipated through the power of love and compassion.

It should be obvious by now that there many reasons for becoming a ghost, most of them having to do with human nature and our base personalities. Everything from love and concern for those left behind to curiosity and immaturity to outright hatred for the living are all reasons anyone could become—at least briefly—a ghost. In that regards, then, becoming a ghost appears to be something that can be both voluntary and accidental, and in some cases may even be unconscious.

On the other hand, it also seems likely that most people will never become a ghost but will instead choose to move on to grandeur, more magnificent vistas immediately after they die. Of course, this doesn’t mean they are no longer a part of our lives. After all, a ghost is the manifestation of a personality, and that personality—and the person it represents—can live on and even express itself without having to manifest itself in the physical realm at all, which not only demonstrates the power of the human consciousness, but the power of love as well. There is no more powerful force in the universe and, in fact, may be all that truly exists within the context of the absolute.

Source: http://www.ourcuriousworld.com/GhostlyPsyches.htm/

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About Andrew

Co-founder & lead investigator of Paranormal Encounters. I've experienced the paranormal all my life, having encountered ghosts, angels and demons. I live in a haunted house and when not exploring and researching the unknown, I enjoy single malt Scotch whisky & potato chips (though not necessarily at the same time).