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TheRootDC
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Posted at 10:10 AM ET, 07/26/2012

Colorado theater shootings: Resisting cinemaphobia

Reynolds is an ordained minister, a columnist for TheRootDC and the author of six books, including “Out of Hell and Living Well, Healing From the Inside Out.” She is a former editor and columnist for USA Today.


James E. Holmes is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder, and could also face additional counts of aggravated assault and weapons violations stemming from a mass shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., that killed 12 and injured dozens of others. (AP Photo/Denver Post, RJ Sangosti, Pool) (James Holmes at Arapahoe County Justice Center. | AP)
Despite reports of copy-cat threats, I am going to be the hero of my own drama. I am going to drag myself into a theater to see the last installment of the Batman trilogy with the expectation that I will emerge alive.

I am going to fight the villain in my mind that warns if I enter a darkened theater to see “The Dark Knight Rises,” I might end up a casualty. James Holmes reportedly told police he was the “Joker” and is accused of gunning down 12 people at a midnight showing of the film in Aurora, Colo., last week.

For anyone who has ever suffered from phobias, panic attacks of doom, dread of death or nightmares from over-identifying with victims of horrific crimes, you know we have to beat down every menacing scary thought before such feelings turn into full-fledged horror that can take over our lives. For me, the massacre in Aurora qualifies as one of those events.

In years past, movies such as “The Birds,” the 1963 suspense/horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock in which violent flocks attack a town, left some of us queasy about the feathered creatures overhead. Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” with its bloody shower killing, gave us an irrational fear of bathing, too. If those scenes can produce such phobias, imagine what the mind can conjure up when death leaps from the screen and into the movie seats.

In fact, phobias can result from something far less cataclysmic than a massacre during a movie.

“It is natural to feel some anxiety or nervousness about attending a movie after such a disastrous event like Aurora,”said Jan Hutchinson, a Washington area psychiatrist. “But to vow never to attend a movie because of one event is irrational. And the only way to rid yourself of a phobia is to do whatever you are afraid of. Ninety-nine percent of the time, you will be fine.”

I suffer from gephyrophobia, a fear of crossing bridges. The Wilson Bridge is a breeze, but the tall, four-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge, one of the world’s largest when it opened, exposes drivers to a watery abyss that is so terrorizing to people like me that scores of us pay drivers to take us across.

This fear of bridges started because of a joke. In 1983, I was driving across it, and my friend joked that she thought I was going to drive off the bridge, recalling news reporter Jessica Savitch. When I heard that, I looked at the water and my heart pounded, my knees shook and my feet froze on the accelerator. I had an overwhelming desire to get out of the car and start running. To this day, I still can’t drive across it, and an accident a few years ago — a truck driver plunged off the bridge — confirmed my worst fears.

There are more than 500 types of phobia. But we must not allow enough worry to creep into our minds, where an alleged gunman can imbed another phobia in our mental lexicon, such as an irrational fear of movie-going — a source of positive escapism and family entertainment.

According to Hutchinson, in the past 29 years I could have rid myself of my bridge fear simply by driving across one, which in my mind still means driving off it. Too late for that. What I can do now is aggressively resist this creeping anxiety each time I think about the massacre in the Aurora theater. this anxiety, if prolonged, could turn into full-blast cinemaphobia. “Dark Knight” is a must see for me, only because of what it means not to see it.

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By  |  10:10 AM ET, 07/26/2012

 
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