The movie release of the Stephen King Horror It has become a box office smash and clowns being scary is back in popular imagination.
Clown phobia or ‘Coulrophobia’ as it’s known, can seem funny (no pun intended), but for people who have it, the idea of seeing a clown can be terrifying. While this might be the desired effect during a horror movie, it’s not great if you’re trying to enjoy a family day out.
In this month’s article, I’m going to explore what causes clown phobia and what you can do to reduce the fear if this is something that affects you.
The statistics on the number of people with a fear of clowns isn’t fully known, as they haven’t been many studies into it. Also, unlike some other phobias such as spiders, it is easier to avoid.
Fear of clowns or similar, has been around since Mediaeval times. The idea of demonic fools or jesters has been talked about in stories for hundreds of years. However, this fear has made a sharp upturn since the 1990s.
This has been mainly attributed to the original version of the same movie. It is the story of a killer clown that kidnaps and murders children, and it seems to have had a major impact on a generation. Another contributing factor fuelling this fear of clowns has been many books and movies based around this idea.
There is even the supervillain evil clown The Joker from Batman cartoons, comic books and movies.
The news has not helped with the growth of this fear either.
The notorious serial killer John Wayne Gacy became known as The Killer Clown and, in recent years, the have been many sightings in the USA and UK of people dressed as evil clowns standing in the woods and by road sides scaring passers-by.
This fear has even caused one well known fast food restaurant to stop using a clown mascot altogether (and he’d been on the decline for a while). Even Jonny Depp who, let’s be honest, is no stranger to dressing up as weird characters, says he has a fear of clowns.
With the high-profile platform that clowns have garnered in popular culture, it is easy to see how a phobia of clowns could become created.
Now one or more of these negative experiences in your past becomes connected to fear in your mind. This then creates a link, so whenever you experience a clown again the old fear becomes triggered and a link is fortified. The stronger the link, the more intense the fear.
We can also create the fear (especially as young children) from a fear of the unknown. Not being able to see a person’s real face can create the fear in a child, and seeing somebody with a fixed unchanging expression can be scary too. The out-of-the-ordinary dress can also have an impact. All of these factors clowns have.
So, if somebody has a fear of clowns, what can they do to change it?
If you want to stop your child developing this fear, the best thing to do is take your child to a show and have lots of fun with them around the clowns, this will create a positive association for your child. Remember this is prevention though, not a solution to a fear that is already created. Exposure therapy in young children can be detrimental, not beneficial, so please bear this in mind if you are thinking of doing this.
If you’re the one with the fear of clowns, the best way to tackle this is using similar tools to those I’ve talked about in previous articles.
Start by pinpointing when you first created this fear, and then look into what it is you’re really afraid of when you think of or see a clown.
It’s worth noting that our fears are like a horror movie we create in our mind. We need to form an image or video in our head to have this fear and that image will be a certain size and colour. We will normally have a soundtrack too. This is what we are saying to ourselves; our internal chatter, and of course these patterns create a feeling in our body.
Imagine how less scary horror movies would be if you changed the soundtrack or the colour or timing of the cuts. How would that change your feelings when watching the movie in your mind?
The link below is a re-edit of the 90s Horror Movie It made to look like it’s a trailer for a family movie and is a great example of what I’m talking about:
Know that this type of re-editing is something you can do in your head for your fear too. Imagine your internal voice when you’re afraid. It might be saying something like ‘this is terrifying!’ Now imagine turning down the volume and making your inner voice a faint whisper, or making it sound like a boring teacher. How does that change your feelings about it? Picture the images you see in your mind as really faint and shrink them down so they are tiny. As you do hum a funny song.
Making the changes suggested above will lessen the impact of your phobia.
You can try more processes to remove your phobia by downloading my free Phobia Breakthrough Kit here:
And the really simple solution… just avoid the cinemas for the next few months 😊.
Until next time, enjoy your life free from fear.
Christopher Paul Jones
Anxiety and Phobia Expert