Psychiatry & Psychology--General/Reaction to clowns

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Question
"Some people love clowns. Some fear them. I feel rage and hatred towards them. This is not recent nor did I ever have a negative encounter with one. I recall when I was three I wasn't feeling well and I was crying. A clown offered me a sucker. I slapped his hand away and buried my face in my father's shoulder. I've never heard of anyone reacting to clowns like this.

Have you heard of this before?
How common is it?
What might cause it?

Answer
Hi, Darlene, thanks for your questions. You asked,

Have you heard of this before?
---- not specifically, but I know that people have all kinds of feelings, sometimes multiple, ambivalent, and conflicting, towards many people and things.

How common is it?
---- So I would imagine that it is not rare. We don't take surveys of such things, though. As I mentioned, people have their own unique feelings about things. It is not true that we are 'supposed' to feel any particular way, about anything. Plus, feelings change.... all the time.


What might cause it?
---- we don't really know what 'causes' feelings. Plus, there are multiple influences. Sometimes it is a simple juxtaposition of two things together. So, for example, you were feeling upset, and perhaps were angered by the clown's seeming lack of sympathy to your three-year-old needs. So, in that moment, anger became 'attached' to the concept of clowns, which you have carried for all these years. Another example is a famous psychology experiment - they gave a young toddler a bunny rabbit. Then they scared him with a loud noise. After several times of this, the boy became frightened of bunny rabbits. It was the mere juxtaposition of rabbit and loud noise that created the reaction to rabbits, and occurred w/o the noise.

Also, as adults, our thoughts can create feelings. So, for example, if you tell yourself "I hate clowns", often enough, you will experience that feeling when you see a clown.

Psychiatry & Psychology--General

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Bruce Borkosky, Psy.D.

Expertise

any related to psychology, especially related to forensic psychology

Experience

15 years as a licensed psychologist, 15 years in private practice. My practice began primarily doing individual and group psychotherapy, is now devoted to assessments, but I occasionally do take on clients in therapy.

Organizations
American Psychological Association

Education/Credentials
B.A. psychology, B.A., music, Ohio Wesleyan U., 1978 MCS, computer science, University of Dayton, 1984 MA, psychology, Miami Inst. of Psychology, 1991 Psy.D., psychology, Miami Inst. of Psychology, 1993 post doctoral training in Neuropsychology, Fielding Institute, 1995-1997

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