Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Why Does Fear Make Us Happy? by Elizabeth Alsobrooks

If you overheard someone say they had seen a dozen shoppers get hacked to death, their entrails hanging out, their skulls split to expose their brains, and their limbs removed by an axe-wielding maniac in a mall, you would be horrified. If they then went on to explain that they enjoyed it while munching on popcorn, you would think something was terribly wrong with them.  But the truth is that a large segment of the population actually likes to be scared. They enjoy it. The Saw franchise has grossed a billion dollars! We have created a holiday devoted to things that scare us. So what makes thrill-seekers enjoy being scared?

Well, the physical effects provide a reason. We have super-charged strength and power. Mentally, we have heightened senses and intuition as a reaction to fear. This increase in mental and physical capacity is an adrenaline rush, and we all understand what someone means when they say, “Wow, that was a rush.”

The primal fight or flight reaction to fear is an evolved survival instinct. It seems to have served humans well for some time. Though our ancestors needed the superhuman response to a fearful situation, these days those events are, thankfully, less frequent. So while we still get the flight or fight response triggered when we’re scared, our frontal lobe lets us know there is no real danger so we can better appreciate the fright.

Those who need even more thrills take up sky diving or bungee jumping, where there is real danger; but even those adrenaline junkies don’t jump off without the very best equipment and safety precautions. 

Psychiatrists also theorize that some folks who enjoy a good scare like the after-effect more than the fright itself. They like that feeling of having survived, of facing something terrifying and overcoming the fear, making them feel brave. Statistically more men than women love horrific events and thrill-seek, but there are plenty from both genders that enjoy a good rush and laugh after a big scare. As many horror films illustrate, going through a frightening event together can bring people closer. People who like each other bond and develop trust and those who don’t often end up hating each other and fighting about what to do next.

Whatever your fright level, be sure to enjoy the fun to be had this time of year. Pick up a copy of Tell-Tale Publishing’s horror anthology so you can read some horrific tales—including mine--to get your heart pumping. It’s soon to be available in audio too!


Francesca Quarto said...

ooo...that was fun! Never been much for slasher films, but loved "Kill Bill" so blood isn't an issue. Thanks for insights into something that's always been a curious reaction to being put into a mental state that raises the hairs on the neck and the great rush when you survive!

Francesca Q.

CJ Burright said...

Aw, Freddy Krueger - one of my favorites! I confess, I love being scared and enjoy the thrills, as long as there isn't a ton of gore. I'd never make it in the medical profession. :)

Diane Burton said...

Great post, Elizabeth. I'm the squeamish non-horror movie fan. I don't like to be scared. I remember watching Psycho for the 1st time and freaking out during the shower scene. BTW, I don't ride roller coasters, either. I know, I'm a wimp. LOL

Maureen said...

lol I love your intro! I love the psychological thrillers so much more than the "hack" (blood and gore) movies as my husband enjoys. Enjoyed your post!

Nancy Gideon said...

Though I enjoy tense suspense, over-the-top scares and paranormal, I detest 'reality' horror and violence. Those unsettle with the 'It could happen to you" fear. I remember going to see "Last house of the Left" with my sister when we were in high school, thinking it was a 'scary movie'. Getting dropped off at an empty house with all my adrenaline pumping made for an all lights left on all night event. Not a fan of Slasher flix!!