What Are You Afraid Of?




Halloween is here. That time of year where the season changes, and we suddenly become celebratory of a certain kind of thrill and all things that spooky.   Recently, a teacher in a classroom asked the question, "Why do enjoy being scared? And why do we enjoy scaring others?".  

I find it interesting because in lieu of certain death, we really don't like to be scared. You don't ever hear someone say "Wow! What a rush! I was almost hit by a car! That was exhilarating!" And we could point to adrenaline rushes as a factor but when actual harm is present, there is no sense at all of having enjoyed that rush. Therefore, such rushes alone really don't hold the answer. 

Stephen King in an interview was noted as answering this question. He states that we walk around holding down our fears and not speaking them in order to be politically correct.  If we are honest, he says, there are things about people that even scare us but we dare not speak them.  King suggests that "scares" help us release what we have suppressed.  I tend to agree with this on a general level but only in that we have fears in our life overall.  However, this answer King gives still doesn't satisfy me.

Two of my friends said some interesting things around this question on Facebook:

"I just read an article recently. It had something to do with your adrenaline I think at least in part created scariness Is safe, I know watching a movie or going on a roller coaster is not really going to hurt me. A real life scary situation could."


"I'm not sure myself. For example, we could say adrenaline, but that doesn't account for the range of types of scary movies and experiences. I think people are genuinely attracted to certain kinds of situations that is not entirely related to fear, but rather excitement and pleasure. Torture porn for one, I never watch it but of course many other people do, and I don't think they watch it just because it is scary, but because they find that situation fascinating for some reason."

Brown Lady of Raynham Hall, a claimed ghost photograph by Captain Hubert C. Provand. First published in Country Life magazine, 1936

Brown Lady of Raynham Hall, a claimed ghost photograph by Captain Hubert C. Provand. First published in Country Life magazine, 1936


There is a definite reality that we know no matter how scared we get, going into it, we know we won't be harmed or die most likely.  When we look at things in our routine life, our situations can become a bit dull.  "Excitement and pleasure", even through a certain amount of uncomfortablity, bring a change we crave.  I believe, in addition to this, there is an element of power dynamics involved.  Forces other than ourselves taking over a house or body and invading everyday situations and switching up the power dynamic stimulate us.  For some, it may be a desire to conquer that power and for others, to submit and be controlled by that power for a sense purpose in a reality that often feels purposeless.  Things are alive, moving, mysterious and unpredictable in a haunted house than our own homes. We long for a change up even in power dynamics right down decor. 

We also enjoy and find humor in seeing ourselves in the reactions of others too who are scared but this too also has a power dynamic at play.  When we view someone making themselves a fool by being afraid, it gives us a sense of having a certain amount of one-up-menship as we stand outside of the situation and observe them get all goofy and filled with high pitch screams.  For example, I have a pretty slow, laid back nature now that I'm an adult. I believe this is why people love to get me on a ride where I'm screaming like a girl and highly expressive.  Of course, yes it has to do with in part that want to see someone weak and fearful just as we get so we don't feel alone.  This is a common dynamic in all human experience. We want to know we aren't alone in the quirky experiences in this life.  Watching someone else fall apart makes us feel less lonely.   

So...foolish mortals...share what you are scared of if you dare in the comment section below! he he he...if you dare!