Do you love Halloween? I know people who start looking forward to it on Nov. 1.
Unfortunately, I don’t share their enthusiasm. It’s not my favourite occasion. Maybe it’s because I’m not really a fan of wearing costumes or being scared, and I don’t need an excuse to eat candy.
With Halloween approaching, I started to wonder why some people love going to horror films or making their way through haunted houses. Why would anyone choose to be frightened?
Let’s start by establishing what fear is.
It refers to a feeling or emotion that surfaces when you perceive that you are, or may soon be, in danger. Whenever this happens, your brain automatically springs into action with the fight/flight/freeze response. It chooses whichever one of these three options it believes will give you the best chance of survival.
Should you fight the danger, run from it or freeze and hope it doesn’t see you? In my opinion, none of these choices are synonymous with fun. But this isn’t about me. It’s about all those people who deliberately seek out situations that fill them with fear.
As to why they do this, here are a few possible explanations.
Many of the typical scary activities that are associated with Halloween, provide what is termed, safe fright. Your brain is exceptionally good at what it’s designed to do. It can quickly tell whether the danger you’re responding to is real or imagined. This means you can have the same response you’d have to real danger, but with the comfort of knowing you’re safe.
When your body experiences the fight/flight/freeze response, chemicals are released to help you survive the perceived threat. They allow you to run faster, hit harder, or pretend you’re a statue for longer. The rush of adrenaline and the release of hormones like endorphins and dopamine can leave you with an opioid-like sense of euphoria. Add this to the fact that your brain knows you’re safe, and you get a winning combination that’ll leave you feeling good when your fear subsides.
Bonding with others
If you want to make friends with someone, share an experience with them. When you go through a challenging or frightening event, that bond becomes even stronger. I’m sure there’s more than one person out there who’s invited their crush to a scary movie or corn maze. Who are you, or more importantly who is your crush, going to lean on for protection when your hearts begin to race or you find yourselves screaming? It’s a strategy that’s been employed for generations.
Some people enjoy challenges. You might want to prove to yourself that you’re stronger than any external experience. Although I’m unlikely to attend a horror movie, or visit a scary corn maze, doing a parachute jump is on my bucket list. Why? Because I have a fear of falling. I know how incredible I’d feel if I challenged that fear and lived to tell the tale. I remember my friends in university persuading me to see the movie Coma with them. They promised me it wasn’t scary. That may have been true for them, but I found the suspense horrendous. I didn’t enjoy the experience, but I was impressed with myself for not leaving before the end of the film. This challenge may not seem as intense as jumping out of a plane, but I still felt good about it.
Humans are curious creatures. It’s one of the reasons we love to learn new things. We also like our worlds to make sense. That’s easier to do if you step into the unknown, to see what it’s like. You may choose to see Halloween Kills or Antlers, to get a better understanding of the appeal these movies have for some people.
I encourage you to keep these points in mind if you choose to enter the fear-zone not only this Halloween season, but at any time of the year.
Take a moment to reflect on your motivation and responses. It might help you make a little more sense of yourself.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.