Why do we like being scared?
For some, it’s a thrill ride at an amusement park, for others it’s a scary movie or book. During October, thousands of people will visit haunted houses. Some folks actually feel the need to risk life and limb on ziplines, bungee jumps, mountain climbing, and whitewater rafting. But no matter what we choose, it seems to be for the same reason: the feeling it gives us.
According to Margaret ‘Peg’ Burr, MA, MFT,
, “The hormonal reaction we humans get from responding to a threat or crisis is what motivates us to ‘like to be scared’. This is the same ‘fight or flight’ syndrome which guaranteed our survival in more primitive times. At the moment we are threatened, we have increased strength, power, heightened senses and intuition. This increase in mental and physical capacity is commonly referred to as an ‘adrenaline rush’.” Santa Clarita, California
Burr believes humans are drawn, even ‘hard-wired’, to this feeling. But now that we’re not running away from saber-toothed tigers, we seek other means of being scared. We crave the heart-pounding exhilaration of victory. We revel in the heady breathlessness of triumph. And yes, we giggle nervously at our narrow escape. It’s almost like we are genetically programmed to relive the trauma of our ancient ancestors.
But here’s what’s interesting. Why is it my son can watch any horror movie, no matter how scary or gruesome, but when a spider crawls across the living room floor in real life, he totally freaks out? A woman who races motorcycles is afraid of snakes? A kid who rides the roller coaster with his hands up in the air, shies away from the clown at a birthday party?
The reaction is the same: elevated heart rate, difficulty breathing, sweating, and the urge to run away. So why do we pay money to walk through a house of horror, teaming with cobwebs, slithering snakes, and giant spiders, but when we’re confronted with the real thing, we panic? Is it because we chose one, but not the other? Are these really two totally different reactions?
Is there a good scared, and a bad scared? What do you think?
Like thousands of others, she thought she could write romance, but soon discovered she was a dismal failure. She did increase her repertoire of adjectives such as throbbing, pulsing, thrumming, vibrating, hammering, pumping . . .
She resides in Atlanta with her husband. Her two grown sons occasionally visit for clean laundry and a hot cooked meal.
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