Horror movies. Haunted Houses. Death-defying Roller Coasters. Bungee Jumps. Extreme Sports. What do all these things have in common? Fear, of course! Perhaps it seems counterintuitive that many of us are attracted to and in many cases, even enjoy being scared. What is it about certain types of fearful situations that are not only thrilling, but also downright fun? Why in the world would anyone enjoy having the bejesus scared right out of him, anyway? As it turns out, there are actually some fundamental scientific reasons for why sometimes humans actually dig being scared.
Fight or Flight: When traversing through a terrifying haunted house, watching a horror film or even riding a thrilling roller coaster ride, our bodies create the same adrenaline that occurs during an actual fearful or traumatic event, which creates notable bodily responses. Our blood pressure rises, our pulse increases, our breathing becomes more rapid and our palms begin to sweat. There is one critical difference, however, when people put themselves into a scary situation on purpose. Even though the body responds similarly during a planned scare as it does to a real one, because the brain knows that there is no real or actual danger, our bodies then can experience the adrenaline rush that comes with this type of controlled fear more enjoyably. In this sense, the feeling of controlled fear becomes pleasurable for some and for others it is almost euphoric, precisely why you’ve heard of folks that seek out these types of thrills referred to as “adrenaline junkies”.
Take a Walk on The Dark Side: As long as man has roamed the earth, he has had a natural curiosity about the darker side of life. Ancient man was notoriously superstitious as well as drawn to things considered to be dark and even macabre. He blamed most anything that he didn’t fully understand on supernatural powers or forces that were beyond this world. Even today, the inquisitive nature of human beings creates a kind of allure around those things that may not be an ordinary part of our every day existence. Scary or frightful stories, scary Halloween props or anything considered abnormally horrific sometimes have a legitimate and strange appeal. Ask anyone who has been stuck in traffic behind a car accident with significant carnage and mangled cars. When it comes to things we fear, we all have the potential to become obnoxious “looky-loo’s”. The uncertainty, suspense as well as the fear of the unknown can be very attractive, especially when we don’t really know what is going to be lurking around the next darkened corner.
Oh! What a Relief It Is: For some thrill seekers the true enjoyment factor comes immediately after the thrill or fear factor is gone. For these folks, the satisfaction comes in the survival of the scare itself and the absolute exhilaration of having come through the frightening experience. You’re glad it’s over, yet there might be a part of you that wants to do it again. Take for example, riding a fast moving roller coaster ride and feeling extremely excited, perhaps even giddy as the ride finally ends and you can get off. The overwhelming feeling of relief can be a rush in itself. During these self-induced scares, the brain creates a cocktail of chemicals that can be very intoxicating. Believe it or not, science has proven that in these types of circumstances, human beings can actually experience an overwhelming combination of both fear and euphoria--simultaneously. For many, this dynamic duo is the ultimate rush.
Halloween certainly doesn’t have the corner on the market when it comes to celebrating all things scary. Deliberately engaging in fright-inducing activities in the name of fun is something that many thrill seeking individuals enjoy year round in many facets of their lives. The Halloween season is however, filled with all sorts of great ways for you to scare yourself--if you want to--and more importantly, if you dare.