Please Scare Me on Halloween!!!
What is it about Halloween that sends people of all ages to movie theaters and haunted houses
in search of the ultimate scare? There is a trend for cemeteries to open their gates at midnight on
Halloween so that people dressed in Halloween costumes can prowl through the grave stones. We put on the scariest and even bloody looking Halloween costume hoping to scare others.
Psychologists believe that this natural need to be scared has many factors, however, because the "harm" they seek is not real, the fright and resulting adrenalin makes it fun.
We Love To Be Scared!
Physiologically, fear is exhilarating and causes a "rush" of sorts, explains John Sasner,
professor of zoology, University of New Hampshire, Durham. The body responds to fear by
getting into the "fight-or-flight" mode. Adrenaline, blood pressure, and heart rate increase.
Muscles work faster and there is a rise in awareness. On a primal level, these things all happen to
put us in a mode to make decisions quickly.
While the survival instinct forces animals to challenge fear, humans often do so for different
reasons. According to Jack Mayer, UNH professor of psychology, "One reason people seek
scary situations is out of a sense of curiosity and a desire to better manage their own emotions."
Human emotions, relative to the emotions of lower animals, take place in a very complex
psychological environment. Halloween's scary events allow people to play with their reactions
to threat, to learn about those reactions, and to come up with creative responses to them.
Fearsome Halloween costumes and Halloween's scary events encourage people to play with
their fear and learn about it because, although the fear is real, they know at some level that the
threat is make-believe.
Otherwise, why would the best selling Halloween costumes be the scariest ones? Why would we
pay to enter a Haunted House, which we know is set up with bloody scenes meant to scare even
the bravest of us.?
As we get scared going through the haunted house, we know the threat is not real. This provides
us with an opportunity to practice feeling fear, so that at other times--when the threat is really
there--the fear will not overwhelm us.
A second reason people seek out scary situations, he says, is that, after experiencing an intense
emotion like fear, a person will experience the opposite feeling for a brief period of time.
For example, a skydiver who feels a rush of fear during a jump will report an intense feeling of
peace afterward. Similarly, people who see scary movies, wear the bloodiest Halloween
costume, and walk through a haunted house will be likely to feel calmer afterward.
We faced our fear and we won! The evil, scary thing did not get us, yet. Heh, heh.