Love of Fear


Ruler's of Penmai
Registered User
May 24, 2010
HOW we love scaring ourselves silly! From a love of horror films to visiting spooky places; from extreme sports and endurance tests to vacations spent prowling around reserved forest areas, searching for animals in the wild; from recounting horror stories to speeding beyond reason — we do love our thrills!

Recently, arriving on holiday at a resort, we believed our cottage surrounded by a dense jungle, assailed as we were by the deafening sound of chirping crickets and croaking frogs. Tentatively, we stepped onto the balcony late at night, and sat in trepidation for hours, straining to hear a jungle call, a rustle in the thicket or the whisper of a slither in the grass. The glow from fireflies seemed like eyes watching us from the foliage as we scared each other with stories of reported sightings and hungry leopards snatching away babies for a tasty snack.

Having whipped ourselves into frenzied fear, though still not having seen so much as a jungle cat or a stray dog, adrenaline levels high, we retired satisfied for the night, hoping to be woken by a deafening roar or the jungle call of lesser animals as they sighted a leopard. What we heard next was the crowing of a cock at our window early morning and the chirping of what seemed like a thousand different birds. City ears unused to Nature’s symphony, we peeped out expecting a dewy jungle waking up to the morning.

What greeted us instead was a domesticated scene, a garden tended to look like a jungle, anthuriums and lilies planted in a haphazard fashion to give the semblance of a wild growth and a solid fencing that protected us from the dense jungle beyond. You would expect the first feeling to be relief — but no, we were disappointed, disillusioned, embarrassed and irritated! We realised we actually wished to feel scared and vulnerable and that was half the fun of the holiday! We knew the next night wouldn’t be half as exciting as the previous one, knowing ourselves safe from the wild…

What is it about fear that seduces us so effectively? Why do we love scaring ourselves, even engaging in challenges to our safety and life? If you are the kind to savour a hammering-heart-sweaty-palm experience, you are sure to find yourself your little thrills. People who don’t look for overt danger as in games, rides or drives, often involve themselves in self-destructive relationships or even manage to court the possibility of heart attacks through dabbling in the financial markets!

All this for the love of scaring yourself out of your skin! Consider this — the hammering heart, increased awareness, sharper senses and greater intuition — in short, the sense of fear gives us an instant rush of adrenaline. In a dangerous situation, opine experts, our physical and mental strength increases as we equip ourselves to face the danger. And this certainly boosts our confidence along with an increased sense of well-being when we perceive ourselves to have dealt with and got over the danger.

People who love getting scared are classified by Frank Farley, former president of the American Psychological Association as Type T Personalities, or thrill-seeking personalities. “They thrive on the uncertainty and the intensity associated with activities that most people consider to be hair-raising — there’s almost nothing else, including sex, that can match it in terms of the incredible sensory experience that the body is put through,” he says.

Surprisingly, whether the threat is real or perceived doesn’t seem to matter. And, whether we are dealing with a real robber or watching a horror film, or prowling a forest in search of danger, the way we react to the situation remains the same because our hormonal reaction is the same. This love of fear is surely a throwback to primitive times, when our basic instincts at the first sign of danger were ‘fight or flight’ and all our senses came to our rescue for our very survival. The experience of danger we court goes as far back as that and is not likely to desert us any time soon. So why wouldn’t we love to tease those hormonal levels within a secure, controlled environment such as a scary film, which we know must end with a resolution, or a sky dive that assures us a safe return? Or, yes, even a scary evening on a balcony where the fear is more imagined, than real?

Although it may help stoke the fear factor to know that often we can be mistaken about how safe we really are. Coming back to the balcony episode, as it happened, we discovered later that as we sat wrapped in imaginary fear, it wasn’t all that unreal after all… Wild tuskers had indeed broken into the premises the same night and taken off with, of all the things, the jackfruits!

And the next morning had one of our slithery friends cross our path nonchalantly… Amongst the shrieks and thundering hearts, our day was made!

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