Why do we like to be scared?
Man among people
Fear is sometimes called primitive, and for good reason: it has accompanied us for millennia and played a vital role. And today he is with us, although often we forget that we can be afraid of something for real. However, once a year, all the worst nightmares come to life – and flood our streets. We asked the expert why we need this Halloween and why we definitely need to be afraid of something. At least sometimes!
“Fear is one of the most ancient emotions, and it carries an evolutionary meaning. If people were not afraid of anything, they would not have survived to the present day. Only because a person was able to worry and get scared could he avoid potential dangers, ”explains Maria Skriabin, psychologist and circuit therapist. How does this mechanism work and what does it contribute to?
There are not many hormones in our body, and all of them are responsible for our behavior, our reactions. Adrenaline is released during anger, during exertion, cortisol accompanies feelings of guilt. Dopamine is known as the hormone of pleasure, serotonin is responsible for activity and good mood. But they do not “walk” one at a time, but mix into a tricky cocktail, no matter what happens.
When we are scared, the body releases a sufficient amount of different substances to realize the action potential
“Absolutely different emotions are accompanied by the release of the same hormones, and our reaction to what is happening depends on whether our brain recognizes the situation as pleasant or unpleasant,” comments Maria Skryabin. – At the moment of real danger, a powerful process takes place in the body, accompanied by the release of stress hormones – for example, adrenaline. But with it, serotonin and endorphins are also released.
This mixture of hormones helps us realize the “hit or run” reaction. When we are scared, the body releases a sufficient amount of different substances in order to realize the action potential – to run away from the tiger or tapping its face ”.
It turns out that fear can really bring … pleasure ?! So that’s why the “horror” halls are not empty, and a romantic date, accompanied by viewing “Saws-3”, is doomed to success!
Safety is the main thing
Fortunately or unfortunately, today we are not so often scared. “Of course, we will startle and sweat if some dashing driver cuts us. But the chance to meet a predator, simply by turning a corner, is small, – laughs Maria Scriabin. “But we still have the opportunity to turn on the rescue mechanism, and it remains unrealized.”
Desperate – that is, civilized and safe – times require desperate measures. And if we are afraid, but we cannot beat the tiger – or the boss – we need to put away the accumulated emotions somewhere. For example, “take” them … to the movies or to a “scary” party!
In conditions of controlled fear, we can enjoy it. “Everything on the screen is scary, but I’m safe.”
“People like to express their fears, tickle their nerves in a safe environment. To give yourself the opportunity to be scared properly, knowing that there is no real danger, ”explains Maria Scriabin. “Because – let’s say it again – when we experience fear, in addition to adrenaline and norepinephrine, hormones of horror, anger and tension, endorphins and serotonin are also released, which make us pleasant.”
In general, in conditions of controlled fear, we can enjoy it. In addition, we remember that “everything on the screen is scary, but I’m safe.” We really like this contrast!
Kindergarten of horrors
Children love to tell horror stories to each other – and always has been. Remember how in the pioneer camp we scared each other with stories about the Red Hand, the Green Sheet and the Coffin on wheels? You may be surprised, but your child probably knows perfectly how to “call the Queen of Spades.” Why do schoolchildren, even younger ones, like horror films (the benefit of having a smartphone and access to social networks is their wide assortment)?
The fact is that any strong emotions are deposited in our memory. As for the child, his sensations are much stronger than that of an adult. “A chilling thriller directed by a group of teenagers, or horror stories, or a fairy tale emotionally read by mother, in which an evil witch kidnaps a child and everyone saves him, are all moments of vivid impressions that are stored in the brain by memories,” explains Maria Skryabin.
It is easier for children to remember vivid images – therefore, for example, Chukovsky’s works are so popular. “The images created by this writer are grotesque, they cause a slight tickling of the nerves. At the same time, the child understands that he is with his mother, which means that he is safe. After three years, the children begin to realize perfectly well where reality is and where is the fairy tale, what doesn’t happen in the world, and what happens, ”the psychotherapist recalls. Well, the “Cockroach” will not be debited yet!
When children gather around a fire or in a dark room, when they get scared and tremble with tension, they empathize with each other
And as for joint overnight stays with the obligatory call of spirits and retelling of urban legends, then they also have their own meaning.
“A joint experience of strong emotions brings people together,” recalls Maria Scriabin. – No wonder the newlyweds are punished to be together in sorrow and in joy. And if a couple has passed a lot, she feels unity. In the same way, children and adolescents try to unite among themselves with the help of different emotions, including fear.
When they gather around a fire or in a dark room, when they get scared and tremble with tension, when they share secrets and scary stories, they empathize with each other. Between the participants a connection is established. And the connection is very pleasant, because the feeling of belonging is accompanied by the release of oxytocin, the hormone of trust and affection. ”
Note the same applies to adults. Therefore, if you noticed a beautiful stranger in an amusement park, feel free to sit down next to her on some of the most risky roller coasters. You will leave them on shaking legs, but during these five minutes you will become best friends.
The day is approaching when the youth – and even not only it! – Dressed in orange with black, tattered with medical and terrible with beautiful at the same time. And if few people remember the religious meaning of the holiday, then psychologists have speculations on why it even appeared.
“Halloween is the day when we drive away evil spirits with the help of scary costumes, bullies and scare each other. In general, it seems to me that this holiday in the West was invented as a way out for fear. All these costumes, burning eyes of pumpkins help to legalize this feeling. Give yourself one day to get scared in a safe environment, ”says Maria Scriabin.
Every year before the Day of All Saints, disputes flare up in the domestic media: to celebrate or not? Should children be allowed to wear a mask? Or is it all not our way, but is it time to ban Halloween in general? Nevertheless, in front of the clubs on the last weekend of October, long lines of zombies, skeletons and Gothic princesses line up. And the children passionately dream of decorating the window if not with a real Jack pumpkin, then at least with a small orange candle.
The attributes of this day are both terrible and beautiful. But its meaning is that we can live our feelings freely and safely
Why do we – or all these “unreliable citizens” – so like the atmosphere of “Day X”?
“It seems to me that this seemingly alien holiday takes root in Russia because we also want to give vent to emotions,” assumes Maria Scriabin. – We want to freely say “I love you” on Valentine’s Day. We want to freely experience fear, the contrast between life and death during Halloween. Perhaps such a celebration of emotions is simply important to people.
Of course, the fact is that the attributes of this day are both terrible and beautiful. But its meaning is that we can live our feelings freely and safely – and unite with others in this endeavor. ”
Truly, fear unites!
About the expert
Maria Scriabin – psychologist, scheme therapist.
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