Fight or be afraid: Controlled fear allows students to experience an adrenaline rush


Why do people like to be afraid? It’s the tingling on the back of someone’s neck, the tightness of the muscles, the suppressed cry while looking at the screen through the slits between their fingers – it’s the feeling of being scared, and, for a reason. plain, people love it.

Halloween is a great time to dive into a controlled fear. For many, the entire month is spent researching activities that will put them in a terrified trance, from Ouija boards to haunted houses and horror movies. Even when fear already has a strong hold on life, whether in the context of a global pandemic or the imminent end of climate crises, there remains a deep human desire for fear.

“Some psychologists call this a form of ‘benign masochism’,” said psychology professor Linda Camras. “This is the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to master [or] regulate their emotional responses. It’s like a form of practice game.

Benign masochism is a term first coined by Paul Rozin, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, to explain that humans do not perceive any real threat during feelings of fear, but rather enjoy these negative feelings. . When a person “plays” with fear while being fully reassured that no harm will be done to them, it is easier to identify the ways in which they might react if a similar situation, with a “real” threat, were to occur. happen.

Jacob Reno, a former student of DePaul, said he searches for horror movies, haunted houses and roller coasters whenever he can. He said he even wanted to try skydiving at least once in his life. Reno said he enjoys doing things that scare him because he finds pleasure and an adrenaline rush when trying these activities.

“It’s the feeling of controlled chaos,” Reno said. “My body is able to experience these feelings in a controlled and safe way, which gives me a more complete life experience. It’s not really trying to scare me, it’s that I can live to tell the story.

Many enjoy the feeling of elation that arises directly after a controlled fear environment, in part because of pride in having successfully “survived” a frightening experience, and also because of the chemicals released in the brain during and after these frightening events.

Psychologist Christopher Dwyer said that during frightening experiences, people experience an adrenaline rush and release of endorphins and dopamine, which can lead to a “pleasure-filled, opioid-like” euphoria. Therefore, the overall positive association that many people attribute to the feeling of fear.

Junior Fabricio Navarro said that feeling fear serves as a distraction from the rest of life. He said he agreed with Rozin’s explanation of benign masochism and that the concept of fear in controlled environments is an outlet for the practice game, but he said his admiration for fear is rooted in finding a more exciting way to live life.

“Life is incredibly monotonous,” Navarro said. “Fear is one of the most difficult emotions to control and the most difficult to control. May be [fear is] the only thing that reminds us of being wild animals.

Although many people agree with Navarro, there is a sense in life where there is already too much fear. This applies to everyone’s life these days, especially with most people experiencing a global pandemic for the first time, as well as surviving in a time when climate change is increasingly relevant. as the days go by. Fear exists everywhere, especially now. People have been afraid of being near their loved ones, of living in areas where the earth is sinking, of living in a country where corrupt rulers put families at risk and are also afraid to leave because immigration, especially illegal, can harm them even more.

Realistically, now and over the past couple of years, people have feared a lot in their daily lives, no matter how continuous and repetitive their life may seem or seem in the past. Alternatively, to avoid feeling the effects of modern fears, most instilled by COVID-19, people can give in to controlled fears like going to haunted houses and watching horror and thriller movies. And while giving in to these frightening experiences may seem counterintuitive, encountering controlled fears can help people see the fake threats of clowns, jumping from planes, and fake ax murderers rather than the weird realistic threats of die of a virus, their home being flooded or see their loved ones evicted because of illegal immigrant status.


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