Finding the Fun in Fear

Boo! Did I scare you? It’s October, and, with Halloween right around the corner, everyone knows that it’s spooky season. You might be getting yourself into the Halloween spirit by enjoying your favorite pumpkin-flavored beverages and sweets, putting up decorations, or planning your costume. And that’s all great, but the best way to get into the spirit of the season is to give yourself a good scare. It’s called “Spooktober” for a reason! It’s the perfect time to feel a little fear. Fear is often a learned behavior, and it’s necessary for survival—it’s how we keep ourselves alive and away from things that we know will harm us. When experienced from a position of safety, however terrible it might seem, fear can be a beneficial emotion and even … kinda fun?  

The first major benefit of experiencing fear from a safe distance and with a sense of control is catharsis, or the releasing of painful emotions in order to feel relief. Take, for example, watching a scary movie: You deliberately put yourself in a position to experience fear, dread, and tension, or you’re just trying to creep yourself out. Experiencing these emotions becomes enjoyable because you are still aware that you’re safe and fully in control of the situation. You can fully immerse yourself in those feelings but you know that none of it is real and that you can turn the movie off whenever you want. Feeling safe and in control enables you to work through the fear, the dread, the tension, and get to that feeling of relief at the end of the movie, with no risk to you. It’s a win-win.  

Similarly, spooky, fear-inducing stuff is a great source of distraction and excitement. I mean, who doesn’t love a good ghost story? Not to mention, it’s hard to be stressed out about midterms during those 20 minutes you spend shrieking at a haunted house, and there is considerable value in that momentary neglect. When we experience things that get the adrenaline pumping, we have made time to deliberately excite ourselves and release the nervous energy we tend to build up as we go about our lives. By giving ourselves more room to enjoy the ordinary, we can appreciate our normal days more because we are allowed to be excited. We don’t need to make our actual lives more dangerous or frightening to feel exhilarated—we can easily freak ourselves out from the comfort of our living rooms.

Aside from being entertaining and cathartic, like all forms of media, the bone-chilling and blood-curdling films so present at this time of year offers us something else: perspective. Perspective allows us to understand things in context, and recognize the inconsequentiality of most of our problems. While I may mourn the forthcoming onslaught of exams (can you tell I’m a little concerned?), watching a short horror film helps to remind myself that I’m not getting eaten by a monster or haunted by a creepy doll. Little blessings like that make it easier to get through the semester, and it’s worth it to give myself a good fright if it helps me get through the rest of the day.

Ultimately, while fear is a feeling we tend to stray from (unless you’re a big fan of horror already), it’s worthwhile to experience it—from a safe distance. With that in mind, I recommend taking full advantage of the spookiest time of year: Go watch a scary movie, visit a haunted house, or tell your favorite creepy campfire stories with your friends. But most importantly remember to scare the bejeezus out of yourself! Happy Halloween!

Featured Graphic by Anna Tierney / Graphics Editor