Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain. —Ralph Waldo Emerson
Why Do We Like To Be Scared?
It’s mid-October, AKA Prime Time for goblins, ghosts, witches, and monsters. They’re everywhere—the sweet old lady across the street has placed a creepy glowing skeleton outside and I’ve taken down my summer wreath and decorated my door with the giant fuzzy spider that I bought at Target nine years ago. Why do we love this weird holiday so much? Why do we love to be scared?
We all know that our body pumps out cortisol and adrenaline when we’re afraid in a natural attempt to ensure that we’re ready to fight or take flight. Once the danger has passed, these chemicals leave us feeling happy and energized. But when researchers studied people before and after a frightening amusement park ride, they discovered that people who had rated the experience as very intense and scary also reported that they felt happy because they had challenged—and overcome—their fears. Even though it wasn’t “real”, they had a sense of personal accomplishment. (Literally me when I stepped off of Disney’s Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, a baby roller coaster regularly enjoyed by people who have not completed first grade.)
Being Scared Can Be Good For You
October is a prime month to remember that facing your fears can be invigorating.
Maybe scary movies and attractions aren’t for you. (Or maybe they are!) But perhaps there is some small fear you could experiment with facing in this season. For example: if you’re afraid of rejection, try entering a poetry contest. If you’re afraid of public speaking, give a short speech to friends or colleagues. If you’re afraid of the dentist, get your teeth cleaned. Wear that scarf that you’re afraid might be “too much”. (Don’t take it too far. I don’t want anyone climbing into any lion enclosures or base-jumping.) And let me know how it goes! I hope you find yourself feeling happy, energized, and powerful!