I confess that I am not a big fan of Halloween, yet I am fascinated by its fascination!
What is fun and thrilling to one person may be highly stressful for another. However, experiencing fear in the absence of real danger has some clear psychological benefits.
It may seem like a paradox, but in making fear “safe,” we make it easier to relax into the experience, and in doing so, reset the bar on our tolerance for distress.
Much like children’s rough and tumble play, choosing to do something scary can be a way of practicing the experience of fear, learning more about ourselves, and reminding us how strong we already are.
When we confront our fears, it is always an opportunity for self-growth.
Under this kind of stress, our bodies and brains flood with chemicals. Adrenaline and dopamine speed up heart rate and pump more blood to our muscles and brain. The pupils in our eyes get larger to see better. Our lungs take in air faster to supply plenty of oxygen to our body, and we prepare for a fight, a flight or a freeze.
Because we understand that these Halloween scares are safe, we get to enjoy that feeling of being pumped up rather than actually having to fight or run away.
These situations can also calm the brain, leading to a re-calibration of our emotions.
So the context in which you get scared matters. You can’t control your body’s reaction, but you can control how you think about what your body feels.
When you have a surge of adrenaline followed by the realization that it’s all in good fun, it can relax you.
But if you’ve got a history of heart problems or a predisposition towards anxiety, maybe pick a calmer form of fun.