Thrill-Seekers Thrive on the Scary
Exploring the 'dark side' may be a psychological need that's met when the scare is actually over.
Farley, former president of the American Psychological
Association, has studied people who have what he calls "type T"
(thrill-seeking) personalities. These men and women thrive on the uncertainty
and the intensity associated with activities that most people consider to be
hair-raising -- from riding roller coasters to bungee jumping. "Sky divers
will tell you it's the thrill, the rush, and a little element of fear that
motivates them to push themselves to the extreme," he says.
According to Farley, some people enjoy the physical sensations
that can accompany being scared -- from the adrenaline rush to the racing heart
to the perspiring palms. In his studies of people who thrive on riding roller
coasters, "there's almost nothing else, including sex, that can match it in
terms of the incredible sensory experience that the body is put
As for children, an event like Halloween can provide an
enjoyable and safe way to explore and experience fear, knowing that the goblins
and witches stalking their neighborhood are only make-believe. Leon Rappoport,
PhD, describes Halloween as something akin to an exorcism, allowing children to
work through and release pent-up emotions and anxieties.
"They're being given the license to probe at least the
superficial anxieties about magical transformations, which, in the imagination
of a child, are not completely foreign," says Rappoport, professor of
psychology at Kansas State University. "The experience provides a sort of
relief in much the way that an exorcism could be said to do."
The Scariest Films
In recent years, if you're someone who savors the
heart-in-your-mouth images of frightening movies, you've certainly had plenty
to keep you entertained. In 1998, Sparks conducted a survey to determine which
films people regard as the scariest they've ever seen. These so-called
"Seven Deadly Films" are Scream, Friday the
13th, The Shining, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm
Street, The Exorcist, and Poltergeist.
Of course, some people would prefer to completely avoid those
or any other scary flicks -- about one-third of the population falls into this
category, says Sparks. For them, there's no redeeming value to stories that
leave them frozen with fear.