The Fear Issue

I’m not really sure why people like fear so much.

Halloween is a big deal every year, almost as big as Christmas, and it’s all about celebrating the gory and feral side of us, apparently. I was wandering down Clarke Quay tonight and caught sight of fake limbs and people painting bloody wounds on their arms and face. The wounds look unnervingly real. The cobwebs can be pretty creepy. What I don’t get is, why do we relish in such a negative emotion? It’s like people miss the times when they were injured, or wish they were butchered up like meat, or like the idea of ghosts catching them in the dark. Is it just daring Westerners, or do we like to flirt with danger so much?

This is peripherally related to riding a rollercoaster. You get the same amount of arousal, the same trepidation, the sudden wish that you were somewhere else. You’re flung around in the air, at the risk of death (albeit a little one, but still present). You heave a sigh of relief when you’re back on the ground, and then you want to go at it again.

People in truly spooky situations would wonder why people are creating a sense of fear out of nowhere. The city people have to be too fortunate. They don’t know pain and suffering anymore, so they simulate the feeling to give themselves the kick. It’s like wealthy people taking drugs, or shoplifting. They don’t have to do this — heck, they will never have a chance or a need to do this — but they do it because of that. They don’t want to miss out on any experience.

Or to look at it from another angle, Halloween can be a form of catharsis. Laughing at your friends’ out-of-the-world witch get-ups can make you forget, for an instant, that you are really scared of witches. Surely there must be some theory out there that goes that dressing up or becoming the thing which you fear can curb your fear about it. I mean, how do you fear snakes if you’re a snake yourself? I’m quite sure R L Stine has played around with that trope in some Goosebumps books. There’s a great reversal of power when you dress up. People love to cosplay, and not always in the anime sense. Taking the role of someone mysterious and scary gives one a feeling of superiority. Sure, the fear may come back months later when you’re walking down a quiet dark street, but you’ll have those few months of immunity at least.

And of course, the most pertinent reason is that youngsters want excuses to do cool things with their friends. Look at all the pubs having fun with decorations, the waiters with facial makeup or donning masks, the crowd of friends in suitably thematic costumes. Halloween is a theme that’s easy to exploit and have fun with, and is very unique from many other festivities. Of course people want it to carry on.

And there really isn’t that much fear going around anymore, considering the amount of gore you see in video games and movies anyway. I think people are unnaturally psyched by it, rather. It’s only wimps like me who still feel a vague sense of annoyance at being spooked.

Boo.

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