Do you like horror movies? 

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Today, with all this about Halloween, the day of the dead, or the day of the dead, depending on the place, I have been thinking about our relationship with fear.
Specifically with what we call "fright" and being scared.
Why do some people like horror movies despite having a hard time watching them?
Physiologically, fear is adaptive: it helps us to ward off danger and prepares our body for reaction or flight.
It is located in a "primitive" part of our brain, the limbic system, which processes the basic emotions (anger, joy, sadness and fear).
When we become frightened it produces immediate physiological changes in our body: metabolism increases, blood pressure rises, blood glucose and blood clotting ability increases, blood flows to the muscles (especially the lower limbs in preparation for flight), the heart pumps blood at high speed to deliver hormones to the cells (especially adrenaline).
Facial changes also occur: the eyes open to improve vision, the pupils dilate to allow light in, and our facial muscles contract, causing the typical "fright face".
When we have a "fright" the frontal cortex is partially deactivated: literally taking away our control and putting us in "alert mode", as this area is responsible for conscious attention, and for being able to consciously direct our attention from one thing to another, as it is partially deactivated our attention is then fixed on that which frightens us.
This same "fear mechanism" is also at work in panic attacks and phobias.
In the case of phobias, the fear reaction remains fixed on the object that frightens us, and we react with panic to these stimuli. It is difficult to rationalise, calm down and regain control of the situation by relaxing.
Phobias are conditioned reactions that our body has learned, and can even be induced, as was demonstrated in the case of little Albert in which the psychologist Watson demonstrated classical conditioning in a way that today would be morally questionable: he scared little Albert (11 months old) with a loud noise every time the child saw a beautiful white rabbit, finally only the presence of the rabbit (without the noise) provoked crying and fear in the child, he even generalised this fear to similar objects such as stuffed animals, beards, or white pompoms... Poor Albert, they created a phobia in the name of science.
The good news is that we can reverse the process by training: this is the basis of the psychological techniques of systematic desensitisation used to treat phobias. It involves gradually and gradually exposing oneself to the feared thing while practising relaxation techniques to counteract the anxiety symptoms. (Unfortunately with little Albert this was not achieved, as the second part of the experiment focused on reversing the process was never carried out).
In panic attacks, the reaction is not to a specific stimulus, but rather to the sudden onset of this feeling of terror. They usually occur in people who have been accumulating emotional stress over a period of time. In this case, in addition to medication if necessary (for example in very severe cases), we work on "distracting" the anxiety, enhancing the capacity for relaxation and emotional management.
One thing that strikes me is how some of us consciously like to be afraid in controlled situations, such as at the cinema, playing certain videogames, etc.
Personally, for example, I have a very bad time watching horror movies (yes, I am one of those who cover my eyes with my hands leaving a little space to see...) and yet I like to watch them, why? I think it's paradoxical: I think it has to do with the adrenaline rush that scares us, that peak produced by intense emotions, and I think that knowing beforehand that the danger is not real and that we are in a "controlled atmosphere" helps to make it something perceived as "playful" (roller coasters, skydiving, bungee jumping, etc.).
However, there are many individual differences: people who don't enjoy this kind of thing at all and avoid it, people who enjoy it to a certain extent, and "thrill junkies". But be careful, because playing with intense emotions can be harmful: especially if we have heart problems.
These individual differences obviously imply different personality types, so our personality plays an important role in whether or not we like strong emotions. In fact Eysenck, a reputed expert in the field of personality, related this variable to extroversion, and another leading psychologist in the field, Zuckerman, even defined a specific personality type based on "Sensation Seeking".
So, whether or not we enjoy horror films involves both physiological and psychological factors.
Are you a Sensation Seeker or are you more of a tranquillity seeker?
Remember that, like everything else in life, the fundamental thing is balance, tending towards one thing or the other but not being at the extremes. An extreme "sensation seeker" will be reckless, even putting himself and others at risk unnecessarily (a reckless driver for example).