In the caves where I work, there`s one story I tell about two boys who got lost in another cave nearby, and who unfortunately died there. I always tell my groups that the two died of hypothermia, of dehydration, but mostly out of fear. Most people nod and look fittingly sad. Some people question me. “How can you die of dehydration if there`s a 90% humidity level?” is an often asked question. That`s something to do with the sweat from your body not having anywhere to evaporate to, but the panic and fear causes you to sweat more so you dehydrate. Though I don`t know the specifics.
Another question often asked is, “how can you die of fear?”. Their tone is often scoffing, unbelieving, as if I`m just looking for sensation and drama (spoiler alert: it`s a tourist attraction, of course that`s what I`m doing). I do often wonder at these people. What kind of life do they live, to not know how much effect fear can have? Have they no fear in their own lives? Have they learned nothing of all those movies where the villains play with fear? Have they learned nothing of governments through the ages, putting fear in their citizens to make sure they behave? It`s basic psychology: fear has the most response. It controls people, and allows you to control them if you know how to wield it.
I`m no stranger to fear, unfortunately. There`s the constant fear of never finding a job, of never getting my own place to live in. There`s the fear of not getting anywhere with my life. There`s also the mental cocktail for which I`m in therapy. There`s the OCD (fear of germs, in my case), hypochondria (fear of being ill), a panic disorder.
Fear is often underestimated by people. I envy those people. I would love to live with less fear of, well, everything around me.
Fear doesn`t only have psychological effects. Of course there`s the anxiety and the gut-wrenching feelings and the panic. But there are physical effects, too, both long-term and short-term. On short-term, there`s shivering and heart palpitations, a quick rush of adrenalin, fight-or-flight response, your body gearing up for both possibilities. On the long-term, it can cause lasting damage. It can kill people, it can damage them.
I suppose this is why stories of fear interest me so much. For such a common feeling, so often pushed aside with a simple “don`t be scared”, it has enormous consequences.
I often prefer stories that center around fear, and people (or beings) playing with them. My favourite characters in stories are often the ones either causing all the fear, or the ones tormented by it. The best ones are both. Take Loki, from the Marvel movies. He`s terrifying, a force to be reckoned with, and he definitely instils a lot of fear in people (at least the characters in the movies). But he`s terrified himself, too. Terrified of who he is, what`s hidden inside him.
There`s also the Nightmare King, Pitch, in Guardians of Childhood. This is another character that fascinates me. Someone who plays with fear, with nightmares, whose main purpose is to cause fear and destruction so he can reign. But also someone who is oh so terrified of being alone, of nobody recognising the fact that he exists. It shows in how adamant he is in trying to convince Jack Frost to join him. “Look at the things we could do together.”
Considering the amount of stories, of movies and games and books out there that focus on fear or play with it, I guess it`s a common thing to wonder about fear. People do enjoy letting themselves get scared, as long as they know it will end soon and they can move along in their own lives. If done well, they`ll have a nice adrenalin rush for another hour or so. It`s the same effect as rollercoasters and other rides in theme parks and carnivals. We enjoy getting scared, as long as we know we`re actually safe and it will end soon.
It`s fascinating, this obsession with fear. It`s so strange, the things people go through willingly. What is this obsession we all have with fear? Why do we seek it out?
I can guess at answers. I could look up scientific research. And I might do that some day.
But for now, I`m going to ignore the panic attack I`m actually going through that caused me to start writing this in the first place, and I`m going to continue reading the very angsty fanfiction I`ve found. It`s about fear, unsurprisingly.