But as fun as those birthdays were, I wondered why being scared is so appealing this time of year. And when I researched it, I found to my surprise that it might have something in common with falling in love.
When you're scared, your heart beats a little faster, you breathe more intensely (got to get ready to run, don't you?), you begin sweating, and even get a few butterflies in your stomach. Take this out of context of a haunted house and I'd think you were in love. ;)
When discussing scary things, people cite the "adrenaline rush" that washes over their body making them feel stronger, faster, able to get away from a threat or fight it. But if you've ever been in love, you'll also recognize that ebullient feeling that you can take on the world or alternately, the need to run and hide from exposing your inner self to someone. And dopamine is what keeps us coming back for more. As part of our reward system, our brains will grab onto dopamine if we're newly in love or if we've been scared. Which is why people go back to those haunted houses again and again--they're getting the same hormonal reward that they would if they were falling in love.
Many people love being scared because it evokes the feeling of doing something adventurous, outside the norm, and even taboo. Hmmm. Sounds a little like an illicit affair you're keeping secret.
If you've ever visited a commercial haunted house, you know that your senses become acute. You're bombarded with sights, smells, sounds, and occasionally a fake monster that lurches out and playfully makes an attempt to touch you. Psychologists note that the only other activity that is as sensory--is physical intimacy. When you're with someone you love, you listen for their every cry, touch their body, and breathe deeply of their scent. Both circumstances trigger the body into cataloging everything from each separate sense in order to remember it. One so you can protect yourself from a threat and the other to facilitate romantic bonding.
So maybe the reason we like scary stories is the same reason we like love stories. They elicit strong emotions without exposing us to actual danger. You're not really in the clutches of a bizarre serial killer. Or you're not physically in the uncertain position of falling in love with someone that seems to be the opposite of your perfect romantic partner. It's safe to read these stories because they give us the same rush without all the peril.
And if you're looking for a story that's a little bit scary and a little bit romance, try out my new book THE MOONLIGHT MARKET. In it, a college senior finds both danger and love at a magical moonlight market. Come join Cory as he and Sanderson wind through the twisting, shadowed alleys of the market in search of love and understanding,
AIDEE LADNIER is a writer who loves quirky characters. You can visit her website at http://www.aideeladnier.com or meet her at some of her favorite social media sites:
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