What is Fear?
The pressure of blood increases, the feeling of your heart pounding against the inside of your chest, the sensation that it is vibrating through your body so intensely, it hinders perception of senses. Exterior noise become muffled under the pulses within the ear. Meanwhile muscles constrict and even strengthen as adrenaline rushes through the body. A survival instinct evident in all living creatures or more specifically a defensive response to something that most likely has not yet or may never even occur.
Phobias are a prime example of something that may create this sensation and usually are unfounded. The staggering amount of Americans alone, that are inhibited by some type of phobia is over six million and that reflects only those who have actually been diagnosed. What is even more troubling is that phobias are considered a neurosis, a mental and emotional disorder that distorts reality and partially affects the personality.
Stricken by phobias go beyond simply being afraid of the pain that will come if stung by a bee, that most everyone experiences. Being diagnosed with something such as arachnophobia, that may send your body into a paralyzed state, which requires a rescue by a family member or friend, when a spider encounter occurs. Claustrophobia may send someone running towards the stairs in spite of the fact, they may be facing a final destination on the thirteenth floor, in order to avoid that closed-in, closet we call an elevator. Some phobias can even imprison an individual, forcing them to alter their life to avoid their fear, such as; not leaving their home if they are the bearer of sociophobia. Imagine for a moment: how would you go out to buy groceries if you were terrified of people and social situations? What type of career would you have? Would you be destined to live a life of loneliness, with no partner? These scenarios may sound ridiculous to a lot of us, simply, silly stories however to some, the fear is quite real.
Stories are categorized many different ways, from folklore to news articles. What is most interesting is when these folktales become news articles, which occasionally occur with urban legends. A reporter tells a story of how bodies were pulled from a wreckage as a direct result of a drive-by shooting, sends chills along our spine. However when we find that the deceased were simply trying to alert an oncoming car; their headlights were off, then we have an urban legend that has transformed into actual news. This brings an avoidance from the general population, to offer a courteous flash of lights to someone who may have simply forgot, to turn theirs on. The feeling now imbedded along with this story in our minds demonstrates the definition of fear, something that may never happen, however we avoid the situation because of the possibilities.
Some of these legends that have actually happened are dismissed due to their extreme unlikelihood to occur again, such as the couple that reports a foul stench from their hotel room and discover a dead prostitute, hidden under the bed or simply being buried alive. The buried alive scenario, happened so often before medical advancements, the wealthy actually had escape coffins designed with bells, trap doors, etc, built inside, just in case.
Most urban legends such as; The Babysitter (that receives a life threatening call, that is traced from inside the same house) and the old classics like: The Golden Arm (the man that comes from the grave to find the grave robber who stole his arm of gold), The Dare (where the boy was dared to stab his knife in a grave, caught his own jacket and died from fear) and Bloody Mary (who will appear to you in a mirror when summoned) are likely to be just camp, fireside tales passed down to the next generation. While others may have held a little touch of discipline, through fear technique, with such stories as; Make-Out Point (where the young couple drive to a secluded make-out spot and the young man ends up hanging from a tree, swinging across of the top of the car). Regardless of where the stories originated or if they actually occurred, our curiosity and imaginations still entertain these monstrous legends.
Also sparking an interest and engaging our imagination, is the rush of fear, derived from the monsters in our lives. Myths, such as our very own: West Virginia’s Mothman or the Braxton County Monster barely fall short of sending the chills and stomach in the throat sensation as the musical shrills and deep bass, rhythm, that alerts you; Michael Myers is coming. “Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch - Ah-Ah-Ah-Ah -Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch” preceding Jason and his machete, afflicts the senses enough to make anyone want to run. We create these fictional characters as a means of not just feeling the rush but possibly also a way for us to find our inner bravery to face our fears. Could it all stem from childhood demons? The boogeyman, the ghost in the closet and the monster under the childhood bed, lead us to ask; when do we really begin to invent these creatures and why so young? If the brain learns through life experiences then how does a two or three year old child develop such grotesque, frightening monsters? More importantly, why?
Fascination with the feelings evoked by fear intrigue us as much as a drug. If we take a look back through horror movie history, we see the creation of Frankenstein’s monster and Dracula, however today our monsters are more violent and more gorey. Technology has muted our imaginations over the years and we seek to have more and more stimulation. Better special effects such as: make-up, surround sound, even adapting smell and touch through haunted houses. Searching for a way to push the next, great monster even further to the edge. We no longer put these creations on a level of physical harm but now allow them to twist our minds, like the followers of shadowy, figure of the Slender Man. Born via an internet forum, some people still believe he just may be real, when he was simply a creation by a man trying to make a mark on the world, by winning a contest on the internet.
The most famous source of intrigue and fear that has been haunting people since the beginning of time, the departure of the soul, death itself. The body left behind unattended, neglected, abandoned. The heavenly dreams for the departed soul is a grievous contradiction to the loved ones left to prepare and dispose of the cold corpse and hellfire being an optional, final, resting place, burns within the deepest parts of the mind. Although the hair and nails continue to demonstrate growth, it is an opposition to the state of the rotting flesh that cradles it. Simply now, an empty vessel of whom once was here, like the molted shell left behind from a cicada.
Maybe the fear of death is not completely in the physical sense or even the uncertainty of an afterlife, yet triggered by the thought of leaving just that empty shell, as we hope our legacy will live on. Perhaps, our true fear is that this life, is really all there is, once we die, we will be forgotten. It is a possibility, that if dwelled upon too long, we may begin to question, why even bother then? Therefore we will continue to question and develop our own ideas and opinions and long to leave our mark on the world, however not as an empty shell turning into a decaying mess of flesh.