53. Get Scared

Good morning and welcome to your fifty-third meditation. Do you like to be scared? Some people would scoff and say “of course not! Why would anyone want to be scared”. Well, this is precisely the question that today’s podcast will set out to answer, and in doing so, lay out a defense for the incorporation of a little fright in our lives.

First off, being frightened activates the imagination. When we think of things that scare us our minds become remarkably creative. When we hear a ghost story, for example, and really allow ourselves to suspend our disbelief and open our minds to the possibility of the supernatural, our way of perceiving the world changes. Reality is no longer such a fixed concept as we usually understand it to be, and this is fertile ground for inventiveness. How many times have you heard a ghost story or watched a horror movie and then been unable to sleep because you are busy imagining countless ghoulish scenarios? It may not be the most comfortable you’ve ever felt, but it might be the most imaginative you’ve ever been.

And as regards comfort, the discomfort caused by fright can be one of its most beneficial aspects. The point is that it is not relaxing. It’s exciting. It makes you feel alive by reminding you of your vulnerability, your mortality. Granted, to sustain that wound-up state for long periods of time would be undesirable; but then, long spells of too much comfort can also lead to boredom and depression. There’s nothing like thoughts of the un-dead to undeaden yourself!

Finally, and not unrelated to the last point, getting scared is fun. Especially getting scared with others. To watch a horror movie with a group of friends or in a movie theatre is to go through a kind of controlled, collectively harrowing experience. Feeling, and openly expressing, our own vulnerability publicly, as we do while watching horror, is not something we always have the opportunity to do. Where else is it socially acceptable to get in a room with strangers and scream? The truth is, there aren’t many venues in our society where we, ironically, feel so safe to feel and express these very real human emotions. In this way, fright is a form of catharsis – it lets us get out those deeply human emotions that otherwise might stay bottled up in us and cause us very real harm. And to experience all this amongst others is a great way to bring us closer together and strengthen social ties. 

So, fine. You might not like to be scared. But perhaps it’s time you reconsider. Keep it up. You’re doing great. Have a wonderful day.

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