Fear helps us survive. It sharpens our awareness of potential threats and prepares us to fight or flee. If reckless teens seek out the adrenalin rush, more of us imagine threats at every turn. Overdone, the survival trait no longer serves us.
Halloween is a time to build tolerance for the scary we know to be safe. Horror movies do the same, though I avoid them. Susceptibility varies by nature, nurture, and age. The three-year-old frightened by Where the Wild Things Are will love the book at four.
Nerve and resilience grow through controlled doses of exposure to a false threat, whether it’s new technologies (my bugaboo) or singing in public. “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face,” Eleanor Roosevelt said. What better place to start than with masked strangers at the door demanding treats?
Photo by tracy ducasse.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.