Fears and Fear

An article about why some of us crave fear tickled my concern. It cited the research of Dr. Katherine Brownlowe, a behavioral neuropsychiatrist at Ohio State Medical Center. I googled her to see if I could get more information on her research. I wasn’t able to which of course does not mean it is not important. And too newspaper articles’ renditions of scientific research has been known not to provide full contexts and end up misleading. All that acknowledged, my concern is not lessened. The article was trying to give some idea of what it is that makes people seek what’s scary at times such as Halloween. Besides Halloween, which to my mind is in some children’ minds more associated with candy and fun than with scary things, there are haunted houses, and thrill rides at amusement parks. I admit that I can’t help asking whether this is the kind of research which could help to understand what fear really is, and wonder how the research project was designed. That was actually one reason I went googling and searching because as it stands it all seems like such a First World idea of fear, leaving out the experiences of billions who have no choice as to how they undergo situations fraught with fear. I keep thinking of people in Syria exposed to bombs, and other fear inducing realities. Is there no difference between someone deriving pleasure from seeing a zombie amble towards them and someone in a war zone exposed to torture, deprivation, ordeals? And what about the fears of being abused, persecuted? There are people being trafficked, raped, whose dignity is being robbed, people who fear for their life, their children’s next meal, people who die for lack of proper medical care. Wouldn’t there be something absurd, superficial, naïve, perhaps callous, about lumping the kind of fear behind pleasure seeking, and the kind of fear millions, if not billions, of people are forced to experience? I do not feel compassion for the fears of someone who willingly goes into a haunted house in order to have fun. But I do feel much compassion for those who by necessity are placed in fearsome situations. As a young girl I witnessed a riot, where besides other frightful things, many bullets flew, one landing less than a centimeter from my head. To me real fear has nothing to do with pleasure seeking. I’m sure both the journalist and Dr Brownlowe meant well, yet I am still troubled by what appears to be equating one kind of fear with the other. For if it is, it would reflect an insensitivity to a problem facing an increasing number of our fellow humans, an insensitivity which may contribute, if not create, obstacles to needed compassion.

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