Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Psychology of Fear

Still way too swamped to get much in the way of blogging done. Besides school work, I've got several writing related things coming up. I'll be giving a lunch time talk this coming Friday to the Entre Nous Book Club. I'm going to be talking about the Psychology of Fear for Halloween.

Right after I finish that talk, I'll be heading downtown in New Orleans to attend the Undead Con. This will be my first time as a guest of that Con and I'm really looking forward to it. The con takes place at the Chateau Bourbon Hotel and I'll have an author's panel on Saturday.

The following week I'll be attending CONtraflow in New Orleans. I'll be setting on panels about Robert E. Howard, Vampires, and writing. I'm looking forward to that as well. After that I'm going to take the following weekend totally off!

I'll leave you with a few definitions from my talk about fear.

Fear: a biological response of the body to a threat. Sympathetic nervous system activity (SNS). The FIGHT or FLIGHT response. Heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure go up. Sweating, butterflies, goosebumps.

FEAR is: more biological: Horror, terror, and suspense all contain major psychological factors.

Suspense: When something is about to happen. Something BIG. But not quite yet. Can be good or bad. Child waiting for Christmas Day. Patient waiting for test results.

Terror: When the suspense is dark and threatening. When what you expect to happen is bad. Since the happening is not there yet, it isn’t quite fear.

Horror: When what’s about to happens--Happens. And it ain’t pretty.” FEAR is always an element of horror, that SNS response. Horror also has at least a little bit of disgust with it.

Suspense is when the person says: “I just wish something would happen. Anything. I can’t stand the waiting.”

Horror is when the person: Wishes they were still in suspense because what’s happening to them is far worse than the waiting.
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36 comments:

Jeff said...

I never thought of the differences of those definitions--sounds like an interesting talk.

Charles Gramlich said...

Jeff, they're often used interchangeably but I think there are meaningful differences to be examined,

oceangirl said...

Love the definitions of the different stages of fear. Uncontrolled concern of a mother can turn into unnecessary fear.

Barrie said...

Fun defintions. Have a great time at the Undead Con. You are busy!

Cloudia said...

timely and thoughtful!


Aloha from Waikiki;

Comfort Spiral



> < } } ( ° >

Deka Black said...

Being you a psychologist must be a really important and interesting subject as writer, i think

Charles Gramlich said...

Oceangirl, a lot of fear seems unnecessary, but we're geared for it.

Barrie, thanks, and yes, very busy right now.

Cloudia, thankee.

Deka, I do a fair amount of thinking on it for sure. Hopefully my thoughts make some sense.

laughingwolf said...

good stuff, charles...

perfect topic for this am: heavy rain, some nasty wind gusts, water rushing down major and side streets, leaves blowing around, gray skies...

of course, with halloween soon here, most a propos :)

never looked at those definitions quite like you define them, thank you

all emotions i love to experience in tales i read, and try to incorporate some in my own...

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sounds like some fun in N.O. Wish I could be there to hear this in person.

Deka Black said...

It does for sure ;)

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Are anxiety and anticipation, or anticipatory anxiety as doctors like to call it, the root causes of fear, horror, terror, and suspense? If not, how do they fit in? All the best to you, Charles!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks for the clarifications.
Must be wild to speak at a convention!

The Golden Eagle said...

Interesting definitions!

Thanks for the post.

Erik Donald France said...

Sounds like NOLA will be rockin' this season of the Witch.

Cool on the psychology of fear. I'm reading about the psychology of religion, and there is overlap.

Charles Gramlich said...

laughingwolf, It's an invited talk for halloween. It was what they wanted to hear about.


pattinase, I'm hoping it will be fun for everyone. I will enjoy it, I'm sure.

Deka Black, Yep!

Prashant C. Trikannad, I think of anticipatory anxiety as largely being suspense of the dark sort, moving toward terror although not as intense.

Alex J. Cavanaugh, Was rather terrifying the first time but I've done it quite often now so I'm still nervous but more used to it.

The Golden Eagle, glad you enjoyed.

Erik Donald France, I've given a variation on this talk before, but more focused on writers than on readers, which is what the basis is this time.

BernardL said...

The Undead Con in New Orleans will be a great place around Halloween. I can only imagine the costuming. :)

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Great definitions you have there. I always liked, "it is not a fear of heights, it is a fear of falling". Have fun at your events!

jodi said...

Charles, thanks for that definition! I hate being scared and rarely am.

Kate Sterling said...

Interesting post, Charles. I'm currently in a state of suspense with a good deal of fear mixed in. Let's hope it doesn't morph into horror. :)

Ron Scheer said...

Day late and a dollar short again, but here are my 2 centavos. I think DREAD would make an interesting addition to your thoughts on this subject. Good luck and illuminate the heck out of folks.

cs harris said...

Sounds like you're really going to be busy!

Snowbrush said...

Your definitions describe a lot of my days!

eric1313 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eric1313 said...

I like to read Kierkegaard, dread is a big one for him. One of the major examples he makes is that it goes back to Abraham. That one day the Almighty may very well ask for His gifts back. And of course other issues. A very big subject certainly.

laughingwolf said...

what i surmised... appropriate :)

Travis Cody said...

Sometimes those words get interchanged and it's not quite accurate. Seeing the definitions written out like that brings the point home nicely.

Charles Gramlich said...

BernardL, Tis the season for sure. And one of my favorite times of the year.

Sean Patrick Reardon, exactly. I will talk quite a bit about “safe” versus “unsafe” fears

Jodi, I like the safe kinds of fears, for me anyway.

Kate Sterling, suspense can wear on one, whether you’re looking forward to pleasant or unpleasant things.

Ron Scheer, I guess I’d say that Dread is kind of terror. You go from mild anxiety about something that might be coming, to dread, to terror when it’s very close. Dread can simply be the dislike of the inevitable, though, an inevitable that’s likely to be painful but not life threatening, like a trip to the dentist.

Candy, I wish things would lighten up a bit. I’ve been working 14 hour days for a while now.

Snowbrush, I’m sorry to hear that, man.

eric1313, I think with “dread,” the potential horror is further away than with terror.

Laughingwolf, indeed!

Travis Cody, that’s one reason I’ll define them for this group at the beginning, because they are so often used interchangeably.

ivan said...

Horror.

over the past thirty years, I have, thought divorce, lost a spouse and hundreds of thousand dollars.

Seems like an extended nightmare.

Oddly the famous SF man Stanislaw Lem has twigged me to the observation that this amounts to a phantasm, an incubus common to men from his neck of the woods-- and as it happens, mine.So I
ask myself, which came first the phantasm or the loaded egg. The condition first, and then the horror of the actual events?
In my cups I imagine it's a dream, a nightmare and I will wake up one day among family and friends.
Migod, seems I'm living in a horror novel.

Charles Gramlich said...

Ivan, I generally enjoy nightmares. But they say you have to wake up eventually.

SzélsőFa said...

good luck with the session and i liked the compilation of these definitions. they made sense to me.

Charles Gramlich said...

Szelsofa, glad you enjoyed!

Mary Witzl said...

I love it that you're attending an undead convention after giving a talk on the psychology of fear -- that's priceless.

David J. West said...

I like those definitions-helps to know exactly what emotion I want to convey to the reader.

Greg said...

I like those definitions, especially the "terror" one. I never really thought about that before.

Have fun on those panels, sounds like you'll be busy!

Charles Gramlich said...

Mary, I move in strange circles.

David J., I guess there are other ways to define them but these work for me.

Greg, I'm sure I will have fun, although at the moment I'm feeling a bit stressed getting ready for everything.

Carole said...

Very apt descriptions. Which is the exact reason I cannot read horror. I can read suspense coming out my ears, but horror has to stay on the shelves.