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  • Shihan Kendall

The Thrill of Frights


​"You gain strength, courage and confidence

by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.

--Eleanor Roosevelt

Why would we ever seek out things that scare us?

I know one of our young warriors was wondering that very thing during a recent conversation, when I confessed to her that I occasionally enjoy scary movies and television shows, including the one that had kept her awake for a week. Her cousins, you see, had shown her scenes from The Walking Dead, the result being sheer terror that had completely ruined bed time for her. Her mom had suggested that meditation techniques might help her to clear these terrifying images from her mind. The idea that I would ever subject myself to those images for entertainment, I could see on her face, was a bit nuts.

But it’s not quite as crazy as it might seem.

Of course adults (usually, anyway) have an easier time than kids differentiating reality from fiction, and are better able to consume terror for entertainment without losing any sleep over it. But why would week seek out terrifying images in the first place? The medical answer to that question is that our bodies like the chemicals triggered by the experience. A psychological explanation is that we actually find comfort in the sense of relief we feel when the fright subsides. Whatever the reason, many of us find a lot to like in a good scare.

More importantly looking straight at what scares us can be so much more than just a form of entertainment. It can be a way to grow, and a valuable tool for our self-preservation.

If faced with calamity, our ability to operate while scared might literally spell the difference between surviving, or not. So in our self-defense training, we confront some of the very real things that scare us. We contemplate the various threats that human predators pose, and practice our response. We look violence in the eye and learn how to master it. A warrior’s training, as it goes on, becomes more stressful and involves a greater sense of risk. But warriors themselves, through their confrontation of all those scary things, become stronger and more capable.

So as we walk by all the ghosts and ghouls and vampires and zombies that festoon our neighborhoods this Halloween, let’s take a moment to appreciate the scary, to look in the eye the things we find scary, and to see in ourselves all the ways we have been made stronger by them.


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