Ifat Glassman

Being traumatized by a scary movie

26 posts in this topic

A few months ago (and up until now) I noticed something very weird about myself.

It would sound really funny, but I react to horror movies like a 5 years old would. :D

It all started when I went to the theater to watch "I am legend". It was a late night hour, I was alone and exhausted that day. From the poster it seemed like a nice movie about some guy alone on a journey... or something like that. So I went to see it. I was more relaxed than normally when I was watching. I have not watched a movie for probably a year or two prior to that, and I just leaned back and relaxed.

The movie started out nicely, Mr. Will Smith out playing golf in the sunlight with his dog... here and there there are hints of something gone wrong in the world, but I don't yet see anything really bad. At some point, in the second half of the movie, things unexpectedly turned REALLY scary. All of a sudden, there are zombie monsters, that look like humans stripped from their flesh. They live in the darkness and scream at night, and they chase you, and if they get you - you will suffer horrible death.

And then the scene when they came attacking his house... I don't recall feeling so afraid for years... not since my childhood. When I finally gone home, I felt... as weird as it may sound... traumatized.

For months afterward, I was afraid to go into dark places. I was afraid of walking into the isolated, small bathroom, I was afraid of opening doors because of what I might find on the other room... :lol:

I even had to lock my room to feel really safe going to sleep.

In other words... I was back to the state of a 5 years old.

Only after 3-4 months or so I came back to normal and stopped having those fears. But even now, if I see something scary on TV it has an abnormal influence over me.

I was afraid in this way when I was a child, but when I grew up, I watched horror movies and it didn't have any influence like that. One example is I watched "The ring" which was the scariest, nastiest horror movie I ever saw, and I did not have much side-effects afterwards.

What is the reason for this weird phenomenon? It could be relevant to know that in the last few years (~5) before watching "I am legend" I was barely watching any TV at all. And also that I react to T.V. rather strongly, even when it's not scary. Sad or happy things can make me very sad/happy, etc'. (though not nearly as strong or lasting as fear-effects).

Has anyone here had something like this? And what is the explanation for this weird childhood comeback?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A possible answer might be the fact that you were under excessive stress, as you mentioned you were "exhausted." Studies have show that stress can produce enduring physical changes in dopamine neurons that make them hypersensitive to subsequent exposures of stress. Stress can also cause the secretion of certain adrenal gland hormones, that in animal testing showed that excessive hormonal release caused the destruction of neurons in the hippocampus, the brain area important for memory. These things combined with a humans ability to recall from memory past stressful events may be what causes a person to experience stress over and over again even when the situation is not exactly the same. In other words, the sights that you saw on the screen might have reminded you of past experiences that along with your state of stressfulness cause you to release hormones causing a similar sensation and reaction to what you felt as a child.

Just some thoughts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It sounds like it could be any number of things. As Ray says, stress could have triggered a stronger reaction than you normally would have had. Or maybe there was something about the plot that struck a special chord. I have nightmares occasionally, and I'm sure if I saw one on the big screen that would freak me out. Or maybe, as you imply, the time away from the TV and movies just made you oversensitive.

I've found that two things help me whenever I have a painful experience. The first is to form positive associations to crowd out the bad. The idea is that after watching the movie, you had formed strong emotional associations between small, dark rooms, opening doors etc. and monsters. This means when you come to a door, the first thing that comes to mind is fear of what may be behind it. What you need is more subconscious "links" so that your mind doesn't automatically jump to that emotion anymore. Maybe have a friend over? When they leave, you'll have fresh, positive memories in the mix.

And of course talking about it with someone helps. This "objectifies" the fear, taking it out of your head where it seems in control, and treats it like any other problem to be solved. Also since you know there are no zombies out there, just speaking the fear may sound ridiculous enough to dispel its power.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
A possible answer might be the fact that you were under excessive stress, as you mentioned you were "exhausted." Studies have show that stress can produce enduring physical changes in dopamine neurons that make them hypersensitive to subsequent exposures of stress. Stress can also cause the secretion of certain adrenal gland hormones, that in animal testing showed that excessive hormonal release caused the destruction of neurons in the hippocampus, the brain area important for memory. These things combined with a humans ability to recall from memory past stressful events may be what causes a person to experience stress over and over again even when the situation is not exactly the same. In other words, the sights that you saw on the screen might have reminded you of past experiences that along with your state of stressfulness cause you to release hormones causing a similar sensation and reaction to what you felt as a child.

Just some thoughts.

This was really fascinating but part of it confuses me. If stress can produce permanent physical changes that could perhaps be debilitating in a later stressful situation, would this not severely affect people who are in the military for long periods of time?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I was a teenager, I went to see a couple of horror movies. The Creature Walks Among Us" and the 1955 version of Dracula. I was determined not to be freaked out by such irrational stuff, but it wasn't easy. Here are some of my thoughts and what I did to keep my composure. The single biggest item to get control of, is your imagination. It is your imagination that is intended to be captured by the film makers, and they employ every trick in the book (e.g. Hitchcock) to run away with it.

So, how do you wrest your imagination back into your control then? My trick back then, was to think about other things, such as, the particular stage arrangement in view, where was the camera placed, and how have the lighting fellows arranged the shadows. In general then, concentrate on something else, even the fact that you are in a theatre, look around at other people. When your focus is not where the director wants it, he will have a hard time controlling your imagination. After the movie, go over the scary scenes in your mind, and then focus back on the room you are in. Do this switching over and over until it is automatic. When 'back in the room', consider the irrationality of the scenes as well, because it is not pleasant to be "scared of the dark."

I have now reached a stage where I find it difficult to LET the director have my imagination in unrealistic movies, although I am a moist eye in the romantic and heroic episodes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, all these are great advices.

A possible answer might be the fact that you were under excessive stress, as you mentioned you were "exhausted." Studies have show that stress can produce enduring physical changes in dopamine neurons that make them hypersensitive to subsequent exposures of stress. Stress can also cause the secretion of certain adrenal gland hormones, that in animal testing showed that excessive hormonal release caused the destruction of neurons in the hippocampus, the brain area important for memory. These things combined with a humans ability to recall from memory past stressful events may be what causes a person to experience stress over and over again even when the situation is not exactly the same. In other words, the sights that you saw on the screen might have reminded you of past experiences that along with your state of stressfulness cause you to release hormones causing a similar sensation and reaction to what you felt as a child.

Just some thoughts.

That's very very interesting. I think this could explain my hyper-sensitivity. Because my 4 years of college were very stressful. (Even though on that particular evening I was very relaxed).

Here is another interesting experiment though: A bunch of baby rats were exposed to stressful conditions (flashing light), subsequently one group was sent back to the care of their mother, who licked and comforted them, and the others were left alone. It was discovered that the ones that were brought back to their moms had sub-normal hormonal reaction to stress. They did not produce as much stress hormones as other rats. And the group that was exposed to stress without having a mother's comfort, had over-reaction to stress (they produced more stress hormones in a reaction to future stressful situation).

So it seems like it's not the exposure to stress by itself that makes a difference, it's how the animals learns to deal with stress, or to associate its meaning.

This is something that is also easy to understand from human experience.

note: I'm not sure I remember the details of the experiment perfectly well, but I remember the meaning. I hope it's good enough not to create any distortions in the facts.

I've found that two things help me whenever I have a painful experience. The first is to form positive associations to crowd out the bad. The idea is that after watching the movie, you had formed strong emotional associations between small, dark rooms, opening doors etc. and monsters. This means when you come to a door, the first thing that comes to mind is fear of what may be behind it. What you need is more subconscious "links" so that your mind doesn't automatically jump to that emotion anymore. Maybe have a friend over? When they leave, you'll have fresh, positive memories in the mix.

Yeah, that's a great advice. I was doing it, but didn't notice doing it.

The weird thing about this whole thing, is how the fear "sneaks up on you" - it goes past your reason, straight into your subconscious. Almost like precepts are. You cannot use reason to block out perception of objects, so long as you see them. And watching TV seems to be interpreted by the brain, on some level as watching reality. So you can tell yourself "there are no zombies" but your subconscious tells you "look! (at the screen) here they are, they are real".

It takes a while, and a bunch of fresh observations, to regain your previous perception of reality.

The only way to block the subconscious process is to control what you focus on (like Arnold does) at the time of being exposed to something (like a movie). If you don't see it - your subconscious cannot process or integrate it.

I think when you grow up, this is what you automatize your mind to do - to look at the movie in a certain way which shifts the focus as to not allow scary things to be directly perceived. For example, with "The ring", every time it was scary, I reminded myself firmly that it was not real (and kept my focus on that) - or I looked to the side, or on something else (not the monster). But if you're completely relaxed, just expecting to enjoy yourself, you will not be doing the whole "shifting focus" routine, and then you're in trouble.

So I think this is why the "adding positive associations to crowd out the bad ones" works - it re-wires your subconscious.

The funny thing here is that reason alone cannot do the work. You can tell yourself a hundred times "there are no monsters" it won't matter - your subconscious has to see it in reality. See clean, safe streets, with nothing but normals people, see enough dark rooms with nothing scary in them etc'. Over time this over-rides the previous integration.

Also another interesting thing here is that the strength of association depends on the strength of the emotion at the time. If something is an existential threat - your mind wants you to remember it well, because it is essential to your survival. So scary monsters in dark places will take much longer to forget than a nice friend in a dark room. A very very nice friend will do the job quicker though :lol:

Heh, it's probably also why people find it easier to get over a romance by having a new one, than simply to let time go by. (because the first involves stronger emotions).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
A possible answer might be the fact that you were under excessive stress, as you mentioned you were "exhausted." Studies have show that stress can produce enduring physical changes in dopamine neurons that make them hypersensitive to subsequent exposures of stress. Stress can also cause the secretion of certain adrenal gland hormones, that in animal testing showed that excessive hormonal release caused the destruction of neurons in the hippocampus, the brain area important for memory. These things combined with a humans ability to recall from memory past stressful events may be what causes a person to experience stress over and over again even when the situation is not exactly the same. In other words, the sights that you saw on the screen might have reminded you of past experiences that along with your state of stressfulness cause you to release hormones causing a similar sensation and reaction to what you felt as a child.

Just some thoughts.

This was really fascinating but part of it confuses me. If stress can produce permanent physical changes that could perhaps be debilitating in a later stressful situation, would this not severely affect people who are in the military for long periods of time?

That could be possible and hence where the term/idea for Post-traumatic-stress-disoder comes from. But studies also show that serotonin causes the production of new dendrites within the brain that cause the brain to change once again, hence why it has been thoguht that certain drugs that cause the production of serotonin can help depressed people short-term. And carbohydrates can cause the release of serotonin also, which might be why people that eat, drink and be merry might not have these types of problems that often.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Like others, I would add that having a rational philosophy to guide one's life helps. I do not enjoy so called scary movies so do not waste my time. But, if I occasionally see one I do something similar to what Arnold recommends, by reminding myself it is not real.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The only way to block the subconscious process is to control what you focus on (like Arnold does) at the time of being exposed to something (like a movie). If you don't see it - your subconscious cannot process or integrate it.

I don't think of it as blocking. Dr. Binswanger referred to the subconscious as a filing system, and even used websearching as a metaphor. Your observations and thoughts are constantly sending queries to the system, and what the system returns depends on how everything is categorized. This means to change the results you can either change your focus (send different queries) or change the categories. I think you're right that an adult's focus watching a scary movie is different than a child's. While a child is completely immersed in the story and the illusions of cinema, an adult sees not only the character but the actors, the costumes, the special effects etc. These observations not only prevent a "belief" in the horror movie, but distract the adult's thoughts. You may wonder whether cgi was used in a scene, think to yourself that an actor's performance is below par, or other things like that.

So I think this is why the "adding positive associations to crowd out the bad ones" works - it re-wires your subconscious.

In a way, yeah. You are programming your subconscious to respond differently. The programming actually happens on its own all the time, but if you're aware of how the process works you can direct it, leading to far better integration of the conscious and subconscious.

The funny thing here is that reason alone cannot do the work. You can tell yourself a hundred times "there are no monsters" it won't matter - your subconscious has to see it in reality. See clean, safe streets, with nothing but normals people, see enough dark rooms with nothing scary in them etc'. Over time this over-rides the previous integration.

I don't think that's how it works. It isn't that you're trying to "convince" your subconscious of anything, because it is not some separate reasoning entity. Over time those strong associations weaken because of newer associations. This means the result (the emotion) changes. I think the web search analogy is great. If you perform a search and only one result pops up, your attention is immediately drawn to it. If there's 100s of results, your attention is not immediately drawn anywhere. It takes an additional effort of focus to scan the list for what you want. One example I like to use is music associated with experiences. I like to listen to music when I read, so for a while when I hear a song I'll think of the story I was reading. But if I continue to listen to that music I build new experiences associated with it, and I don't instantly think of the book anymore.

Also another interesting thing here is that the strength of association depends on the strength of the emotion at the time.

And emotions are reactions to values. Associations built on important values are going to resist being "crowded out" by new associations. Think of the websearch with 100s of results, but some links are in bold or highlighted. For example, a gift from a friend will immediately revive a memory of them for years, if not for the rest of your life (depending on how close a friend they are).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
A few months ago (and up until now) I noticed something very weird about myself.

It would sound really funny, but I react to horror movies like a 5 years old would. :D

It all started when I went to the theater to watch "I am legend". It was a late night hour, I was alone and exhausted that day. From the poster it seemed like a nice movie about some guy alone on a journey... or something like that. So I went to see it. I was more relaxed than normally when I was watching. I have not watched a movie for probably a year or two prior to that, and I just leaned back and relaxed.

The movie started out nicely, Mr. Will Smith out playing golf in the sunlight with his dog... here and there there are hints of something gone wrong in the world, but I don't yet see anything really bad. At some point, in the second half of the movie, things unexpectedly turned REALLY scary. All of a sudden, there are zombie monsters, that look like humans stripped from their flesh. They live in the darkness and scream at night, and they chase you, and if they get you - you will suffer horrible death.

And then the scene when they came attacking his house... I don't recall feeling so afraid for years... not since my childhood. When I finally gone home, I felt... as weird as it may sound... traumatized.

For months afterward, I was afraid to go into dark places. I was afraid of walking into the isolated, small bathroom, I was afraid of opening doors because of what I might find on the other room... :lol:

I even had to lock my room to feel really safe going to sleep.

In other words... I was back to the state of a 5 years old.

Only after 3-4 months or so I came back to normal and stopped having those fears. But even now, if I see something scary on TV it has an abnormal influence over me.

I was afraid in this way when I was a child, but when I grew up, I watched horror movies and it didn't have any influence like that. One example is I watched "The ring" which was the scariest, nastiest horror movie I ever saw, and I did not have much side-effects afterwards.

What is the reason for this weird phenomenon? It could be relevant to know that in the last few years (~5) before watching "I am legend" I was barely watching any TV at all. And also that I react to T.V. rather strongly, even when it's not scary. Sad or happy things can make me very sad/happy, etc'. (though not nearly as strong or lasting as fear-effects).

Has anyone here had something like this? And what is the explanation for this weird childhood comeback?

Some of the early George Romero stuff freaked me out, so I can sympathise. I think it was the 1980's version of "Dawn of the Dead" A decent low-budget movie, but probably not one to watch alone, or anytime soon for that matter.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've definitely been affected by scary movies, but more as a kid than an adult. However, on the whole I'm not a fan of scary movies, because often they are unrealistic and put people in the frame of mind that they can not defeat evil and perhaps this is the reason they instill fear in people long after the movie has been viewed. If the psychological trick is to tell you subconsciously "No matter what I do, I will be harmed or killed", then that will surely translate to every day life, if you accept that sneaky premise and maybe it really is an attack on the efficaciousness of the rational mind. Your reasoning powers do not work. Jason will keep coming back to kill you, no matter what you do to him.

In fact, I think that’s what it is.

To be sure, not all "scary movies" are that way. I mean, Predator might be thought of as a scary movie, but I enjoyed the film, because although the foe is powerful he is able to be defeated by human reason.

I haven't seen I Am Legend, but I did see Omega Man, and, iirc, the hero wins the day in the end. I remember Omega Man as being a little bit scary, but at the end I had a positive feeling of man's ability to defeat evil, so enjoyed the movie (I may be completely mis-remembering the movie, it’s been a long time).

I think the answer to scary movies is to realize the premise of most such movies is false and so you have to make that clear to yourself.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
For months afterward, I was afraid to go into dark places. I was afraid of walking into the isolated, small bathroom, I was afraid of opening doors because of what I might find on the other room... :D

I even had to lock my room to feel really safe going to sleep.

In other words... I was back to the state of a 5 years old.

Only after 3-4 months or so I came back to normal and stopped having those fears. But even now, if I see something scary on TV it has an abnormal influence over me.

That's exactly how I feel about Obama's popularity!

:lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
For me it was -The Fly-, the original with Vincent Price. To this day I cannot watch it without puting my hands to my eyes.

I went to see "The Fly" with a friend who had seen it before and was quite a prankster. There is a scene where the man first reveals he is tranforming into a fly. He looks quite normal, but in a scene intended to be shocking, reaches for something suddenly and you see his hand is a fly's! At the moment that happened on the screen, my friend suddenly put his hand on the shoulder on the stranger sitting in the seat in front of him. The guy let out a scream you could hear two blocks away.

Did you happen to see "The Fly" in a movie theater in Vineland, NJ by any chance, Ruveyn?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Like others, I would add that having a rational philosophy to guide one's life helps. I do not enjoy so called scary movies so do not waste my time. But, if I occasionally see one I do something similar to what Arnold recommends, by reminding myself it is not real.

I enjoy "campy" horror movies around Halloween, and comedy/horror like Evil Dead II. But I don't look to be scared by movies.

A friend of mine told me about a Six Flags Halloween event she liked to go to, part of which involves people jumping out from nowhere and scaring you. I asked her why she enjoyed that, and she said she liked the adrenaline rush. Different strokes for different folks I guess.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The only way to block the subconscious process is to control what you focus on (like Arnold does) at the time of being exposed to something (like a movie). If you don't see it - your subconscious cannot process or integrate it.

I don't think of it as blocking. Dr. Binswanger referred to the subconscious as a filing system, and even used websearching as a metaphor. Your observations and thoughts are constantly sending queries to the system, and what the system returns depends on how everything is categorized.

Yes, However, there is some subconscious processing that takes place before something becomes conscious. For example, when you open your eyes and stare at something which is at the center of your attention, it first goes as a subconscious precept, then it appears as a conscious concept. Here is where your reason kicks in - it analyzes the concrete in the form of conceptual thinking. Suppose you're looking at a beloved toy - there's no way you can use reason to make yourself not perceive the toy, or even turn off the immediate emotions the toy subconsciously invokes. Similarly when you watch a movie, the concretes appear to you after they have already gone through some subconscious processing. You cannot tell your subconscious that it does not see a monster, just like you cannot tell it it does not see a toy. You CAN, at this point though, of seeing a monster, categorize it as "unreal scary image". However, you can only do this after some processing has already taken place, after certain emotions have already been felt.

Like say, you look at a scary image (still image) - try using reason to stop the initial feeling of disgust or fear - it is just not possible. You can only try to correct the first automatic impression (if it's wrong) using reason after the initial automatic reaction took place.

Now you could say, that if someone has proper "folders" that the initial reaction will not be fear, and the scary image would not first appear as "here is a monster" but rather as a "here is an image of fiction". However, I don't think anyone's mind works like that. The fact that it is an unreal image comes secondary, in some way, to the actual content - the lines and expression of a face. Things like movements, body language and facial expression are more dominant than if something is real or is just TV. Nobody looks at a tree in the street and primarily thinks "here is something REAL" (v.s imaginary). First thing you think is "here is a tree". Similarly, I don't think a person can look at a picture of a monster and primarily think (as first reaction) "here is fiction". Rather, they would think "here is a dangerous monster".

I'll put the rest of what you said aside for now, because this is big enough of a topic by itself. :lol:

So what do you think?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
For months afterward, I was afraid to go into dark places. I was afraid of walking into the isolated, small bathroom, I was afraid of opening doors because of what I might find on the other room... :D

I even had to lock my room to feel really safe going to sleep.

In other words... I was back to the state of a 5 years old.

Only after 3-4 months or so I came back to normal and stopped having those fears. But even now, if I see something scary on TV it has an abnormal influence over me.

That's exactly how I feel about Obama's popularity!

:lol:

Haha!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yes, However, there is some subconscious processing that takes place before something becomes conscious. For example, when you open your eyes and stare at something which is at the center of your attention, it first goes as a subconscious precept, then it appears as a conscious concept.

That is not correct. Consciousness refers to the act of being aware of something, and perception is one form of awareness. So it just doesn't make any sense to say that a percept goes through "processing" before you're aware of it. If something is a "percept" then you're already aware of it, because that's what it means. Anything coming from the subconscious comes after an object has been perceived. It's the perception, your seeing, hearing, smelling or feeling something that then triggers responses from your subconscious. If seeing a toy triggers memories, it's almost like the memories are a part of the object itself, and this is because the memories are now in conscious focus along with what you're looking at. But those memories entered your awareness only after you looked at the object and recognized it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Back in my irrational days, that sort of thing would scare me a lot, and my mind would always try to turn every shadow, every unknown sound as something to be afraid of.

These days, if I watch those type of movies, it has literally no impact on me.

I learnt that my fear stems from what is unknown. If you know something and know how to handle it, you don't fear it. But if something doesn't have an identity but looks to be a threat, you can't deal with it and then fear creeps in.

As a good example, look at the movie Alien. The first half has far more impact than the second half, in which you don't know what is killing the crew, but as soon as you see the Alien, it loses most of its impact from that point on.

Even tho the sensation to perceptual translation is automatic, you don't automatically fear a table. You know that object by its identity has no threat. I got a similar classification of "Imaginary" that when I see a zombie, even tho I know its identity in how it appears in stories, I know they don't exist so they literally have no hold on me. I have never seen one, never had one hurt me and it has never hurt anyone on screen either, since that ain't blood, just dye or tomato sauce.

On the other hand, I can't watch extreme violence on TV. I know that extreme violence does exist(such as in Islamic countries). My automatic response is to reach for the remote to try to switch it off due to revulsion. So if I want to watch it to study it, or because it is a story that a hero triumphs over great evil, I really got to force myself to sit there. But it often puts me in a drained or dark mood for the rest of the day until I can sleep and recharge back to my energetic self. :lol:

I haven't read the books on stress that other people have, my only advice is to remind yourself of its identity. Ask yourself "Have I ever seen one? No, there are no instances in my memory, it is imaginary. Will I ever see one? No, it is imaginary. Has it got any means by which to hurt me? No, imaginary things have no impact on the real world where my body exists. It might appear to hurt those imaginary people on the screen, but that doesn't mean it can hurt real people because they do not exist."

I found those facts very reassuring during the transition phase.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yes, However, there is some subconscious processing that takes place before something becomes conscious. For example, when you open your eyes and stare at something which is at the center of your attention, it first goes as a subconscious precept, then it appears as a conscious concept.

That is not correct. Consciousness refers to the act of being aware of something, and perception is one form of awareness. So it just doesn't make any sense to say that a percept goes through "processing" before you're aware of it.

Right, I wasn't accurate there... what I meant is that in addition to perceiving something, there is some subconscious processing that takes place before you become aware of what you perceive in the form of a concept (with accompanying emotions).

If something is a "precept" then you're already aware of it, because that's what it means. Anything coming from the subconscious comes after an object has been perceived. It's the perception, your seeing, hearing, smelling or feeling something that then triggers responses from your subconscious.

I agree.

Here is the main point though - would you say that the only form of learning is done by conscious categorizing? (assume someone in full focus when observing things).

I think not. I think that even if you try your best to categorize each and every scene in the movie as non-real, on some level your mind will still conceive the sights you saw as real (if they resemble reality enough).

I think that some amount of association takes place aside from conscious reasoning. For example, associating monsters you see in a movie with dark places (if that's what is shown in the movie).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I've definitely been affected by scary movies, but more as a kid than an adult. However, on the whole I'm not a fan of scary movies, because often they are unrealistic and put people in the frame of mind that they can not defeat evil and perhaps this is the reason they instill fear in people long after the movie has been viewed.

I think this is the reason why they are very scary - because they give a feeling of being a helpless victim. I completely agree. (That's also why I considered "The Ring" to be a vicious movie, even for a horror movie. It was extraordinarily malevolent, teaching you that evil always wins, not just at the end, but at every step of the way).

But I think this is the reason for their intensity, not for the fear itself.

For me (and I think for others too) the fear is always connected to some concretes associated with the scary stuff. The fear does not float by itself. For example, association of red eyes glowing in the dark to vampires, or dark closed rooms with living habitats for zombies.

It looks like the brain treats those scary objects as a real danger that needs to be studied and avoided. In fact, being afraid of the dark is a form of "keeping me alive" - because it keeps me away from monsters. Obviously, on some level, my brain "believes" (in parenthesis because a brain cannot "believe") the monsters exist.

I don't think this is due to faulty categorization on my part. Consciously I am well aware throughout the movie that it is a movie, not real. But this fact does not block the fear away, nor prevents the association of darkness with danger once the movie is over. (this goes back to what I'm talking about with bborg).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Right, I wasn't accurate there... what I meant is that in addition to perceiving something, there is some subconscious processing that takes place before you become aware of what you perceive in the form of a concept (with accompanying emotions).

The subconscious does contribute to your conscious experience. And subconscious responses are automatic and involuntary. You're right that you cannot prevent an emotional response. However as discussed earlier the response will change as your focus changes, so even without changing associations in your subconscious you do have some control over your emotions by simply thinking about something else. I have to do this every time I get in a plane, because I'm very uncomfortable flying. I just take out the laptop and watch a movie, which distracts me.

Here is the main point though - would you say that the only form of learning is done by conscious categorizing? (assume someone in full focus when observing things).

I think not. I think that even if you try your best to categorize each and every scene in the movie as non-real, on some level your mind will still conceive the sights you saw as real (if they resemble reality enough).

I think that some amount of association takes place aside from conscious reasoning. For example, associating monsters you see in a movie with dark places (if that's what is shown in the movie).

I think that everything in the subconscious comes from conscious experience, but I agree that this is not limited to conceptual consciousness. You might see or smell something that reminds you of home, for example. But emotions are based on beliefs and chosen values, so even if you associate dark places with monsters, that does not in itself explain the fear. You're afraid because of something you believe could threaten your values (to include your life). Of course we all "suspend disbelief" to some extent in order enjoy a movie that incorporates fantastic elements. It isn't that we really believe in the characters on the screen, but we pretend in order to enjoy the story. This suspension of disbelief is something that we've automatized since childhood, and the horror genre exploits that. :lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think a horror movie like "The Ring" is the "artistic" realization of the malevolent universe premise that entertains people purely through shock value and their own curiosity of disturbing things.

To me it's almost as if the taste of the populace has devolved so much that it's gone from enjoying something for it's story, plot, character, theme, etc, to simply being on a level of gaining perceptual titillation purely through shock value--and I see this across the board:

In modern comedies (sitcoms for example) it's "OH MY GOSH you can't say that on TV!!"

In action movies it's "WHOAH, her breasts are HUGE, and she just jumped a motorcycle across a 1000ft skyscraper while shooting grenade launchers at aliens!!"

In horror movies it's "OH MY GOD that was disgusting!!"

In Drama movies it's...wait what's a "Drama"? Is that a boring movie where they talk a lot and stuff?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In action movies it's "WHOAH, her breasts are HUGE, and she just jumped a motorcycle across a 1000ft skyscraper while shooting grenade launchers at aliens!!"

Lara Croft sequel I didn't know about? :lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
A possible answer might be the fact that you were under excessive stress, as you mentioned you were "exhausted." Studies have show that stress can produce enduring physical changes in dopamine neurons that make them hypersensitive to subsequent exposures of stress. Stress can also cause the secretion of certain adrenal gland hormones, that in animal testing showed that excessive hormonal release caused the destruction of neurons in the hippocampus, the brain area important for memory. These things combined with a humans ability to recall from memory past stressful events may be what causes a person to experience stress over and over again even when the situation is not exactly the same. In other words, the sights that you saw on the screen might have reminded you of past experiences that along with your state of stressfulness cause you to release hormones causing a similar sensation and reaction to what you felt as a child.

Just some thoughts.

This was really fascinating but part of it confuses me. If stress can produce permanent physical changes that could perhaps be debilitating in a later stressful situation, would this not severely affect people who are in the military for long periods of time?

That could be possible and hence where the term/idea for Post-traumatic-stress-disoder comes from. But studies also show that serotonin causes the production of new dendrites within the brain that cause the brain to change once again, hence why it has been thoguht that certain drugs that cause the production of serotonin can help depressed people short-term. And carbohydrates can cause the release of serotonin also, which might be why people that eat, drink and be merry might not have these types of problems that often.

After rereading my post I thought that I would like to add a few comments.

There are obviously some bodily actions that happen within us that our beyond our control or in other words deterministic (I do not think there is any dispute on this). But it is the things we can control that we should be focused on. We should not shun our memories because they might bring hormonal responses that sometimes give us the feeling of depression, as memories also help us to overcome similar situations by building self-confidence. If we stay focused on only the bad then hence why it is so hard to get out of the funk that we have somewhat created ourselves. We will most likely never be able to stop the hormonal responses that happen within us nor should we want to. But as long as we can think out the situation we should be able to overcome what ever negative aspects of those hormonal responses we are feeling.

I will try and use an example from food and hunger. When we smell food being cooked we automatically release hormones that give us the sensation of hunger, even if we ate just 30 minutes ago. Now, should we give in to the hunger urge and go and eat another full meal just because our hormones are giving us the sensation of being hungry,? of course not. We can start out by telling ourselves that we just ate 30 minutes ago and obviously I am not starving nor do I need to eat again so soon. In a similar way we cannot control the release of hormones when we witness some act that is very similar to an event, good or bad, from our past. But we can control what we do with that sensation that we are feeling whether it be rational or irrational.

One more example, this time a real one. During WWII Chesty Puller was hit in the leg with shrapnel from an exploding shell. Chesty Puller was sent to a local branch aid station to have the many pieces of shrapnel removed and he stayed for a short amount of days. During his stay he noticed many different military members and how they were dealing with the stress of war. One of the younger men across the aisle from his bed had no noticeable wounds but was always shaking and crying. Chesty Puller asked one of the attending doctors what was the matter with the young man. The doctor's response was that the young man was thought to have a psychological stress disorder, which Chesty thought was bogus. One morning while Chesty watched this young man pull out a picture of a beautiful young women and stare at it for some time he decided to talk with the young man which went something like;

Chesty: It is to bad about the girl.

young man: What do you mean?

Chesty: She will find out.

young man: No one knows her, she will never know.

Chesty: They always find out, and when she finds out that you were a coward your relationship will be over.

Chesty left the young man that was now in deep thoguht. A short time later the young man got all his gear together and ran out of the aid station. Later during the Marine landings on mulitple islands Chesty found out that that young man had made himself into a hero and won commendations for bravery.

We cannot control our hormonal responses to fear or stress, but for the most part we can control how we react to those hormonal releases.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites