It is a commonplace that psychopaths are “fearless.” But we are easily bored. Risky, or fear-inducing behavior can be the antidote to such boredom. We can get high on fear. But is this just a psychopath thing? It seems to me that the average person can find fear enjoyable (as long as it’s under control). Why else do people flock to see horror films or go on scary rides at an amusement park? In Huxley’s Brave New World, life was so safe and predictable, they gave simulated experiences with chemicals because it was believed everyone needed a bit of trauma.
The less we experience uncalled for fear, the more we enjoy it or even long for it. There was a club I belonged to called The Suicide Club. It wasn’t for killing oneself. It was for scary and unpredictable experiences. For example, one time the members were “kidnapped” by leaders. We were blindfolded and taken in cars to an abandoned building where we had some sort of scavenger hunt. Another time we planned to go to a weekend visit with Moonies and see if we could be brainwashed. Definitely a group for the edgy. But psychopaths?
An article by Seth Augenstein, Psychopaths Feel Fear, But Not Danger, claims we do feel fear but can’t access threats. Of what are we then afraid, I wonder. We don’t notice, he says, “what pressing dangers there are around (us)” but we “do have the capacity, in the long-term, to feel concern and worry for (our) own safety.” I should hope so. Otherwise, I might not have made any plans for my long term security. Oh, wait! I didn’t make many plans for that. Nevertheless, I do take care of my own well being. Although I don’t always obey traffic lights, I also don’t step out in front of moving cars. I’m aware of danger but I don’t dwell on it, especially things that can’t be controlled. For example, I can see the possibility of Trump abolishing Social Security and my ending up in a homeless encampment. But I figure, if it happens, it happens. When I take risks, I’m mindful of danger. I guess that’s “fear.” When the worst happens, I’m calm and all about dealing with it. Fear seems to be for the unpredictable or uncontrollable. Action is the perfect antidote to fear. Maybe fear is just about the future. Staying focussed on present time, one needn’t feel fearful.
Charles Manson knew a lot about using fear for enjoyment. Describing the experience of fear when on a creepy crawly mission, he said, “Well, I go into Malibu and I pick a rich house. I don’t steal, I walk into the house and the fear hits you like waves. It’s almost like walking on waves of fear.” He clearly sought fear as a thrill to be courted.
In the UK Channel 4 show, Psychopath Night, Kevin Dutton tests a group of student volunteers and gives the two highest scoring and the two lowest scoring the opportunity to do a bungee jump. The low scorers opted out. The high scorers chose to do the jump. The highest scorer, Ikra, was visibly afraid as she rode up to where she would jump from. Nevertheless, jump, she did and she thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Yes, fear can be a high when we are the ones who court it. Even when an unwanted threat comes into my life and I feel an undesirable threat, once I’ve overcome the threat, I feel an exhilaration the makes me feel more alive so perhaps I enjoy it retroactively, if that makes any sense. If not, I recall Manson’s words, “No sense makes sense.” Except longing for fear can really mean one is longing for the unknown.