Psychology and Halloween: a terrifying emotional experience?

Although Halloween is a festival of Celtic origin that is celebrated on the night of October 31, mainly in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland, it is known practically everywhere in the world, and like many other parties, it arrived in Spain little by little every year.

Basically, this party combines, on the one hand, visual elements (especially costumes) related to the emotion of fear and, on the other hand, sweets and treats, associated with pleasure. Moreover, laughter and humor are favored as emotions opposing fear, since we know that “terrifying” costumes are, in fact, fake. And it is that, as a way of experiencing life, human beings actively seek out emotional reactions.

Costumes also allow us to hide physical characteristics, anonymize our behaviors and assume a new identity overnight. enjoy, which can generate a sense of release of emotions, feelings and desires that taboos, norms and social customs usually repress, which could provide us with a mitigating effect on our daily stress levels.

Also, we don’t normally dress to sit alone at home, but to provoke a response in others, because the costume we choose usually says something about us, in addition to asking for imagination and creativity, we could therefore consider costumes as a means of communication and social bond.

    Halloween and the Psychology of Fear

    The emotional response to fear can be very different from person to certain situations like Halloween or watching a horror movie, some people may see fear as fun or even empowering, while others react negatively and try at all costs to avoid situations that scare them.

    However, fear is a natural human emotion and an essential survival mechanism. When faced with a dangerous or threatening situation, we experience fear, which warns us of impending physical or psychological harm. Our brain reacts biochemically by automatically secreting dopamine, which prepares us physically for “fight or flight” (sweating, rapid heart rate, etc.).

    However, our brain also secretes dopamine before it stimulates situations, activating our reward system, which is closely linked to happiness, so that some people experience a certain kind of “almost addictive” excitement when faced with terrifying situations. So when the emotion of fear is linked to security consciousness, like on Halloween, we tend to take advantage of it.

      What happens with the fear of children on Halloween?

      During the first years of life, a wide variety of situations can generate fears in the child (darkness, monsters, nightmares…), which are generally of an evolutionary and adaptive type, since they have a protective function. That is to say, when one experiences this type of unpleasant sensations at a low level, they develop a learning and survival function that teaches them to stay away from dangerous situations.

      Being aware and knowing that there is an emotion called fear is the first step in learning to drive it. Thus, Halloween represents an excellent opportunity for the fears of our children to be revealed in a safe context, because they know that the costumes and masks are not real, therefore they generate neutralized and tolerable fear reactions.

      In addition, laughing at what scares you and accompanying it with sweets can also be useful in learning to cope with the emotion of fear and bear fear without suffering it. However, it is important not to force children, to measure appropriately, and not to exaggerate jokes and scares.

      For a day, let’s accompany our little ones in their frightening experiences with lots of laughter and sweets.

      Bibliographic references

      • “Halloween and the Psychology of Fear”, Psicología in action, 2021.
      • “The psychology behind Halloween costumes”, Muyinteresante, 2020.
      • “Children and fear on Halloween”, Psicologíaalcala, 2020.
      • “Cómo Halloween puede ayudar afacer los miedos de niños”, Saposyprincesas.

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