When Is Fear Fun?

BOO! Did I scare you? No, probably not. Here how about this:

Camp is closed.

How about now? 😉

Halloween is upon us, the annual time for trick-or-treating, spooky decorations, abnormally large penguins (see the picture above) and horror movie revamps.

Here at the Winter Office, we’ve constructed a ‘candy shoot’ that will allow for physically-distanced candy delivery, all masked and gloved up. It’ll be different, sure, but hopefully still fun for the kids.

Enjoying Fear

Why do we ‘enjoy’ fear so much in some moments and not others? Dr. Arash Javanbakht and Dr. Linda Saab do a great job explaining the difference in their article, The Science of Fright.

Basically, it comes down to context. If you are going into a haunted house to get the rush of being scared while knowing it’s all just a game, you like the way your fear makes you feel after the fact. On the other hand, having a mountain lion closely track you because you got too close to its cub will produce fear that you won’t enjoy.

The context is very different between the two situations but so is something else. In the haunted house scenario, you’ve got a sense of control – you can always leave or call out ‘I’m done – let me out.’ The mountain lion won’t listen to you. It’s following its own programming and intent. In other words, you’ve very little control of the situation.

The first can be fun. The second? Not so much.

Real Life Fear

Campers, a lot of your friends and neighbors are feeling fear right now. (And, remember, in the grand scheme of things, we are all neighbors.) We’ve had a hard year, certainly. The uncertainty of the election and the blaring news inputs are overwhelming if you decide to give them your attention.

Just like your attitude, though, you can choose what you listen to, what you read. I cannot control the election. I cannot control COVID. I cannot control every aspect of camp. But…. I can influence things.

Sure, I’ve got more influence over camp than the election. I’ve got more influence how COVID may enter my home than my city. I’ve got more influence on my approach to today than on my boys’ and even less so on yours. So, I focus on what I can control and hope the ripple effect of my actions and attitude influence those around me.

There is one really great thing about fear: it focuses your senses. It demands you live only in the present. It strips everything else away and gets your body ready to see clearly and react quickly. Think about the last time you were really scared: you see more sharply, your breathing rate goes up, and you get a rush of energy.

Your body is ready. It’s the mind that has to be trained.

How Will You Respond?

So, how will you respond to a situation that brings fear into your equation? Will you run from the challenge or face it? Will you cheat on the test or stay honest no matter what? Will join your voice with those making things worse or join those patiently and intentionally being supportive?

We don’t get much of a choice on feeling fear. As the authors indicate, fear is as old as life on Earth. But, as humans, we do get a choice on how to respond. Just as important, as humans, we get to train ourselves by watching others. In fact, fear is contagious. (So is joy and most every other human emotion.)

That’s where courage comes in, in the choice. In feeling the fear and choosing to do what is right anyway.  When you’ve got good role models – like the counselors of Camp Weequahic – you are more likely to choose courage than not. Either way, it’s your choice.

Enjoy a safe, healthy and spooky Halloween, Weequahic!

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