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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Psychos, Texas Chainsaws, Freddy Kruegers & Saws (I, II, III & IV)

Horror movies...all of them.

Lots of people like the genre...I used to until sometime in the late 80's I found myself huddling under a comforter up on the 14th floor of the Chicago Hyatt Regency watching HBO and being frightened out of my wits.

I asked myself what on earth I was doing. This was torture. I switched channels.

Probably a lot of you know that horror movies give you an adrenaline rush. And that is what attracts many to such movies. There is something addictive about it, because for a short period of time the adrenaline rush makes you feel more alive, even if you are scared out of your wits.

One of the reasons you get the adrenaline rush, is because it feels so real. It feels so real because even though your logical brain knows that it is not really happening, on another level you react just as though it were really happening (see also my May 2006 Newsletter: Introducing Our Second and Third Brains: We Do Think With Our Heart and Instinct).

Think: what happens when you are being chased by a real tiger in the jungle because he's decided you're lunch? You have an incredible adrenaline surge that allows you to run and shimmy up the nearest tree to save your life, right? And after, when he's gone, your poor body feels as though it's been through the wringer, because of all the chemical effects that took place after the adrenaline surge (cortisol rose to high levels, and now your body is using all of its energy - composed of other chemical elements in your body - in order to rid your body of this sudden upsurge of cortisol).

That's actually not a bad thing because that's what the adrenaline is for...it's meant to work in emergency situations like that to keep you safe. But now what happens when you have to run away from tigers frequently, like, say, four times a week? Now your poor body is being subjected to this upsurge of adrenaline a lot. And therefore it has to do the other part - getting rid of the excess cortisol - a lot as well.

And once this becomes frequent or chronic, your body begins to suffer. The reason is that in order to get rid of the cortisol, your body has to use hormones. These are normally meant to be used for quite another purpose, and should be in balance. But when they are often being used for this, they can't do their regular job. It may create a lot of imbalance in the body, just like people who suffer from chronic stress or anxiety.

Psycho-neuro-immunology or PNI, the study of the interaction between emotions, the brain, and the immune system (mind-body) has shown via several studies that Natural Killer (NK) activity is reduced in those persons who have the highest levels of overall life stress. After a number of such studies, researcher’s began to suspect that the NK depression resulted from the person’s response to the stress, rather than an overall depression of the immune system.

The kind of stress brought about by horror movies, despite the positively-felt adrenaline rush that the viewer may feel, forms part of this. Your emotions as you view a movie like that, could potentially lead to reduced NK activity. Is it worth it?

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