"Horror is beyond the reach of psychology."-- Theodor Adorno
Meaning the science of psychology cannot undo the psychological damage that horror, either real life or fictional, inflicts. Let us examine some of the physical aspects of horror. Sweaty palms which lead to every part of the body covered in perspiration. A rapid heartbeat that makes people believe they are going to die of cardiac arrest. A sudden inability to move limbs, followed by the realization if they move, they would draw unwanted attention; perhaps leading to a dangerous hesitation that can lead to a volatile confrontation. Involuntary movement, such as knees buckling and knocking against each other; spasms shaking arms and neck, or a sudden tick developing in the face, all are telltale signs of physical fear.
The physiology behind fear is one thing, but there’s no substitute for what horror can do to the human psyche. I’m not a psychologist but if real life traumatic events wouldn’t affect the surviving victims, then why must they afterwards consult a psychologist or psychiatrist?
I agree with Theodor Adorno’s statement. Horror’s psychological ramifications, even if it’s just fictional horror, can trigger phobias that could affect a person their entire lives. Watch a movie about millions of insects roaming on people and acting out of character and you may develop a sudden awareness of the possibility of malice originating from any similar creature. And therein lays the key word: possibility.
Horror writers enjoy delving in possible outcomes, slowly feeding the mind fantastic, yet plausible scenarios until somewhere in the deep recess of the mind; the audience accepts the possibility as probable. Something like rodents attacking a household is highly unlikely but if some kind of chemical, unbeknownst to everyone, was released in the air and altered their behavior, then what was once possible becomes probable and therefore, in the audience’s mind, can in fact, be accepted as a plausible threat. Any threat considered viable may have a deep psychological impact.
There are many phobias, all of which may have profound psychological affects, all of which can be utilized by the skilled writer to wreak havoc on the reader’s psyche, even if it’s only while they immerse themselves in the fictional world.
So my friends, if you find yourself with a sudden infestation of insects. Bugs that suddenly move out in the open without fearing for their survival, then just maybe, horror has found its way into your reality.
Until next time,