Ever have a nightmare that pits you against a menace with unfathomable sadism? Your heart races, you look for an exit that can’t be found, reach for a weapon you can’t grab, cry for help when no one can hear.
Then you wake up—sweaty, heart pounding, alive, safe. You’re invigorated. The pending day’s problems seem not so bad. At least you aren’t in that nightmare anymore.
Horror—movies, books, and games—are much like nightmares. When we experience good horror media, we immerse ourselves in a world that scares us. With child-like awe we watch characters face annihilation. Our bodies react. The menace skulks in the shadows, characters blithely wander into unstoppable danger, and smarter characters barely avoid death. We root for the smart ones. We’d be that smart.
But often even the smart ones don’t make it. We witness their doom breathlessly. Then it’s over. We’re back to our everyday world. A little sweaty. Revved up. Relieved it wasn’t us. And our own problems seem, well, more manageable.
The horror genre offers an outlet for us to blow off steam and put our day’s problems in context—much like nightmares. And in addition to good therapy, I suspect many of the great horror stories are borne from scary dreams. If you feel creative, reconsider your nightmares. They might hold just the story we all need to hear.