A short week to Halloween, when we all must face the shadows of the night, and the far more alarming demands for candy from unwanted pre-adolescent visitors at the door. ‘Tis the perfect occasion to discuss the nature of terror, what exactly that emotion represents to us an individuals and if we have any right to claim that feeling as a reality we have or are ever likely to experience.
We all know nervousness, concern, trepidation, the unpleasant feelings that rear up in the pit of the stomach for an endless number of reasons. Some of us even go as far as to provoke the reaction by placing ourselves in situations of emotional or physical stress, just for the thrill. Who doesn’t watch the occasional scary movie, walk a little too close to a cliffs edge, drive overly fast on a rainy night, take a turn on a carnival ride whose only purpose is to reduce us to shivering wrecks? These are matter of fact ways to raise the hairs on the back of the neck, cause a rise in heart rate, perhaps even produce an acceleration of breathing. But are any of these circumstances truly terror? I think not.
Dread only arises from a complete lack of control, having no power over the circumstances that led us to a specific point in time, and the capacity to control the conclusion bound to befall. Terror is in the hands of a third party, someone who by inclination will cause extreme harm to transpire. Terror is guided by human hands, the psychopath, the rapist, thug, bully, oppressor, someone whose only purpose is to produce panic, shock, torture, and fright, entirely for their own purposes and benefit.
Terror does not correlate to extreme danger. We all have moments in existence when we are involved in accidents or suffer unfortunate injuries, become unwell or fall desperately ill, find ourselves trembling with trepidation or fear. But these situations are the result of chance happenstance, bad luck, entirely natural circumstances. Seldom do such instances directly assure demise or excruciating pain, and it is those threats alone that ensure our collapse into the grips of the cold hands of terror.