Save Those Emotions for a Rainy Day

Do you find yourself craving very high highs and then ironically, finding pleasure in the low lows? Do you enjoy horror movies and situations which evoke strong emotions? I recently read an article where the author wrote about the two kinds of people in the world, those who enjoy horror movies and those who don’t. I am very, very much part of the second category. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a single horror film from start to finish. I also cover my ears and keep my eyes closed for however much of these movies that I have been subjected to. My sister on the other hand, would watch horror movies at home as a child while I sat reading, far out of earshot. What does something as simple as enjoying a scary movie say about your personality?

(this picture is giving me nightmares already)

It seems there are certain people who have a ‘need for affect’, which is the motivation to approach or avoid emotion-inducing situations. People high on this scale enjoy and even desire very intense emotions. These emotions could be negative or positive but they will find pleasure in either of these in correlation to how much they feel the emotion. In one study, researchers studied people in a cinema watching a horror film and found that those who had a high need for affect experienced a higher level of negative emotions but also evaluate their emotions more positively. This explains why certain people dwell on certain situations and negative emotions, perhaps because it makes them feel better in a way.

I started thinking about how I could gauge what my need for affect was and began to look at my tv show watching patterns. When I schedule time for myself to watch something, I will most often veer toward the easiest and least emotional kind of show, like Seinfeld. I hate committing to one hour shows and as much as I enjoy drama in movies, I will usually never watch something very heavy on my own. I like to be conservative with my emotions and find that expelling them on something like television can be exhausting, I do the same with my podcasts. When I’m feeling emotionally drained or weak, I listen to music whereas if I’ve just had a coffee and feel energetic, I’ll listen to a This American Life episode.

Having a low need for affect means that I also don’t enjoy feeling emotions in general. Before a football match, that feeling of anxiety and adrenaline actually makes me sick to my stomach whereas other players enjoy the rush. I don’t allow myself to get mentally stressed so this usually ends up displaying itself in my body through tension and in my dreams. This kind of pattern means that I may not let myself feel things and runs the risk of me turning apathetic, which I feel I am in many situations. I focus more on logic and rationale than allow my emotions to rule my mind which then shapes the kind of person I am.

It’s interesting to start thinking about where you lie on a wide spectrum that everyone you know is a part of. It’s funny that a chasm as simple as watching a horror movie or not can help in understanding different parts of your personality better. There is obviously no right or wrong, it must be quite exhilarating to find pleasure in strong emotions because avoiding them is not super sustainable. However, until I decide to start being a little more open and generous with my emotions, I’m sticking to Seinfeld.