Dr Becky Spelman on Scary Movie Phobias | Private Therapy Clinic
Thursday, 22 Sep 2016

Interview with 2FM on Lights Out

By Private Therapy Clinic

Dr Becky Spelman’s interview with Eoghan McDermott on 2FM, talking fear, phobias and scary movies such as the movie Lights Out.

Transcription:

“Hello Dr Becky Spelman.”

“Hi Eoghan.”

“Becky, level with me, is that your real name. If I was going to make up a name of doctor that  could be part of, you know, some scary movie hype, you’d be the doctor.”

“Is that what you think of my name?”

“It sounds like something straight out of ghostbusters.”

[Laughs.]

“Well i’m glad you think so, i’m glad you find my name so entertaining.”

“We’ve got a problem, we need Dr Becky Spelman on the case! I’m telling you, straight out of a novel.”

“I’m here to save the day.”

“Yes. We are joined by the way today by Dr Becky Spelman, she is a well known psychologist. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist as well. Now Becky were talking about this film Lights Out, level with me here, there is a saying apparently Alfred Hitchcock says ‘there is no terror in a bang.” Apparently so suspense is scarier than seeing something actually happening. Discuss.”

“Yes, I can relate to this and first of all I need to tell you Eoghan that I watched this movie on my own and i wasn’t quite expecting all of the suspense that it brought. But, yeah it was all stacked up. So I was just in suspense, suspense, suspense. I was just on the edge of my seat and I’m really difficult to scare.”

“So what is suspense? And why do some people respond to different stimuli in horror films. For example when I read that Hitchcock thing, i was kind of going no! Like i get the build up, the chello’s going dun dun dun dun dun. But, it’s only when the bang comes and I go oh jesus!”

“I was relieved when  the bang was coming, when the surprises were coming because I know okay I’m going to be okay for another awhile. But, suspense is great, you know, it really plays tricks on the mind and I think that is something that the longer the adrenaline is going for you’ve got anxiety that people are experiencing and that’s worse for most people than the actual thing. Which is you know very similar to when i”m treating phobia’s, people always goes ‘oh that isn’t so bad’ when they confront their worst fear, so if they do like a bungee jump or hold a spider or they go flying or whatever their fear is, they always go ‘oh it wasn’t so bad’ But beforehand, they are terrified. So, I would say yeah, the anxiety and the adrenaline people experience beforehand is the really difficult thing and that’s probably apart of why this horror movie works very well.”

“Right, so, Light’s Out, Darken It, all that crack. I was running the other day, I do a 5K every saturday morning with my dad in Marley Park in Dublin, I know the route like the back of my hand and the other day I had, you know, a bit of pent up energy, you know, I’m going to go for a run and I went out around half past nine and I’m running the route, and all of a sudden I realise I’ve never run this route in the night time and I get to a part of it where there’s no street lights or park lights and I realise I’m running almost in pitch blackness. I know the route like the back of my hand, I know the park really well, I run all the time, I’m not afraid of the dark per se, but all of a sudden all this stuff is going through my mind of, of you know, i’m invoking every disappearance and kidnap and every little rustle in the bushes, out of know where, you know, it’s completely illogical. Why was I doing that?”

“Were you scared?”

“Yes, I guess I kinda was, yes.”

“Yes, well thats interesting. Well this research that Warner Brothers did, it was amazing. 42% of young men are scared of the dark, but actually, what I believe it really is, is their scared of night because their is heightened risks at night time. So, people are imagining all the worst case scenario’s and that is going to get adrenaline running through their bodies and their getting ready for fight or flight and in males cases often it’s fight is often going to be the one to protect them self and loved ones. So I think it makes sense that your going to be a bit anxious in this situation.”

“And what about the power of sound? Because, you know, in the film there’s this whole scraping of the wood across and the fingers across the wood and that’s a mechanism that’s used in horror films all the time.What about the power of sound to create fear? Where does that come in?”

“Yeah, so all the senses, if you use as many of the senses as possible, then the person is going to be more fearful. So when you go into these sort of scare experiences, I don’t know if you’ve ever been in one, but I’ve been in a few and they even use like sense of smell and sense of sound and just sense of touch and everything to get something going. So the more senses you can play on, the more fearful someone is going to be and the more immersed their going to be in the experience. So yeah, sound was used very well in this movie and the music and everything, I was on the edge of my seat throughout.”

“What about, you know, what about the obvious stuff that is in every horror movie, this stuff included, like you know the scare moment, there’s something under the bed, you’re trapped in you know the cellar or a confined space, you look oh there’s something behind the curtain, look in the mirror, then something looks back at you,that’s not obviously in reality there but you see it in the mirror. All of these their kind of cliched horror patterns, we know their coming, but still were scared. How do you explain people who you know logically can anticipate what’s going to happen but illogically are still nervous or apprehensive or whatever.”

“Well, this is the fun in it, because we can really enjoy fear when we know were actually really safe, but were still feeling the adrenaline and were still having the fight or flight, so the adrenaline, the endorphins that go with that mean that there’s a pleasure award in having this fear feeling, but also there’s still tricks of the mind going on with these movies and this movie Lights Out particularly stacked it up very well because there was just so many surprises, one after the other, I kind of at one point, I was like I don’t know if I can take anymore, like, it was just so much and I think this is where this movie really succeeded psychologically was the stacking of suspense and surprises, it was just really action packed full of that and they did it so well, you know, I think this producer, James Wan, who is famous for movies like Saw and other horror movies, he does it very well because I think he really understands the psychology of fear.”

“And hey, jump back to what you said a few minutes ago about neurotransmitters and all that stuff, are you saying people actually get off of on being scared and enjoy being scared because I think of myself in a situation, a horror movie situation or the other night, like, i knew in my heart of hearts I’m running through Marley Park I am going to be fine, I’m going to finish running in fifteen minutes, I’m going to get in my car and drive home and I’m having a lovely run. But I didn’t enjoy that, I didn’t enjoy that feeling of being scared.”

“Well have you ever heard of adrenaline junkies?”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah, so it really depends on people’s perception of the situation. So, when people are in  a situation where they feel safe and then they can get to the other side of it and they  look back at it like they succeeded in that experience that can come with confidence, therefore there is a pleasure award. But, different people will perceive this differently, so not everyone will have pleasure from the neurotransmitters that they will receive from being scared. But, it does depend on the situation. I know me, if I was in that situation, there would be no pleasure out of running through Marley Park in the dark, I would be terrified, I would not be happy after that situation. I would be lucky that I was still alive. But, you know if it’s a safe situation, like for me, heights, i love it, because I know i’m going to stay alive, so if I jump out of a plane or do a bungee jump I’m like oh yeah that was a fun feeling of fear.”

“And in terms of, like you say, people facing their fears, is that the most potent cure for people with phobias, be it the dark or whatever.”

“Yeah it really is and it is the most simple difficulty or issue to cure. It’s so simple. You know, It’s like the easiest thing ever but you know it’s difficult for people to do. But, if you have got a phobia, whatever it is, whether it’s fear of flying, fear of the dark, fear of whatever situation, if you confront it enough times than if you stay in that situation, you will absolutely overcome your fear because people desensitise and that feeling of fear can’t stay there forever. So what I would say to someone is like pick the good horror movies and watch those but just don’t pick too many because you might get desensitised. But this, Lights Out is definitely one to watch.

“So I have this fear of producer red standing over me in these leather chaps with a whip, so if i get her to come into studio and stand there in them chaps with the whip for at least ten minutes, eventually that will stop being a scary prospect.”

“Eventually it’s going to get boring.”

“You hear that red, you get boring in those chaps.”

“Dr Becky Spelman, is that definitely your real name Becky. Come on level with me.”

” I just can’t, I can’t give it away, I can’t confirm or deny if this is my real name or not.”

“I’m like Donald Trump and your Obama, I’m demanding a copy of your birth certificate.”

[Laughs]

“I do have an irish passport.”

“Okay, well we’ll leave it at that.  Dr Spelman thank you so very much for taking the time to talk to us and Lights Out is a whole lot of fun and you’ll get some jumps and thrills. It’s a pleasure.”

“For more information, google Lights Out.”

“Bingo. Thank you.”

“Thanks Eoghan.”

If you would like to read more about phobia’s click here.

Who can I speak to further about the interview with 2FM

If you’d like to speak to our team about the interview, please feel free to speak to one of our therapists here at Private Therapy Clinic who can discuss the matter further.

  • Anxiety
  • By Dr Becky Spelman
  • Phobias
  • Videos

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