The Atlantic

How Fear Can Make You a Better Person

Philosophers and sages have long considered fear a tool for self-improvement—but no, cheap scares don’t count.
Source: John Locher / AP

Americans have a complicated relationship with fear.

On the one hand, we enjoy fear enough to dedicate a holiday to it. This year, we will spend an estimated $9.1 billion celebrating Halloween. Horror films gross nearly half a billion dollars per year, and are known in Hollywood to have the best return on investment in the movie business. Quasi-dangerous activities like roller coasters are a big industry as well, following Hunter S. Thompson’s famous exhortation, “Faster, faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.”

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