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Re: Terror/Horror?

Posted by Smokey Stover on March 21, 2004

In Reply to: Terror/Horror? posted by Jason on March 20, 2004

: hi there,
: i'd like to know the difference between 'terror' and 'horror'?
: thanks

Terror / Horror. Terror is fear, taken raw. Horror is fear, digested. Let's omit for now the political context, and deal with these things as they affect one individual. Terror is what happens when you are in great and immediate fear (provoked by danger and menace, and perhaps other things). It activates the sympathetic nervous system, initiating what some have called the "fight or flight" response. The body prepares itself for an emergency which is not emergent, but already here. You may sweat, get goosebumps, and have your irises and bronchi dilate. You need to pump air, because your heart is already pumping out more blood. Some blood vessels (like those in the long muscles and skin) enlarge to accommodate more blood, to provide energy where it is needed. Some vessels compress, like those in the G.I. tract, where the sphincters also may contract. Incontinence is observed in some individuals. The sympathetic nervous system includes many nervous pathways, and the endocrine system as well. The adrenal glands pump out epinephrine at a greatly increased rate. Some individuals may be paralyzed by fear ("in a funk"), others may be able to take off running. Some can even fight back (circumstances permitting). Being terrified is a whole body experience.
Being horrified may lead to nausea and nightmares, but we experience it much more cerebrally, as an observer. We are appalled by what we observe, disgusted, sometimes filled with dread and foreboding. It's an emotional experience, but it has more to do with what's happening around us than what's happening to us.
Terror as in terrorism, and horror as in horror movies are subjects I'll leave to others. SS