I went paintballing for my first of time. It hurt. But it probably was the most fun I’ve had thus far this year. So what is it about paintballing, about seeking thrill, that is so loved? Why do we seek out activities like paintballing to fill our time with?
Thrill is anywhere you want it and strives upon uncertainty. The more unsure you are of a situation, the more thrilling your mind interprets it to be. This is why, covered in paint and nudged between a tire and a hay stack, my trembling knees and I were having the time of our lives. I was unsure of my situation; anyone could come around the corner at any moment and shoot a hurdling paint-filled bullet of doom at me, or at my face, which apparently was the easiest target of the day.
Temple University psychologist and former president of the American Psychological Association, Frank Farley, has studied people with type T, or thrill seeking, personalities. He states that type T people bask in the uncertainty and intensity associated with activities from roller coasters to bungee jumping. According to Farley, “there’s almost nothing else, including sex, that can match it in terms of the incredible sensory experiences that the body is put through.”
David Zald, a psychologist at Vanderbilt University, conducted PET scan research and found that type T personalities have a reduced number of dopamine autoreceptors, which act as brakes to stop the release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter most involved with motivation and reward, so it makes sense that a person with less “brakes” is more prone to seek out thrill. So what does Zald have to say about the subject matter? “Thrill seeking is one of the things that leads people to explore new things, to discover new things. The world would be a boring place if we didn’t have people who were willing to take the risks because they were so interested or drawn to the new and exciting.”
I don’t think he could have said it better. Everything in life we love, whether it be a sport, dating, gambling, or even traveling, has uncertainty that we inherently crave. I wouldn’t consider myself that much of a type T, but I really do find an unbeatable sense of satisfaction from activities without a finish line in sight. Something about not knowing what is going to come next helps me to embrace and accept challenge. Even if I have black and blue battle wounds to deal with now…