Causing oneself pain by imagining or actually doing things likely to cause it is what psychiatrists label a ‘counterphobic response to anxiety’. Instead of fleeing the source of fear in the manner of a phobia, the counterphobic person actively seeks out the very situation that is feared. This involves striving to master excess anxiety through repeatedly coping with danger.
Dare-devil activities (e.g. race car driving) are often undertaken in a counterphobic spirit, as a denial of the fears attached to them, which may be only partially successful. Sex is a key area for counterphobic activity, sometimes powering hypersexuality in people who are actually afraid of the objects they believe they love. Traffic accidents have been linked to a counterphobic, manic attitude in the driver. The attraction of horror movies has been seen to lie in a counterphobic impulse.
A Counterphobic person inoculates him or herself from fear by imagining feared pain before it occurred— bracing one’s self. “Praemonitus, Praemunitus” or “Forewarned is Forearmed”. This can be a very effective way to combat fear . A downside is one may feel invulnerable, able to control anything. This can be very dangerous, increasing the odds of real pain and injury. For example, a child might stick an elbow into a hot toaster to see if it actually hurts. This is, in part, a response to being told that doing something is dangerous or ‘not allowed’.
If one fears fear more than real danger, the danger can be underestimated or not considered fully. Actual dangers seem less real than are the needs of the defensive operation. Freud said that most people value thoughts more than external reality. One controls what is controllable. If real risk can’t be controlled, the reaction to the reality of it all might be controllable. This is achieved, in counterphobia, by attempts to master fear by moving towards it.https://williambernstein.com/