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Please help me out in my effort to better understand the emotion of extreme fear. I will use the example of Ridley Scott’s film “Alien” featuring H.R. Giger’s Xenomorph preying on the crew of the “Nostromo”.
While I believe that the cast and crew of “Alien” did an excellent job in portraying the emotions of the humans during their encounter with an unmentionably vicious and seemingly unstoppable predator in the horrific solitude of space, I keep asking myself:
What are the limits to the fear a human mind can deal with before descending into insanity or causing the individual to enter a stupor? Would a real human being in the shoes of Ellen Ripley be able to survive and preserve her sanity?
Additional questions I don’t seek explicit answers to but which might inform and elucidate my main query are:
How long and how far can adrenaline keep the body and mind alert before fatigue compels a human to rest and sleep regardless of the imminence of existential danger?
Can a bizarrely strange and tremendously terrifying situation effectively neutralize the survival instinct, e.g. by overwhelming the capacity of the mind to process new information and resulting in the individual being awe-struck and incapable of either fighting or fleeing?
Could a certain type of psychopath – because of lack of fear and empathy as well as being out of touch with reality – be significantly better suited to surviving the encounter with such a monster?
Could a (nearly) complete lack of imagination (as a non-deviant character trait) mitigate the adverse effects of fear a person would experience in such a situation? Conversely, would a highly impressionable person succumb and collapse more easily?
Is there a correlation between a sudden and surprising threat and the will for struggle, on the one hand, and a repetitive, “banal” mortal danger from the point of view of helpless people and inertness and lack of resistance, on the other? To clarify: Am I more likely to be able to muster my strength and fight back an enemy, however terrible, that just attacked for the first time, than somebody or something that I have seen methodically, mercilessly and effortlessly destroy all around me?
P.S. As I am inexperienced in neuroscience, I am not completely sure I have used the correct tags.