Here’s why you literally can’t get enough of “the feels”

Did your heart beat like a hummingbird when John Snow fought a white walker? Were you brought to tears when Castiel refused to kill Dean Winchester? Did you hold your breath when Katniss and Peeta agreed to eat poisonous berries?

We’ve all been there. It’s the feeling when you realize the bad guy didn’t actually die. It’s the feeling when two characters are in the same place and you’re waiting for them to meet. It’s the feeling when you’re just dying to know what happens next. It’s a strangely wonderful feeling, and now, there’s a name for it: Eustress.


Image Source: Flickr

The term “stress” is usually used in daily life with a bad connotation, but some stress can be good. Eustress – otherwise known as “the feels” – gives you a short-term sense of excitement and motivation. It can be brought on by anything from taking a vacation, to starting a new job to, for our purposes, getting really attached to a show, movie, or musician.

Have you ever noticed that you struggle to keep your attention on a documentary or book for school, but when Supernatural is on, you can’t seem to look away? That’s because eustress focuses your energy and improves performance. Eustress is what brings people together to cry over what has happened and hope for what will happen, and is ultimately the reason fandoms evolve.

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Eustress and distress may feel awfully similar in the heat of the moment. Watching your favorite TV show, you could feel heartbreak, anger, sadness – all emotions that you try to avoid in real life, but can’t get enough of in media.  There’s a reason why you leave a movie theater sobbing and have the urge to turn around and do it again. 


Think about the way fans verbalize their feelings. To the untrained eye it would seem like the world is ending. On weekday evenings, Facebook feeds fill with people “seriously dying” and demanding you “kill me now.” But we know better. We know that, despite the liberal use of the word “literally,” these are not legitimate claims. These are verbal manifestations of eustress.

Eustress isn’t as fun when you have no one to share it with. That’s the beauty of fandom. Your best friend may not be as into Teen Wolf as you are, but there are plenty of people out there who are. People around the world let their imaginations run wild by sharing art, poems, and fanfiction celebrating the stories and people they feel so strongly about. 


Image Source: MisterLIAR

Perhaps the eustress is why people watch movies to cope with personal issues. How many times have you cried at a sad movie after a break up? Or watched a funny sitcom after a really bad day? There’s no right or wrong way to use eustress. For some it’s an escape from reality, for others it’s an alternative way to face reality.

Either way, you’re not alone.