- Mental Health
Is Darkness What You're Really Afraid Of?
When a child calls for his parents in the middle of the night, and asks to sleep with them because the boogeyman comes out the closet every time the lights go out, what exactly is he afraid of? Is he afraid of an actual boogeyman that he saw? Does this boogeyman only come out when there's no light and there are children small enough to get scared of them? Is the house haunted? Instead of straying too far, let's keep to the topic. There might or there might not be a boogeyman, but when we turn out the lights, we just don’t have enough visibility to make sure that there isn't one. And that’s what scares us.
Mankind once used to live in the wild, and in those cave-dwelling times, he used fire to keep the wild animals away from his settlements. Fire was one of the most useful thing to man in those times, it still is. The animals were afraid of the fire, and as long as there was fire, the animals kept their distance, and the humans were safe. It even helped them cook the meat of the animals that they hunted. And another important use of it was, that it provided with enough light to be able to see their surroundings clearly even during a moonless night. It helped them make sure that there were no wild animals nearby, ready to pounce on them.
Those cave-dwelling days are gone, being replaced by an entirely human-occupied society where wild animals are not seen walking among us. People don’t have to look over their shoulders every time, afraid of being attacked by some wild animals, in most parts of the world anyways. But the boogeyman still remains. Even if people are not afraid of animals, they are afraid of other people attacking them, and children who are not yet familiar with the predatory nature of his fellow humans, replaces the predator with an imaginary ‘boogeyman’.
There may be times when we feel like going for a walk at night. Even in a busy city, when we come across a dark and silent alley, we start feeling the chills. We might feel alone and vulnerable. We might feel that there is something lurking in the dark. At such a time, even a slight movement in this dark and silent alley would have us running backwards as fast as we could. In this state of fear, we might not even check if what we are running from is something really dangerous or just a rat skittering about.
Being afraid of something that we couldn’t see or understand is natural. And in times like these where artificial light is everywhere, people have become so dependent on their sight that only by seeing do they make sure of anything. Among all the senses, humans depend on their sight the most, so it’s no wonder that once the light is out and the sight has become incapacitated, people freak out, and they start ‘sensing’ and ‘hearing’ things that aren't really there. Even after all these years, the instincts we once had as cavemen still resides deep within us.
When the fear of darkness becomes too intense, then it's considered to be a phobia – Nyctophobia. In such cases, people become so scared that they start having panic attacks. At this point, it’s no longer a caveman instinct or the dread at the loss of an artificial light that we have become so accustomed to. It has grown into something much stronger. According to Sigmund Freud, nyctophobia occurs in those who suffer from Separation Anxiety during childhood, but as far as research goes, the definite cause is yet to be found.
It certainly isn't our fault and it’s not something that we need to be ashamed of. After all, it's just a reflex, like blinking when something comes near our eye, or coughing when something goes into our windpipe. It makes us aware of the fact that in darkness, when we have a reduced visibility, we are vulnerable. And in order to make up for this weakness, our body and mind becomes extra aware of our surroundings. And in case there actually is a serial killer waiting for his next victim near the alley, then your fear of darkness can only be a good thing.