ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How Not to Fear the Dark

Updated on April 11, 2016

Do we really outgrow childhood fears?

A child's fear of the dark is the stuff of legend; we all know and mostly identify with it, whatever our cultural background or environment. Historically, fairy tales told to European children in the Middle Ages used darkness as an analogy to danger, wrongdoing, or even 'evil' - whatever that concept embodied.

This element of storytelling remains in modern American society, as illustrated in such cultural icons as Disney/ Pixar's 'Monsters Inc.', a wildly successful tale based on children's fear of darkness - which can (and in the movie, does) conceal monsters.

As adults, we smile indulgently at such things; we sleep in darkness and believe we have outgrown our fear. But have we? Do we not artificially illuminate every possible nightscape, citing the multiple dangers of darkness?

Oh, certainly a part of this human habit is purely pragmatic; our eyes do not adjust well to the night, making it difficult to navigate on a night walk through the woods unaided by flashlights. It is also unquestionably true that darkness provides an advantage to criminals, hence the fierce, aggressive illumination of parking lots and urban streets. Limited vision usually means limited awareness, which puts us at risk.

So it is that we rationalize our aversion to being in the dark; we do not associate it with the 'irrational' fear of our childhood, though I would suggest it is, in fact, not really so different.

Holding a candle during a blackout.
Holding a candle during a blackout.

Survey says?

Do you fear the dark?

See results

The Womb


Safe in the dark

Despite our nearly universal fear of darkness, it is in darkness that we begin life. Not a frightening darkness: the safe, warm, nurturing embrace of the womb. Birth into the crash and chaos of the illuminated world is a traumatic entry to an unfamiliar, frightening place. When we begin, it is light that brings fear, not darkness.

It's no accident that growth brings a reversal, so what we first feared becomes familiar and safe, while what we first embraced becomes frightening and full of unseen threats. This is the nature of the world we live in: Change is the only constant; cycles and seasons, undulation, patterns and balance are the stuff of our reality. So why do we tend to ascribe moral attributes to a natural part of existence? Much of it is personal experience, and much is conditioning.

Neither light nor darkness has anything to do with our concepts of good and evil; the same is true of life and death. Everything that lives only does so by bringing death to other living things; the obvious example is in eating, of course - but even in breathing, we kill microscopic organisms in untold numbers.

Our embrace or rejection of life and death, light and dark, is not nearly as consistent as we imagine; we are subjective, relative creatures, and there is an inherent hypocrisy in ascribing morality to things that are necessary, inevitable, and indelible. We condemn death as an evil because we grieve our loss when something or someone we love passes through that door, separated from us; yet we bring death by necessity, to sustain our own lives and those of our families.

Neither light nor darkness is consistently either dangerous or safe; both have value and healing potential in their appropriate place.

Solar Eclipse

Annular solar eclipse at the beach.
Annular solar eclipse at the beach.

Embracing Darkness Again

I believe we cheat ourselves of half our world's beauty when we reject darkness, whether in literal or figurative terms; both apply equally, and the physical often serves to reflect the intangible.

We each have a light and dark half of the soul, and in Western culture we're generally still taught to fight the darkness within. We are taught to treat it as an enemy - often by organized religion - to starve, kill, defeat it at all costs.

This causes far more damage, I believe, than good. We cast shadows because we are real; light is meaningless without darkness, and vice-versa. Our shadow self needs to be understood, accepted, and even embraced; to deny or reject it only leads to an embattled internal landscape full of conflicting thoughts and emotions. No wonder our society is over-stressed, regardless of the unprecedented levels of luxury available to us!

Fear, anger, hatred - all these very human feelings are generally consigned to the darkness, the 'evil' within us; yet it cannot be denied that those feelings serve vital purposes in their place. Fear can save our lives; anger motivates us to protect against injustice; hatred can show us where we need to grow, heal, and change with far more clarity than a veil of denial cast over its existence ever will.

Too often we are taught to use fear - often of divine retribution for 'sin' - to cover or deny taboo emotions like hate or rage. Fear comes from ignorance, and gives birth to violent feelings. In light of this, clearly the appropriate cure for many of our ills is the destruction of ignorance: understanding, knowledge, awareness - these are weapons with which to defeat it.

Anyone can go to a therapist's office and receive advice about learning to embrace the shadow-self; but what I find often overlooked is a practical reflection in the physical world of the internal work we are attempting to do.

I began walking in the dark recently, along paths through the woods near my home. In so doing, I found my discomfort dissipated as my senses sharpened and remembered what it was like to function without the artificial illumination I am accustomed to. By the middle of my first walk, when I suddenly encountered a porch light from someone's cabin it was like a tiny sun, disrupting my vision and piercing the velvet, sweet shadows that had begun to be comfortable again.

This particular activity may not be practical for everyone; but it is an example of one way to remember how to accept and be at ease in darkness - which, after all, makes up so much of our world. I encourage everyone to find ways to do this; ending the pitched, frenzied battle between opposites and harmonizing the duality of our worlds - both external and internal - brings vast rewards.

Come to the dark side, at least for a while; the rumors are true, we do have cookies. And stuff.

Darkness is Deeper in Forests

Blindingly Bright

Light can inhibit sight as much as darkness.
Light can inhibit sight as much as darkness.

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)