Scotophobia. Fear of the dark.
Raised in the age of the electric bulb, we modern folk have little inkling of just how scary the darkness is. Scotophobics know. When night falls, anything could be there — ANYTHING — just inches away from your face, savouring the moment before it gets you.
Most people are uneasy in the darkness, and I figure that’s because all the early humans who were totally relaxed in darkness walked off a cliff one night. Or maybe they stepped into a viper’s den or ran into an enemy’s camp or charged into trees at full speed, or some other idiotic thing you’re likely to do when you can’t see where you’re going. One way or another, the darkness picked them off one by one, and all the fearless genes vanished from the pool, leaving Homo sapiens fraidycattus to huddle around fires whispering, “What was that? Did you hear that? I’m sure I heard something.”
I kind of like the dark. I have lain in dark fields on August nights and watched the Perseids. I have walked my dog on the beach at night, staring out on black water. And, less poetically, I wear an eye-mask to sleep when my husband’s up reading.
But I don’t like it that dark. Dim is nice. Pitch black is unnerving. In a cave without a flashlight, I’m on the verge of panic in two minutes – and that was true even before I saw
The Descent (which you should not watch the Netflix version of because they wrecked the ending, and which you shouldn’t watch at all if you’re a kid because it’ll scare you for life.)
At my cabin, which is off the grid and an hour and a half from the city, on a moonless night it is pitch black once you’re a few steps from the cabin door. Can’t see your hand in front of your face black. There’s no way I’ll walk to the outhouse by myself in that darkness, not even with a flashlight. No way. Uh uh.
Bad things hide in the dark. Just waiting with baited breath.
There’s a natural “creeped out in the pitch black” feeling, like I have. And then there’s Scotophobia (also called Nyctophobia, Achluophobia, and Lygophobia) which is more of a panic attack.
If you have an obsessive fear of darkness, you can’t sleep without a nightlight. If your grandmother comes to visit at 10:00 p.m. and she needs help with her bags, you’ll peer into the twenty feet of darkness between the porch and the driveway and you’ll say, “Sorry Grandma, come back tomorrow.” If someone turns out the lights, you don’t just fret a little; you scream and cry and wet your pants.
You should really do something about that.
In times past, darkness was hard to avoid come sundown, and Scotophobics had many a sweaty sleepless night. These days, nightlights and flashlights help sufferers stay sane. And Scotophobia can be cured with gentle desensitization therapy.
Get a dimmer switch and turn it down a little more each night until you’re able to bear the blackness for a few seconds, then increase the time you keep it dark. Think positive thoughts and have a soothing friend with you (yes, that’s still your friend’s hand you’re holding; she hasn’t transformed into a demon). Eventually you will be able to handle the darkness.
And that’s a good thing, because you need to keep your wits about you when the lights go out, or you’ll be the first to go when whatever’s hiding in the darkness comes a’hunting. (Just kidding. Sort of. You really don’t know what’s out there.)
Drop a comment about your fears and maybe you’ll win a copy.