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Are you Afraid of the Dark?

Smacholdt's picture

I decided to try something different today and went to my site at 9 pm instead of 9 am. It was cold and it was dark. (Thank you time change, although it would have been dark at 9 pm, regardless.) I had some reservations about going outside when it was so dark out, but these were tempered by the fact that lamps light our entire campus when the sun goes down. This got me thinking. Why are humans so obsessed with light? I guess that there are the obvious reasons- the sun is our greatest source of light and without it we would have no warmth, no air, and no food. Plants provide us with the latter two things and they could not grow without light. But I think another reason that we are afraid of the dark is because darkness represents the unknown and we are very uncomfortable with the unknown.

This thought process brought me to a show that I remember from years ago called, Are you Afraid of the Dark. The show, as its name suggest, takes place at night, and in the woods. This just got me thinking about how much fear our society still harbors for both nature and the dark. For some reason, setting a scary show outside only adds to its fear factor.




Srucara's picture

Fear of the unknown - fear of what really?

I used to be and still am one of those people who are terrified of the dark. But after many many years of dealing with this situation, I realize the true problem isn't the dark but an overactive imagination (or just my mind). As a child, I would quiver in fear to step downstairs in the middle of the night for a drink of water or to use the restroom. Sometimes, once I garnered enough courage to make it to the restroom, on the way back - I would scream and run as fast as I can, trying to outrun the ghosts and evil creatures that are clearly chasing me. I'm still occasionally spooked out at night alone in my room, but never as bad as when I was a kid. I asked myself what am I really scared of when I'm alone in the dark? What am I really terrified of? To be quite frank - me. My thoughts, my creations, my ideas, my imagination, my perception of the world around me - all aspects of myself. Nowadays when I am in the dark, rather than consciously feeding the fear of the "evil creatures" chasing after me, I consciously feed a new idea - one in which I am surrounded by peace, and the need to hyperventilate falls away. I wonder where conscious choice plays, evolutionarily.

Smacholdt's picture

A Crisis of Fear

That makes a lot of sense evolutionarily. Maybe instead of saying that this is a constructed/ literary crisis, we could say that our current environmental situation is a crisis caused by fear. We fear the wildness of the environment and we fear the necessary actions that it would take to “fix it.” Maybe one helpful step in figuring out how to solve the crisis is figuring out a rational way to not fear it as much. It seems that fear only leads to hysteria and irrational thinking. 

rachelr's picture

Evolutionary fear

I was just reading a paper for my psych course entitled "Risk as Feelings." It discussed the impact of cognitive evaluations on behavior being mediated by affective responses, and stated that "the ability of events to evoke fear and other emotional reactions is restricted by biological or evolutionary preparedness" (Loewenstein et al., 279). Basically, some fears that maybe be considered "irrational" are not in fact under the control of conscious intentions- we're just evolutionarily wired that way. I guess my point is that it makes sense for humans to be afraid of the dark. We can't see in the dark the way some other animals can, which exposes us and makes us vulnerable to harm. Evolutionarily we had to be afraid, for our own safety. And I guess the same can be said for nature. Without our electricity, our guns, our shelters, we are the mercy of something so much greater than we are- evolutionarily, we should be afraid of nature.