Thursday, August 9, 2012

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

There is a scientific name for nearly every phobia that can be imagined, and some that can't. Fear of the dark is called nyctophobia, and everything that I have read about it states the same thing: all children go through a stage of it. If a child doesn't outgrow the fear, or learn to cope with it, a full-blown phobia in adulthood is possible. But isn't there some kind of in-between status?

I don't have a phobia of the dark, but I am definitely afraid of it. I don't mind admitting that. I know people who are afraid of spiders, or water, or snakes, or bees or any number of things out there. One of my pet fears happens to be the dark.

At least one article that I read about this assured me that it's not really the dark that I fear, it's what the dark could be concealing. Hmm, yes, there's a thought. And thanks for planting that into the old brainbox, as well. Dark can conceal any number of things: a vampire, a ghost, a zombie, a monster, a stalker, a serial killer, so fearing what is concealed by it makes a great deal of sense. And I also freely admit that I fear all of the above.

But my basic issue is really with darkness. With the absence of light. In my case, with the absence of a great deal of my sight. And I know it's not just the shadows in my unlighted home, that may or may not be concealing something or someone harmful, that weigh on me. It's also the dark of night when I'm driving through it, especially on a highway. Oh, yes, there's the possibility that someone might not see my car and thus involve me in an accident. There's the possibility of a sleep-deprived driver losing control and taking me out with him. But I find that when I drive those dark expressways at night, I feel like I'm driving through an overturned bowl that some unseen giant has plonked down over my immediate environment. Or like I'm making my way through some endless tunnel with no end in sight. And I admit that when those thoughts cross my mind, my breath catches just a little and I need to start giving myself little speeches of encouragement.

I know I don't have the classic phobia: I am capable of functioning at night and sometimes, especially after another 100-degree, full-sun kind of summer day, I enjoy the cool and restful evening. But I enjoy it better if there are lots of stars in the sky, and I'm standing in my yard, not far from my door and the lights in my kitchen and living room.

As a child, I would accept an adult's "Don't be afraid of the dark" with a quavery "okay" and an attempt to figure out how not to be. As an adult, I would probably just say "Easier said than done." Nyctophobia is only one word for fear of the dark. There are at least three others. Is that like the Inuit having more than one word for "snow" or some Eastern European cultures having more than one word for "vampire"? Clearly the human race needed more than one word to label my particular fear. I guess that means I'm not alone in the dark.

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