Since I was a little girl, I’ve always been afraid of the dark. I don’t know at what exact moment that fear began, but I remember it always being there. Usually, I’d call my dad into the room to sleep in there with me, and that would make me feel safe enough to fall asleep. Or I’d hide under the covers, give myself a pep talk and bolt down the stairs to my parents’ room.
As I got older, this fear remained, but not as often. I remember, in my high school years, listening to my clock radio as I fell asleep. For some reason, this one song would always be played at night after 11 p.m. The lyrics said, “Don’t close your eyes. Don’t close your eyes.” Freaky, right? I would force my eyes open until the song ended and faded from my mind.
I loved the excitement potential inherent in horror movies, but hated the after-effects. I would tend to invite friends to sleepover on horror movie nights, or at least follow the movie with a comedy. My best friend, Amy, and I would often get so creeped out that one of us would hide behind the shower curtain while the other person went to bathroom, just so we wouldn’t have to be alone. Looking back, I find that hilarious and pretty cute.
Now, I’m a horror buff. I gobble up anything horror-esque and have seen so many films from the genre that Netflix is running out of suggestions for me. It’s gotten easier to sleep at night, probably due to the fact that aging, maturity, and rationalization skills go sort of hand in hand.
But every once in a while, I’ll watch something that just makes me feel uneasy, and it’ll be hard to sleep.
It’s just a dark room. Why be afraid?
Well, there are several reasons:
1- Deeply personal. I do have PTSD due to a past abusive relationship and experience anxiety and nightmares because of those experiences.
2- Psychology – check out this link for more information.
3- The unknown.
I recently viewed a TED talk on this topic, and found that this comment by someone named Brad Friend summed it up quite nicely:
“Darkness is the second greatest fear of any person who has ever experienced light. It’s not the darkness we fear but what it represents. Darkness is the physical manifestation of the unknown, and of ignorance of danger. It is not the darkness, but what lies inside it. And when we can’t see what is there, we are hardwired to imagine whatever frightens us individually the most. This is why the scariest part of a horror movie is before we see the monster, when we are imagining all the terrible things it could be. Its why, since landing on the moon, we’ve made so little headway in the exploration and colonization of space. Space is the single greatest form of darkness, of the unknown, the very thing we’ve known to fear our entire lives. And it seems reckless, even suicidal, to step boldly into that frontier, without first examining, experimenting, and pushing back as much of the unknown as possible first.”
As the talented HP Lovecraft once said,
As Brad mentioned above, this phenomenon is exploited in almost every horror movie. I must be honest – it works.
Because truly, I’m not afraid of the dark, but rather what might be in it. Not really because I’m scared of what I’ll find, but because I’m scared it will find me first.
For more information on nyctophobia, check out these links: TED Talks, Huffington Post, Gizmodo, Wikipedia