Why are we afraid of the dark? A simple answer, no, because it is not the dark we are afraid of. The fear is indirect, associated, not the thing itself. We are afraid of the dark because of the things that we think are in the dark, or the things we associate with it.
Our imaginations begin to go wild. As a vision-based species we get most of our information through our eyes, once that is taken away from us our other senses start to pick things up, usually too much. The things we don’t usually pick up on such as the tiny rustling of our clothes, the heaviness of our breathing, the beating of our hearts are made louder. We notice the smells of what’s around us, the stenches, the tastes, the textures which are most often cold with the lack of light being also a lack of heat.
These little things are intensified, and we begin to shift our focus from ourselves to what could be around us. We don’t know from our main sense so we try to pick things apart with everything else we have at hand. We sense that cold blow of wind. That foul smelling odour. Or that slight vibration underfoot and perceive it as something else. A breath from in front of us, something bleeding, something moving.
Our imagination turns all of these little details and attributes them to what could be there. Our isolation is greatened as we lose contact with the world. Your heart beat increases at the same rate as your breathing. From the quiet in the darkness you begin to hear the white noise of nothing in your ears. You begin to be uncertain if you can hear anything at all. Your mind plays tricks on you from subconscious memories.
Your instincts start to kick in, but they’re turned around. This thing in the darkness, should you stand still? Should you run? Should you lash out? The creature seems to be getting closer as your senses begin to get more in tune with your surroundings. That feeling of paranoia increases within you as the thing which could be watching you appears to get closer and closer.
The abyss is not only in front of you, but behind, above, and below. The creature in the darkness could be anywhere around you, you can’t move in a particular direction for fear of running into it, but by staying still you allow it to get closer.
You risk that step back in the darkness, that shrinking to the back of your mind. Your isolation is fully realised. No-one can help you in this place, wherever it is. If only you had that flicker of light to scare away your imagination. Instead the darkness creeps in, arms, tentacles and spikes form which cannot be seen. A mess of limbs and patches getting closer to you with every little bit of time you spend in it.
But when that light comes flickering back into life your fears are eased. The door creaks open, but you aren't afraid of that. Light is coming around it. A warm, forgiving light. The patchwork of limbs in the darkness recedes into the far corner and you make your way over to the light. Your isolation is lifted as we find eachother in the darkness. The colour comes back into the world. Everything creepy and scary goes back into the corners and disappears. Your instincts disappear and your mind is in control of your imagination. Your deep breathing lightens, your heart beat slows and now that you can see again everything seems quieter and toned down.
We make our way out of the darkened place and you are free from the abyss.
The darkness and mess of everything returns, quickly, as the door is closed. But this time you aren't in the room and aren't aware of its effect. The creatures hiding there won’t be able to find you.
The light is the safe place.