Mental Health Monday, writing

Darkness and Your Fears

Since Halloween is approaching, I thought it’d be nifty to spend the next week discussing our fears, horror, darkness, and all that fun stuff.

We’ll start with this. Why are you afraid of the dark? Why are we afraid of the dark?


Later on during this journey we’ll discuss what we are afraid of but for right now, we’ll look at why. And we’re starting with the dark.

monochrome photography of person on dark room
Photo by Akshar Dave on Pexels.com

Are we afraid of the dark? Absolutely, yes. It’s just that not many adults would care to admit that. But we aren’t really afraid of the dark…are we? No, we’re afraid of what else is the darkness with us. We’re afraid of murderers, demons, ghosts, whatever. We’re afraid of that. And it’s for a good reason.

Scientifically, when we look at our makeup and structure it makes a lot of sense that we would be afraid of the dark. For starters, we aren’t nocturnal so we cannot rely on our eyesight at all when we’re wandering around in the dark. So we can’t actually see if anything else is with us in a dark room. We can’t smell them. We don’t have a snake’s tongue so we can’t really taste them. We might be able to hear them if they move.

But what does that leave us with? Touch. We can touch them when they have found us.

Not the most comforting idea, I know.

So we’re already on edge. Our brain is putting us on edge so that we can survive walking down the dark hallway at night. Thanks brain.

Speaking of our brain, it helps us out in another way. I have always had an active imagination, which brings me to my next point. We’re in bed, ready to go to sleep or about to close our eyes when we see, hear, or feel something that we know is there. 

Better start thanking your brain, because it’s whining at you.

There’s a better article gong into more depth here but for the mean time, hear me out. One of the reasons we see shapes in the dark is because your brain is bored. We get so much visual stimulus and stimulus in general that without it our brain kinda freaks out, gets bored, and makes stuff up out of nothing. The result? Shadow people. Shadow animals. Noises. Smells.

Your brain can do a lot of things. And if you’re thinking, “But I know it’s real.” How? You’re not supposed to be able to differentiate between reality and a hallucination. You can of course say, oh that’s not there, that isn’t real. But with hallucinations involving smell and sound, how can you tell? How can you justify that?

Welcome to the conundrum of ghost hunting. Without fact based evidence, it’s impossible to say anything for certain no matter how much we feel a certain way.

selective focus photo of cemetery lantern
Photo by Micael Widell on Pexels.com

So let’s get the ugly, controversial stuff out of the way next. Paganism. The occult. Religions other than the one you currently worship. What do they have in common? Symbols.

Symbols, symbols, symbols. And not unique ones either. That’s what I want to look at.

We’ll focus on Christianity because I know it best and it’s quite a powerhouse, has been for many hundreds of years. Christianity has done a phenomenal job of gaining and maintaining power by speaking to the people’s fear. Fear of death. Fear of eternal damnation. The heart of the practice is to be a good Christian, follow these rules, and get into Heaven i.e. away from Hell.

Catholicism is especially guilty of this mainly because it’s the oldest and has the muddiest past. And what has happened over the years is that because followers adopt what the church is saying without harsh question, is that we run into some interesting problems that stigmatize and hurt other people.

For instance, metal is evil. Not like steel, but metal music is evil. Sure, songs might have atheistic points of view or even anti-organized religion point of views but is it evil to harbor those points of view? Are those people evil for saying something you don’t believe in?

Halloween is evil because it’s pagan. Well then so is Christmas celebrated like a true pagan holiday around the winter solstice. And Easter whose name stems from the Chaldean goddess of fertility (symbols eggs and rabbits). The name by the way is Astarte.

Now I’m not saying any of this to uproot a belief because we are entitled to believe what we want. That’s what’s so special about this country. But I am saying that it wouldn’t hurt to realize that everything is just symbols.

A cross is just a symbol. It existed far before Christianity in many other polytheistic and monotheistic religions. It doesn’t even connect to Christianity because there’s argument that the Bible says Jesus died on a stake, a tree, or a limb. Not a cross. So, if you see an upside down cross it isn’t the mark of someone evil. Or something evil. It’s probably the mark of someone against organized religion.

Which isn’t so bad.

candle creepy dark decoration
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Let’s together acknowledge that these holidays are what we make of them. We can choose to enjoy them and we can choose to relinquish our fear over them. My point with including Christianity and Catholicism in this conversation is that organized religion operates on fear because it’s very easy to control someone who is afraid. Still believe and enjoy believing whatever you like, it’s your comfort, your life, your eternal life. But recognize that it’s mixed 50/50 with paganism.

And that that’s okay.

The traditional picture of good and evil doesn’t have to define or enforce your fears. You don’t have to be scared of metal. You don’t have to be scared of a Wiccan. You don’t have to afraid of a pentagram which, by the way, was originally a symbol of harmony as well as mystical powers. People who you may perceive as evil and scary can be good people.

All I’m saying, is this Halloween season think a little bit more about what you practice, about what you are afraid of. Do some research. You might be surprised at what you actually find out.

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