Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher

Fear of the dark

17 Comments

2 am and I can’t get back to sleep.  I’ve moved from the bedroom to the den. Slowly sipped a cup of hot milk with honey. Repeated the Serenity Prayer a hundred times. Tried meditating and mindfulness. And still, I’m awake.

So, here I sit. Writing it out in the hopes it will leave me ready and able to fall back to sleep.

Challenge is, I don’t even feel tired. I just feel normal. Like it’s 7 am and I am getting ready to go to work. Except, it’s pitch black outside and Marley is sleeping on the bed with C.C. while snores emanate from Ellie where she sleeps on her rug at the foot of the bed. The house is quiet as is the street outside my window.

The quiet of mid-night. The inky blackness of the dead of night.

Some time ago I gave myself the challenge of letting go of my fear of the dark. The book I was reading recommended taking walks in the dead of night were a good way to reclaim my feminine power. Begin with a walk around your backyard the author suggested. And so, for a week, every night sometime after midnight, I would get up and go outside and stand in the back yard.

From the backyard, the author recommended walking down the street. Around the block.

Her premise:  there’s not really anything to fear out there. It’s just media, society, our imaginations that have created this fear of the dark. Women needed to overcome their fear of the dark by taking back the night. Only then would we be truly free to live within our own power.

I tried. I really did. I’d stand in the backyard at night, under the apple tree that spread its branches like a giant canopy protecting me from the dark. I’d stand there without any lights on in the house and look up through the leaves at the sky far above. I’d listen to the night sounds. The leaves rustling. The whisper of a mouse crossing the lawn. In the distance the sound of a car driving along the road. I even imagined I heard an owl hooting.

And then, I moved to the back gate. Nope. Too scary to go down the lane. I moved to the side gate leading to the front yard. The rasp of the clasp was loud in the night. It felt like I was announcing my intention to walk the streets, alone, in the dark. It didn’t matter that the whole point of the exercise was to prove to myself there was no one and nothing to fear in the dark, I still thought someone was listening and would know I was out there, in the dark, on my own.

I moved away from the gate and back into the house. I went to the front door. Maybe I would feel better if  I just walked down the steps, along the sidewalk to the road. I got to the edge of the walkway, that space where it joined the main sidewalk and stopped.

What was I thinking?  3am is no time for a woman to be wandering the streets alone, even in suburbia.

I turned and walked (very quickly) back to the house. As I fumbled with the key I wondered what had possessed me to lock it in the first place. Nobody was around at 3am anyway to try the front door and break in. That thought sequence kind of made me laugh. If no one was around, what was I doing being afraid of walking the street at that hour of the night?

After trying to go out for a few nights I decided it wasn’t worth it. Some fears are good to live with. And fear of walking alone on the street at 3am is a healthy fear — it’s self-preservation.

And still, I wonder.

Is there really anything to fear out there in the dark or is it all in my head?

Gavin deBecker, in his fabulous book, The Gift of Fear, suggests that we know when to fear and when not to fear. We are intuitive beings, but he believes we have forgotten to listen to it, to hear it, to heed it. And it is in the not hearing it that our fear arises. It is in the not heeding it that danger stalks us.

Perhaps, walking in the dark is a good place to learn to hear my intuition, but I think I’ll heed my common sense that says, it’s not a good idea walk down my street alone at 3am.

Then again, if I was listening to common sense, I wouldn’t be typing my blog at 3am in the first place!

Night all! Going back to bed to dream of starlit nights where fear has no room to grow because even in the dark, the world is a wonder-lit landscape of blue skies and rainbows streaming across the sky. And in my dreams, I don’t fear walking down the street in the dark, because I can fly!

 

 

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Author: Louise Gallagher

I believe we each have the capacity to be the change we want to see in the world, to make a world of difference. I believe we are creative beings on the journey of our lifetimes. It's up to each of us to Live It Up and SHINE!

17 thoughts on “Fear of the dark

  1. I’m with you– stay inside.

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  2. I hope you hit the pillow and fell immediately to sleep!

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  3. I know! Very weird and unsettling. And then Pollyanna asks…. why can’t people just play nicely together?

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  4. I couldn’t help but think, “If Louise thought there were a reason to go out into the dark — someone to help, other than herself — she would be out there without a second thought.”

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  5. I don’t believe it’s society or media that makes us fear the dark, but our primitive amygdala which has been around since cave people stayed huddled inside or around the fire after dark to avoid getting snatched by predators with great night vision. Modern human predators also prefer the cover of darkness, while humans as a whole have poor night vision, so you really are at a bit of a disadvantage at night. That’s not brainwashing, it’s biology & common sense. If the instincts of your amygdala combine with the evolved thought processes of your neocortex to tell you to stay inside, then it seems wise to stay inside. As you say, some fears are there to protect us. That doesn’t mean women who go out at night deserve to be attacked, only that they might be safer in groups or in lighted areas.

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    • So very true Cara– about the ‘not deserving’. No one ever deserves that — and I am grateful for your explanation of the physiology. That makes perfect sense.

      So lovely to see you btw. I keep looking to see if you’re doing a book reading or something in or around Calgary! I have a guest room… 🙂

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  6. Hi my dear blog friend. It’s been a long time, but I am finally settled enough that I can begin reading blogs again. I hope you are well.

    This is a hauntingly beautiful post. I am drawn to spending time in the dark hours during the night, and yet, I am afraid at times as well. You description of standing in your yard under the tree is simply breathtaking. And I am inspired to spend some moments alone, very late tonight, on my balcony. Thank you.

    Peace & love.

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    • Oh Liz — you have been so busy — and now, we’re on the same continent. How lovely is that!

      I was just out in the backyard. Dusk has overtaken the sky and darkness descends. Rain falls and the world is soft and quiet. One of my favourite times of the day — in the waiting hours between day and night.

      So glad you’ve found some time to settle in, and down. Hope you’re well too!

      Peace and love to you and Lina.

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  7. I hate it when I can’t sleep but thankfully it doesn’t happen very often most of the time I go to bed and fall asleep in minutes and sleep straight through

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  8. Pingback: Fear of the Dark (Part 2) | A Year of Rejoicing -- Welcome!

  9. You are a wonder, Louise.

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  10. Re: unable to sleep. Do you drink too much coffee? Have you tried giving up coffee past 11am?

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