Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Terrified of the Dark

Terrified of the Dark

          There are things that once terrified me. My childhood dreams were sometimes filled with creatures of the night and situations I could not get out of.   In the daylight I was afraid of spiders, bees, heights, tight enclosed spaces, and snakes. There are even more phobias, but I was never afraid of the dark.  I thought everyone was like me in that respect but I soon learned that is not true of all people. Some people are terrified of the dark and of things that darkness contained.  In other words, they were afraid of the dark and things that go bump in the night.

          One evening long ago, a group of young men, which included me, was sitting around bored, waiting for something to happen.  “Do you want to see something really cool?” one of them asked.

      We looked at him with interest.  “My grandmother has this old house and it is really interesting.”  He gestured with his hands.  “It’s big, has not been touched for years and it’s really creepy. It’s been in the family and there are things that I cannot even describe. I know it’s getting dark but we’ll bring flashlights.  If you’re scared you don’t have to go.”

      Not only were we bored with doing nothing, but now he had thrown down the gauntlet.  It was a dare we could not refuse and still save face with the others.

          A few miles away and an hour later, it was dark.  The group was led single file into a dilapidated old house covered almost entirely with ivy.  Our escorts walked ahead of and behind us, careful to light the way with their flashlights.  We went from room to room, getting deeper into the house.  Suddenly, our escorts disappeared along with their lights and we were left stranded.

     There was not a sliver of light.  We did not communicate, being careful not to be first to break ranks or show any hint of being afraid. I backed up until I reached a wall, trying to get my bearings and to gain composure.   In the silence, we were left with only our heartbeats.  What seemed to be agonizing hours was in reality just a few minutes. 

     “Whoosh, whoosh!”  Something broke the silence and continued in a broken pattern.  “Whoosh, whoosh!” The sound seemed to be getting faster and more desperate but not closer.  I clung to the wall trying to fathom the source.  “Whoosh, whoosh!”       
           Two flashlights broke the darkness and two laughing young men stepped into the room, to be greeted by an amazing spectacle.   In the middle of the room, grasping a two by four, was one of our friends.  He swung wildly to keep all things away.  If any of us had opted to step forward, it would have been tragic.  Our friend’s terror had taken control and he was no longer one of us.  His phobia was greater than his reason.   It took a while, but he gradually calmed down…at least from the terror.  Then came the anger and no amount of apologies could make him forget.

     I realized that my normal reaction to darkness was different from his.  It stirred a basic survival instinct in my friend. His reasoning abilities changed and for the moment he became someone different.
     We grow out of most of our fears but rarely all of them. Because of that experience in the dark I learned one thing that I often share with others.   You respond with fear when danger is near.  It’s a basic emotion. Some of us may only have mild reactions while the fears are intense for others.  How we respond shows how prepared we are to deal with it.

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