Fear Of The Dark: Is It Really Irrational?
Aug 29, 2012
After serving for more than 10 years as the advice columnist for British newspaper The Observer, Mariella Frostrup let readers in on a dilemma of her own that she faces every single night.
While responding to a reader, the "agony aunt" mentioned in passing that she suffers from what she calls an "irrational fear" of the dark, she writes, in her latest column for the paper.
When I went public on my fear of the dark, writing "me too" in what may have been one of my least helpful responses to a troubled reader, a deluge of sufferers wrote to admit they were similarly afflicted. The letters weren't just from those sensibly nervous when wandering an empty street after midnight, but full-on phobics like myself left paralysed with fear and virtually unable to sleep alone. Is it some form of mass hysteria or is the dark, as I've always believed, actually scary? In an effort to find the ever-elusive peaceful slumber, Frostrup decided to try hypnosis, and spilled her guts to -- uh, interviewed -- a psychotherapist for the essay as well. Click over to The Observer to read the details of her experience.
But is, as Frostrup writes "what seems to me a shameful condition for a near-50-year-old" really that irrational? And if her mailbag is any measure, why are so many adults still shackled by it?
In fact, a fear of the dark in adulthood may be more common than even the sleep experts themselves would think. In a small study presented at the SLEEP 2012 conference in Boston, researchers were surprised to find how many adults 'fessed up to fearing things that go bump in the night.
"We were shocked by how many people acknowledged they were afraid of the dark as adults," study author Colleen Carney, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Ryerson Unversity in Toronto, Canada, told HuffPost's Catherine Pearson.
In Carney's study, the 93 participants dubbed themselves either "good sleepers" or "poor...
...In Holly Wren Spaulding’s essay, “In Defense of Darkness,” her main claim is that we have fallen away from darkness and immersed ourselves in a society of lightness. Furthermore, she claims this has lead humans to lose touch with basic human emotion as well as the sensual and spiritual experience true darkness has to offer. Spaulding makes this claim evident through exceptional use of personal testimony and copious appeals to value.
Spaulding begins her essay with a detailed personal testimony that describes the deep emotional connection she feels for darkness. In part of the second paragraph she states, “the sky and shore and water were all one inky darkness though stars sparkled on the watery surface,” (83). This description of the lake in complete darkness is used as an appeal to value. Spaulding holds a feeling of serenity towards the dark and emphasizes how she becomes one with nature and the darkness itself. Specifically she creates a connection and emotional involvement with the stars.
In the following paragraph, Spaulding creates a contrast between life in the city and life in the country. She revisits the idea of the stars and how fascinating they can be so far away from the light of the city, where the only thing seen in the sky are satellites. This is the beginning of her argument that people in today’s age are much more interested in living in populous cities...
A prominent, recurring theme in Sonny's Blues is the conceptual tie between light and dark and the beliefs of the narrator and his brother, Sonny. In the traditional sense, light often symbolizes truth and enlightenment while darkness suggests the abysmal and totally contradicts any notions its opposite may kindle. It can be taken that the narrator chooses the path of light because though he still resides in the same area in which he grew up, he has become an educator and escaped a fate that so many of his peers share: drug abuse and lives filled with debauchery. Sonny, though good hearted by nature, chooses a much less respectable path than his brother. He falls into heroin use that eventually lands him in jail instead of a gig with a jazz band as a great musician, something he aspires to be. The traditional meaning of the contrast between light and dark directly relates to the lives of the two brother's in Sonny's Blues because they, in many ways, reflect the brothers themselves by illustrating Sonny as the dark and the narrator as the light by highlighting and comparing the decisions the brothers made until the end of the story.
From the beginning, the narrator introduces the imagery of light and dark that will come to be the dominating theme of the story. In the first scene, the narrator is contemplating Sonny's fate in the dark subway. The "swinging lights of the subway car" allow him to read about Sonny's arrest, while the...
...and away from the track which I had followed while entering the jungle. I realized I had become lost in the maze of trees and creepers.
I wrestled the panic monster behind these thoughts and fought to keep myself calm. But I felt dreadful. Part of my brain started working on scenarios : if I wasn’t found again by this evening; injury, death and so on. I had to shake myself back to calm. There was still hope.
Again, a thousand thoughts entered my mind immediately. How will I find my way back again in the vastness of jungle ? How will my teachers and mates know my whereabouts? What will my parents do? My mind was totally blank. I was in a situation where I did not know how in the world you would get out of it.
Time ticked by, darkness deepened. Dusk was falling. Flocks of birds rustled in the trees, finding and settling on a perch for the night.
Suddenly I remembered my mobile phone. Without wasting a second I took my phone to contact my teacher. But, the phone had no signal at all. I ran everywhere to see whether I could receive a single signal in the dark and scary jungle. All my effort came to and with a great failure. I felt that I even lost my last hope.
It started to grow darker and darker. In the end, I decided to spend the night in the jungle. I huddled together under a tree. I hardly slept as I was bitten by mosquitoes and was worried about the wild animals heard prowling around. I was relieved a bit when day broke.
...Portrayal of Light and Darkness in James Joyce’s “Araby”
In James’ story “Araby” the narrator creates an image in the reader’s mind of a dark and dull world where he spends his days playing and becoming infatuated with a friend’s sister. He portrays to us a dull background in order to shows us the “light” in his world of darkness. As the narrator starts his story off he paints a world that is dark by using such words as: blind, uninhabited, and detached. These words give the reader a sense of darkness and solidarity in the story. It seems that the main character in the story sees darkness and disappointment all around him, aside from when he sees the girl he is infatuated with, at these times he sees her as light in his world of utter darkness and despair.
As the story progresses the boy sees his friend’s sister on three separate accounts. The first time he describes her as so, “She was waiting for us, her figure defined by the light of the half-opened door ” (Araby 346). With this we see the first sign of light in his story. In fact, every time the girl is brought up in the story it seems that she is followed by light. The narrator seems to hold the girl in very high reverence, almost portraying her as the only light in his life. His tone changes when talking about Mangan’s sister and seems to have a bit of hope in his tone when thinking of her. This is something that he cant stop doing...
...The use of the word “darkness” in the title of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness immediately alludes to its relevance to the story, but in an unexpected way. While the contrast of light and dark, white and black, and good and evil is a common theme in Heart of Darkness, Conrad essentially reverses the meanings of what is “light,” or good, and what is “dark,” or evil. Heart of Darkness is about the penetration of a corrupt light intodarkness, and the consequences that result when the purity of the darkness is tainted. In this work, the light is often viewed as more menacing and evil than the darkness, and the white characters more corrupt than the black characters. One of the biggest ways he contrasts the two is in physical location.
Conrad uses light as a symbol of civilization. Just as darkness is defined as the absence of light, the black jungle represents the absence of the white man’s civilization – a civilization marked by corruption and evil. Conrad’s description of Brussels in is an example of how he uses simple detail to convey a much deeper meaning. “In a very few hours I arrived at a city that always made me think of a whited sepulcher” (Conrad, p.7). It is significant that Conrad describes the building Marlow departs from as a “whited sepulcher” (white tomb), because the offices in that building are driven by greed and their job is sending men to...
Darkness, “Sonny’s Blues”, and Light
“Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin is about two brothers, Sonny and the unnamed narrator. The story chronicles a part of their lives. It begins with Sonny’s drug arrest. The tale then travels back to Sonny’s teenage years and ends up with Sonny living with his brother after his arrest. The story uses imagery throughout the tale. One of the most used is that of the contrast of light and darkness. This becomes the theme of the story. Even though Sonny has struggled with a drug problem and arrest readers may wonder who is in more darkness.
In the opening paragraph of the story the narrator is reading the newspaper while riding the subway on his way to teach school. While reading he learns that his brother has been arrested for drugs. He comments about reading the story in the paper and also seeing it in the lights of the subway car, the other people in the subway car, and his own face that he refers to being trapped in the darkness. The narrator is able to see his face in the window of the car due to traveling through the dark tunnels and the lights inside the car cause the window to become a see-through mirror. This makes his reflection appear to be outside the car following along in the darkness. This is actually a foreshadowing image as later in the story it becomes apparent that the narrator is in as much if not more...
...Heart of Darkness Essay
Light and dark imagery is one element most commonly used in literature, and has held specific symbolic meanings for hundreds of years. Simply stated, light generally symbolizes good, while darkness symbolizes the complete opposite, evil. More specifically, Conrad uses detailed imagery of light and dark to show that white men can in fact be more savage than the natives. While the contrast of light and dark, white and black, and good and evil is a common theme in his novel, Conrad reverses the meanings of the two. In his story often the light is viewed as more menacing and evil than the darkness, and the white characters more spiteful than the black. In Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad uses light and dark imagery and the reversing of their regular meanings as a main focal point throughout the novel. Conrad establishes throughout this the theme that not everything is as it seems.
Conrad uses light imagery as a symbol of civilization. Darkness is defined as the absence of light just like the black jungle is defined as the absence of white man’s civilization, a civilization full of corruption and evil. Conrad’s first description of Brussels is an example of this. “In a very few hours I arrived at a city that always made me think of a white sepulcher.” It is significant that Conrad describes the building as a white coffin, because the job there is sending men out to retrieve ivory,...
...Darkness can be defined as the partial or total absence of light, which may be translated into the inability to see. However simple this may sound, when applied to a human condition this has profound implications. It implies failing to see another human being, failing to understand them as an individual, and furthermore failing to establish any sort of sympathetic connection with him or her. Many critics have commented on the fact that Heart of Darkness proves Joseph Conrad to be a racist, in the means in which he displays the indigenous population of Africa. Furthermore, Achebe too has stated in his speech that the environment of Africa is used for the sole purpose of bringing out a vestigial darkness from the European character of Kurtz, thus demeaning Africa into a corrupt and hostile location.
Many forms of darkness are thus present throughout the novel from the very title to the atmosphere described in Marlow’s narrative. The title Heart of darkness not only refers to a physical location inside Africa, but also to a state of mind and the grim consequences of imperialism. The text considers the deep jungle of Africa as the heart of darkness both for its untamed and hostile wilderness and for its supposed "savages" – the black native Africans – who reside there, practicing certain non-European customs such as cannibalism. Also present are a few corollaries to darkness....