January 4, 2014

Nyctophobia: New Insight into Our Fear of the Dark. ~ Elli Ho

Though we are woven in the darkness of our mother’s womb and seem immune to the blackest of nights until the age of two, fear of the dark is an experience most of us can easily recall.

Some, if not many of us even, harbor this fear to some degree today.


In children, fear of darkness can be seen as a developmental side effect of experiencing separation. Evolutionarily the onset of darkness equates with increased risks to life and limb, as we are not physiologically equipped to handle the dangers that lurk in the darkness beyond (saber-tooth tigers, cliffs, and the bone chilling cold of night).

A new insight into our fear of darkness revealed itself to me on a family hike.

The sun set quickly on a warm December evening on the slopes of Haleakala, the magical volcano of Maui. We enjoyed watching the pink and golden hues through the countless tree trunks and spent only five minutes at the “lookout” before turning around.

Our 10 year old daughter was already feigning sickness and fatigue on the way to the lookout in hopes that we would turn around early. The night fell quickly and silently in Makawao’s Forest Reserve. No body, no moon, no streets, houses, or lights in sight.

“I’m afraid of the dark,” said one. “Me too,” added a second voice in our group. “I only feel uncomfortable in dark water,” commented a third. So we wondered, where does this fear come from and what does it mean?

First, we went through assessing which animals could pose threats to life and limb: wild boars, not likely. Snakes, none. Mosquitoes, spiders? We didn’t see any.

No perceivable threats by wildlife, cliffs, or the cold.

Holding my daughters hand tightly, there was no “real” need to fear separation…or was there?

If we could rule out the first two “reasons” for nyctophobia, why did the fear remain?

During our waking hours, our five senses are constantly bombarding us with information about the world. Let’s say that the average “noise” that our senses send via our neurons to the brain during the day is about a nine out of 10 on a volume dial. Let’s say that the little voice of intuition, that “knowing-beyond-the-senses”, normally lingers around a one out of 10.

What happens when we reverse the information, and instead of 90% of our information “noise” coming from our eyes, ears, nose, mouth and touch, suddenly 60% comes from our intuition and only 40% from our senses. How would we respond if we had instant access to an unknown quantity and quality of new information? Information that we have no reference point for?

Naturally our minds jump to fear in order to prepare for the worst-case-scenario. Are we ready to “hear, see, smell, taste and feel” what our intuition is telling us?

What if our intuition reveals ideas and thoughts about spirits and realms that are more magical and fantastical than our daily-grind-world-views allow? What if turning up the volume of our intuition, by turning down the bodily senses, allows us to tap into ideas, thoughts and powers that may actually threaten our identity with ego?

For if we can feel safe with the information that our intuition provides, why bother with the ego?

If the ego no longer serves us in keeping us safe, then it is no longer needed.

This can be a very frightening experience (for the ego and for us, since it has been our companion for so long).

So what does ego do in the Mind? It creates a mental construct:

Dark = access to intuition (Why is it that 99% of people meditate and pray with closed eyes?)

Intuition = death of ego

Avoid the dark = keep ego alive

Imagine that fear of the dark is a survival mechanism for ego!

How can we neutralize this fear?

1)  Take some deep breaths and relax into the darkness. This takes us out of the fight or flight response. Then ask that the light of intuition provide information for the highest good.

2)  Notice what comes up and meet whatever it is with open curiosity and love. It may be helpful to seek out guidance from a holistic practitioner who can help integrate the experiences that come up as a result of opening up to intuition.

3) Thank the ego. Even though it may be keeping us from discovering and experiencing our intuitive voice at times, its main function is to keep us out of harms way. This is a gentle release of the ego, not a battle.

As we turn up the volume, of our intuitive voice, it is quite possible that our fear of the dark will subside.

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Assistant Editor: Andrea Charpentier/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Courtesy of Author


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