Fear is defined as, “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.”
As long as I can remember, I’ve been afraid of bees. I was never chased by an angry swarm—although I did take a nasty sting to the eyelid when I was younger—but I am terrified of them nonetheless. I tried to rationalize it once. I’m not allergic and in reality a bee sting hurts far less than getting a shot or having blood drawn, yet I have no lingering issues with needles or nurses.
I decided that it was the buzzing. You can hear the buzzing of the bee and not see it, adding levels of uncertainty to a perilous situation. I know I exaggerate, but honestly, you should see me in Autumn when the little buggers have the audacity to crawl on you. I digress.
After some thoughtful reflection, I began thinking of other fears. One of the first to pop into my mind was one that affects 5% of Americans according to a 2001 Gallup poll. (See sources below).
Nyctophobia is defined as a scientific word for fear of the dark. When I went to complete some research for this blog post, I was honestly surprised at how low ‘the dark’ fell on the list of fears. (Snakes, public speaking, and heights were the highest).
But I began with the intent to speak on the topic of Nyctophobia and so I continue with a justified question: What makes the dark so unappealing to so many?
Is it the inability to see what’s right in front of you? Is it a psychological issue that correlates to a traumatic event from childhood? Or is it something else?
I think the fear of the dark, as with most of our major horrors, boils down to the fear of the unknown.
We don’t like the dark because anything could be lurking right around the corner.
This is much like how I do not like the buzzing of bees because I believe it will lead to a prick. I don’t fear the physical pinch of a bee sting; I fear the anticipation of wondering whether or not it will come.
A quote from the Gallup survey reads:
“In fact, adults appear to be slightly less fearful of certain things today than they were in the last Gallup "fears" survey, in November 1998.”
We aren’t afraid of certainty. We fear uncertainty. We want to know what’s going to happen and when it will happen. We like to plan our lives down to the wire so we know when to expect a triumph or when to brace ourselves for defeat.
But life doesn’t work that way. Life can’t work that way. We have to learn to let go of our set expectations and become happy with whatever curve balls are thrown our way. That has to become enough.
I’m not promising not to freeze anytime I hear the buzzing of a wasp. I can’t assure you I wouldn’t scream if there was a hornet crawling up my pant leg. In fact, to be fair, I’m nearly certain I would panic. But that’s not the point.
The point is we need to become okay with uncertainty. When I turn off my light at bedtime and watch the glowing stars on the ceiling fade, I’m not going to think about the proverbial “monsters under the bed.” I will feel safe because I understand the rationale behind fear and I will know that whatever unlikely circumstances come my way, I will be prepared to handle them.
To read another really interesting article about fear of the dark check out: