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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Afraid of the dark?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Are you afraid of the dark? Should you be?

October is a folklorist's delight, full of horrors, ghost stories, crime, and trick-or-treat maladies.

It can be a cackling kind of fun to hear the many stories as they are told and retold.

With the shortening of the days and the lengthening of the nights, a new narrative of fear is found -- Nyctophobia -- this is the fear of the dark.

Nyct (the antecedent of nocturnal) is darkness or night, and phobia is fear.

With the days shortening, we now have to do the majority of our shopping and errands after dark.

This is unfortunate because for the most part, we are afraid of the dark.

From the beginnings of the Bible to the present day, man continues to illuminate every setting.

We have a primal fear of what we cannot see.

Have you ever noticed that if you're camping, a mouse in the leaves sounds a lot like a guy with an axe? I have.

Darkness and the ability for people or evil doers to hide brings out the best and the worst of imaginings and as is proven time and again, if there are not any real threats to us, we will invent some.

Focusing on a child's fear of the dark, we have to take into account that they have healthy imaginations that can over-exaggerate what they see or what they fear.

Consider all the movies and how far graphics and special effects have advanced in the past 10 years.

When I was a child, "The Wizard of Oz," (1939) scared me ... seriously, the flying monkeys.

The real question is: Do parents encourage a child's fear of the dark or do they try to alleviate it?

My answer is a little of both, and I lean toward the encouraging side.

The standby is to put light sources everywhere in the home. However, by using nightlights in the house, many children will become so dependent on them that they will not go near a room that is dark, and will often make their parents turn on the lights for them before they enter the room -- they cannot even handle the two seconds of darkness to turn on the light.

We also do not want our kids to wander off from the home or into the woods at night. The Puritans went as far as telling and believing that the devil and his demons were in the woods, waiting for them and the chance to steal their souls.

What about the monster under the bed or in the closet? This one is easy when we look at the advantage of letting a kid believe this. I am one of six children.

At the end of a long day, when my mother or father needed some personal time to relax, eat popcorn, or to enjoy a television show without the constant interruptions of my brothers, sisters and I, it worked to their advantage if we believed there was a monster under our beds waiting to grab our ankles if we got up.

So, late at night, when I am trying to quietly open a package of Oreos or potato chips, I don't mind if the kids are a little too afraid of a dark hallway to investigate what I am doing or to interrupt me.