The Thing About Fear

So here’s the thing: I’m afraid of the dark.

I didn’t use to be. I don’t really know when it happened. I’ve always been easily spooked, but it’s never really gotten to me before. But the other day I found myself turning down plans to go see a scary movie with my boyfriend. Why? I love scary movies. I love being scared. But it was one of those supernatural flicks, and I realized that I would probably be too scared to sleep alone after it. (Note: it was The Conjuring. Has anyone seen this? Is it actually scary?)

And that got me thinking. When did I become such a chicken shit?

See, I’ve always had a very specific fear set. I’ve never feared humans. The masked killer or the silent intruder has never crossed my mind as I fall asleep. It’s the supernatural that gets me. The ghosts. The monsters that pop up out of nowhere.

I’m a pretty practical person. So why does something so impossible scare me so much?

Because it doesn’t follow the rules.

I have always been very confident in myself and my ability to fight through any situation. I don’t fear serial killers because I know I would fight. I have a mental catalogue of the location of every blunt object and weapon in my house. I know where I would hide. And if that failed, I know which window I’d climb out of and where I’d run to.

I don’t fear getting attacked in the parking garage by an escaped patient from a mental hospital because I know where the soft spots are on a person’s body. I know how to use my keys as a weapon.

know what to do. And for me, having a plan is like a safety blanket. I know I’m capable, I know how to react. So that’s not scary.

But the supernatural element gets me because, simply, I don’t know what to do. Ghosts are unpredictable. You can’t fight them. The girl from The Ring could pop up out of anywhere, and if you close your eyes for a second, the little kid from The Grudge could come skittering across your floor. And I don’t know how to react. They don’t follow rules. I don’t know their weaknesses. I’m not in control.

And that terrifies me.

I think that’s a large part of why the dark is so scary to me. The dark naturally robs you of your eyesight and takes away some of your control. But if an attacker comes at you, you’ll see his shadow through your door. You’ll hear his footsteps on the stairs. A monster won’t give you those signs.

For me, the dark preys on my biggest insecurity:  my sight. I have terrible, terrible vision. Even with my glasses on, I struggle to see things clearly. But when I take them off to go to sleep at night, all of my limited ability to see the world around me is gone. My towel becomes Bloody Mary- my purse becomes a tall figure in my closet.

The thing about fear is that it strips you. It shows exactly who you are at your basest level. People will say their greatest fear is something like heights, or spiders, or needles, or feet (yes, feet. It’s perfectly normal to be scared of feet, okay?).  But these aren’t fears. They’re the top-most layer of something that makes you uncomfortable. Your real fears are the strange ones that you can’t explain. Sometimes they’re simple, like drowning. Sometimes they’re ridiculous, like space. Yes, space. I am terrified of space. I think of its vastness, and I can’t help but imagine being lost there, floating away, literally a speck in a sea of oblivion. Astronaut movies make me distinctly uncomfortable on a level that I can’t even begin to rationalize.

Because fears can’t be rationalized. I know that I would burn up before I floated very far into space. And furthermore, I know that there is no circumstance in which I will ever be in space. But it’s not the practicality of it. It’s not really even space that I fear. It’s oblivion. It’s being insignificant. It’s being powerless.

But the great thing about fear is that once you know what you’re scared of, it can motivate you. I don’t believe that you can ever “overcome fear.” But I know that you can push it back. And I know that you can let it teach you.

And after all, if Harry’s Dementors taught us anything, it’s that the only thing to fear is fear itself. (Or you know, FDR. Same thing really.)

Note: I’d also be really interested in meeting a Dementor, just to see what it turns into. I bet it would be feet.

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What’s your fear? Are you scared of feet too? Or clowns? Tweet us @litdarling 
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Hope Racine

Associate Editor at Literally, Darling
Hope is a freelance writer and editor who makes her living writing things about Jane Austen and editing things about taxes. She has an unhealthy relationship with George Washington. Hope is currently working toward her life goal of being on Jeopardy! and owning all the dogs.
Hope Racine
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