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My fear of the dark

Long time ago, when I was very young and silly, I came across someone who made me experience deep regret. It was a passing relationship but one that had big consequences for me.

I didn't take the person seriously. I was 19 y.o. after all and I didn't take anything too seriously. The person said to me 'You'll regret it'. And I did.

The feeling of regret felt artificial because I had no reasons to experience regret and I couldn't logically or emotionally explain it to myself. Yet that feeling was very real and overwhelming, there was no escape from it and it lasted a year.


Looking back at that situation I realise that I made one profound mistake. Not taking the person seriously and telling them about this? Yes, that was a mistake. But I made another one, much more profound. Instead of quickly shaking off the unwanted feeling of regret, I accepted that I felt regret and it was my regret, so I accepted the feeling into my emotional state. And much worse, I tried to find rational explanations for it and by doing so I let regret into my rational mind. Once there, it felt trapped there because my mind was turning those thoughts round and round in the attempt to process and explain something that was irrational.

Now, after all these years, I know that we have the power to choose our thoughts and feelings. We have the power to shake off thoughts and feelings that are forced onto us. It's not just a theoretical possibility, it can be part of our daily routine. I mean inspecting our thoughts and feelings to find out which ones are our own and wanted, and which ones are being forced on us by the outside world.


But at 19 y.o. I didn't know that. So I was slowly fading away overwhelmed by a feeling of regret I didn't know how to explain. It was a bad year, physically, mentally and emotionally. I started to lose the will to have proper meal or get out of bed. The person would check on me now and then, look me in the eyes with his cold blue eyes, smile and ask how I felt.

I developed nightmares which made me fear the dark and then caused sleep disorder. I found it hard to fall asleep. I kept the light on but at some stage - to fall asleep - I had to close my eyes. And that meant being in the dark. So I didn't close my eyes as long as I could. The person noticed I wasn't getting proper sleep and suggested that I start taking sleeping pills and even offered me some. It was years back, we were in post-Soviet Russia and it was possible to get strong hormonal pills without prescription, let alone strong sleeping pills. That of course made things worse for me.

Long story short, I got rid of the regret and the person (or the person got rid of me) and came back to my normal self. Almost. There were some ongoing side effects like profound lack of trust for blue-eyed people (joking) and a much more cautious approach to being open and honest with everyone around me.


One of the long lasting side effects were nightmares and being afraid of the dark. I got used to nightmares and didn't take them seriously, but dark spaces were a serious issue, especially if I was home alone. For example, I could barely spend in a dark room more than 30 seconds. Worse, if I was home alone I couldn't sleep, light or no light. My partners knew about my problem so I was never left alone at night.

I was in my late thirties, a working mother of two young kids, digging in new blueberries in the garden and looking after two pet rabbits who were trying to eat my garden. I was very busy. I remember it was a wintery evening, I needed something urgently in the kids' room so I rushed there but forgot to turn on the light. I was in the middle of the room when I realised that it was dark and it'd take me a couple of seconds to get back to the door to turn the light on. I stood there and thought: 'Maybe I can ignore my fear and see what happens?' So I stood there several seconds, cold panic growing inside me, then I rushed out of the room but I didn't see where I was going so I hit the cabinet and got bruised.

It was then when I decided that enough was enough and I couldn't go on like that. I also realised that I should have done something with my fear of the dark long time ago. It just goes to show that lazy people don't grow if life and people treat them well. I didn't have an urgent need to address my fear, so I didn't.

Very soon after that I had my first 'split consciousness' experience. I felt a strong urge to meditate in a dark room and quickly went into a state where my consciousness split into four parts: my bodily sensations, emotional state, rational mind and the 'impartial observer' as I call it. All the four parts were operating independently of each other and there was time and space between them, as if everything slowed down and it was taking ages for signals from my mind to get to my emotions and back. The 'impartial observer' was observing and deciding which signals get through and which ones don't.

Then the realisation came that it was dark; the realisation hit me like a heat wave. I could feel it hitting me. It wasn't fear as such because it didn't get through to my emotions at that stage. All that was happening in slow motion. My mind was processing what the body felt and couldn't come up with a logical explanation, so my mind sent panic signals to my emotions. Then and only then I got an emotional reaction and the sense of panic started flooding me. Then the 'impartial observer' intervened and wiped out the panic.

And it all started again - a 'dark' heat wave, the mind attempting to explain the 'wave' and sending a panic signal to emotions. All in slow emotion, so easy to step in and instruct the mind to stop looking for rational explanations for the 'wave'. Just accept it's happening and who cares why.


I stepped out of that room with my fear of the dark gone forever. Since then every time I found myself in the dark, I instructed the mind to disregard the body's signal. Then my mind got used to it. It probably ticked a box 'not dangerous' somewhere in its risk register.

Since then the 'split consciousness' experience happens every time in a risky or scary situation and I must admit I haven't had too many of these. Sometimes I feel like I've spent too many years being afraid of something I could have simply re-programmed by a willful intent. But I guess lazy people like me only grow when they're desperate.

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