Madeline has been struggling with fear of the dark lately. She thinks there are monsters and “scary things” in her closet. We tried to explain to her that it’s just her imagination and now she is afraid of her imagination as well. Her Imagination. It has been personified.
I still don’t know where these fears come from. It seems as if a child could have never seen or heard a scary story and still develop a fear of the dark. Is it innate?
I’m trying to remember the source or reason for my fears. I don’t think I have memories as far back as when I was Madeline’s age, but I remember when I was 5 or 6 years old, at night it looked liked the posters on my bedroom wall were getting bigger, or perhaps moving closer to me. Squirrels are cute to have on posters in your bedroom, but they can look fairly menacing in the dark.
My fears were greatest—or my memories of my fear are clearest—when I was 9 or 10 years old. Of course, by that age I had heard plenty of scary stories from my friends on the way home from hockey games. I remember lying in bed barely breathing for fear of making too much noise and making my presence known to Something or someone. My heart would pound and I would be reluctant to close my eyes. I definitely wasn’t comfortable with the idea of hiding under the covers, because that would give Something freedom to move around the bedroom—out from under the bed or out of the closet and then maybe onto my bed.
I had a plush Alf doll at the time and I would lay it next to me on the outside of the bed as a decoy for any murderers that might be in my room. I figured they would stab the first figure they saw and then run for it, leaving me safe and sound (though a more than a little traumatized).
For the most part, though, I couldn’t articulate what I feared—I was simply afraid. So maybe fear is natural. From an evolutionary perspective it makes perfect sense; maybe it has a spiritual element, too. Perhaps when we are afraid there really is potential danger or hidden evil nearby. If this is the case, Madeline’s fears are not unfounded.