On Fear of the Dark

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I have always been afraid of the dark. When I was a boy in rural Connecticut, I used to lie awake at night, listening to our old house creak around me, watching shadows creep up the walls of my room and across the ceiling. I was afraid to go down into our cellar, where the washer, dryer, and Mother’s canned goods were kept, because there was a back room, seldom lit, that opened on a cavernous passageway so thick with darkness you could see no farther than a few yards into it.

If you have lived all your life in the city, you may not appreciate just how dark rural nights can be. Outdoors, night transformed our friendly open fields and woods into thick dense shadow, particularly when the moon was on the wane. Affable nocturnal cricket-chirp and brightly lathered starshine mitigated my outdoor night-fears somewhat, but I still feared the gaping open mouth of our barn, and watching horror movies on our black-and-white T.V. didn’t help matters. The shows that scared me were ludicrously tame by modern standards: Invaders From Mars, Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, the British horror series Way Out, every episode of which ended in maniacal laughter. Nonetheless, afterwards, upstairs in my dark bed, I would clutch my stuffed animals and my mother’s rosary to me as though my life depended upon their protection.

Bathrooms, too, scared me at night, particularly bathrooms with the doors shut. So did bathtubs with the shower curtains drawn.

I know why, of course. In the dark, the familiar turns alien, just as when people the child depends upon for security and solace suddenly and without apparent warning show unexpectedly strange, severe, or malignant sides to their personalities. My alcoholic, emotionally disturbed mother’s sudden personality-shifts, my older brother Manfred’s sudden, sneering, verbal and physical attacks from nowhere, my parents’ unpredictable fights, all these terrors I projected onto the Enemy Out There Somewhere, unforeseeable in the dark.

I am 63 years old now, and I wish I could say I am no longer fearful of shadows. After all, I have spent a good part of my adulthood examining my own shadow material, as the psychologists call it, and I have had moments where visions of Divine Love have made all shadows flee away. But still they return. And one thing I know: I must learn to make friends with the dark if I am to someday face my inevitable death with equanimity. For as much as I preach that death is the doorway into Light, my inner child fears otherwise. And we ignore our inner children to our peril.

— Copyright 2014 Rand B. Lee.

 

 

Warnings From the Shadow

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Many years ago a client informed me that I had given her an inaccurate psychic reading. The reason, she said, was that a malevolent extraterrestrial had clouded my perceptions, causing the reading to fail.

Even if one believes, as I do, that psychic abilities and a spiritual reality exist, there are a lot of less dramatic reasons why a psychic might screw up a reading. Wanting to please a client too much is usually mine. But I also have a horror of misleading people, so naturally this phone call disturbed me.

What disturbed me even more was my client’s allegation that invisible aliens can control human minds. This has become a popular doctrine in the New Age community worldwide. ET influence has been offered as an explanation for illness, fatigue, accidents, depression, relationship difficulties and prosperity setbacks. Self-proclaimed ET representatives offer community, identity, excitement, peace and spiritual rescue to those willing to embrace the truth of the UFO underground.

All of this is an uncomfortable mirror of things I was taught when I was a Fundamentalist Christian in the seventies. In those days it was Satan and his demons that I was taught to beware rather than manipulative ETs, and the identity offered me was that of membership in the ranks of those saved by grace from the Last Judgment.

Both doctrines offer the same seduction. Both view the world “out there” as essentially malignant, and view the world inside us as invaded by evil. Both doctrines offer me the promise that someone outside myself can heal me, whether it be a Messiah or a “de-corder” removing my “ET implants.” Both doctrines promise to save me from the pain of being merely human by giving me a new, cleaner, more spiritual, higher identity as one of the reborn or one of the starborn. And both doctrines relieve me of the responsibility for facing the rage and sadness rooted in my childhood which, unreleased and unresolved, is the true cause of my dysfunctions.

It’s all reminiscent of what sociologists call millennial fever. We are still in the first years of the new millennium. A thousand years ago in Europe, on the eve of the year 1001 in the Christian calendar, paranoid doctrines increasingly proliferated. In those days, the invisible enemies were considered Jews, heretics, and demons. Jews, it was alleged, went about poisoning wells at night; heretics sought to seduce the theologically uneducated; demons crouched on one’s bed under the moon and tempted the flesh to rebel against the Creator. The world, the preachers back then said, was coming to an end. Evidence for this was the rebelliousness of youth and society’s increasing immorality, ecclesiastic corruption, and the proliferation of war, disease, and natural disaster. Watch the skies, people were told, for the Lord would soon appear in His glory to rescue the world from End Time horrors.

Now it is polluters, feminists, gay people, pro-choicers, immigrant “entitlement-takers”, crack dealers and bad ETs we are taught to fear in the night. Now it is good ETs we are taught to search the sky for. But both doctrines are fueled by the same unconscious, unresolved traumas.

Maybe it’s because I am an incest and PTSD survivor in recovery that I resist so strongly the notion that invisible ETs can take over my mind. But I don’t think so. I stand by the truth that intuition, reason, and emotional experience have proven to me: that it is I who cast the shadows that seem to pursue me.