Afraid of the Dark, Don't Believe in Ghosts, sound familiar?

I am 35, married, an American of Europeanish descent, a father of two, have a mundane office jobbee job, drive a subaru, have a dog, you get the picture, nothing special. Not infrequently I am afraid of the dark, have bad dreams that make me unable

I did a quick search and didn’t see this asked, although it may have been I am 35, married, an American of Europeanish descent, a father of two, have a mundane office jobbee job, drive a subaru, have a dog, you get the picture, nothing special. I am technically “agnostic” about all thigns supernatural (i put religion in that category), but functionally an “athiest” (or skeptic or whatever). By this I mean that I do not claim to ultimatley know the nature of the universe. There may well be things that go bump in the night, or people who are psychic, or vengeful gods of dessert peoples that created everything in 6 days, but on a day to day basis I treat all that as untrue.

The point that I am taking too long to get to is this. Despite my mundane world view, I am not infrequently very afraid at night, have bad dreams of the boogeyman variety that make me so scared that I am unable to go back to sleep (sometimes with strong emotional reactions, eg crying), get fully, heart stoppingly, creeped out by sppoky old buildings, etc. In short I am afraid of what I do not believe exists. It would be like me worrying whether Santa Claus was going to come this year.

I am not particularly baffled by this, I know that there are things I understand intellectually but can’t make my lizard brain understand (although it hsould be noted that I never pray or anything like that, even in crisis situations, so at least my lizard brain has figured that out). I was just wondering who else has a similar inconsistancy in there world view versus emotional reaction. I am not talking about the usual “see a scary movie and suspend your disbelief for two hours”. I mean more of the “no part of me believes in X, yet in certain situations I behave as if X is 100% real”.

I did a quick search and didn’t see this asked, although it may have been addressed.

Mmmm…dessert peoples.

Seriously though, I think it is not necessarily a fear of gods or monsters, but a fear of what you cannot see and therefore cannot defend yourself from. It is a fear of the unknown most likely, which is perfectly normal in my opinion.

You know what? It may stop now that you’ve talked about it. (Well, typed.)

I had a spell of horrible nightmares about two years ago. Every night, it got worse, and I’d wake up crying or so panicked I couldn’t even scream. It went on for so long that I was starting to lose weight and everyone asked me if I was ill because I was so pale and nervous. I just couldn’t get any sleep.

I finally confessed to someone about my dreams. I actually felt a little silly doing so, because not everyone is a vivid movie-like dreamer and doesn’t suffer as badly from nightmares. To my amazement, it was like some sort of pall had been lifted, that the spell had been broken by simply talking about it. That night, I slept soundly and dreamlessly for the first time in months.

Sometimes fears build in us, and we get so nervous about the potential for being scared that we actually make it worse. If you go to sleep anticipating you’ll have a nightmare, chances are, you will. That residual anxiety will leech over into your dreams.

What you need to do tonight is have a chat with your wife. Lay in the bed for a while and reminisce about funny things that have happened to you until you’re too tired to keep your eyes open any longer. In essence, go to sleep laughing.

Try to do this whenever you feel the anxiety building. Talk about it to someone to relieve it, and then before you go to bed, have a conversation about something that makes you happy, like planning what you’ll do when you win the lottery, or something equally light and frivolous. If you do this with the lights off, you may be able to retrain yourself into thinking that darkness is enjoyable because it equals a pleasant conversation.

As you’re falling asleep, think of one of your favorite books or movies and replay it in your head-- anything pleasant to distract your mind from stress.

Give it a try for a while. It’s worth a shot.

How long have you had this problem?

All your life?

Since two months ago when the rumor of lay offs at your job started going around?

You’re not alone. I’m 32 years old and still sleep with the light on when my husband isn’t home. To add to the fun, I sometimes have partial sleep paralysis complete with hypnagogic hallucinations; nothing like opening your eyes to see a flame-eyed demon girl in a long white moldy dress glaring at you from the foot of your bed and being unable to jump up and scream about it.

It seems to get worse when I’m stressed about something. It’s like I lie there in the dark worrying, and fall asleep worrying, and then something all deep and Freudian happens and I’m smack in the middle of a nightmare.

In broad daylight, it’s easy to be skeptical, easy to know that ghosts and demons and monsters don’t exist. At night, lying helpless in bed in the dark, the back of your mind speaks up and whispers, “What if you’re wrong? ‘There’s no such thing…’ that’s just what all the people in the movies say right before they get eaten…it all could be true…” and no matter how firmly you tell the back of your mind to shut up, it won’t listen.

You want to know what’s completely bizarre? I don’t like sleeping with the lights off, but I have no problem sleeping with an eyemask as long as the light is on. Could be I’m just nuts. It doesn’t come up very often, though, since I work nights.

I thought the same thing. I would compare it to being afraid of swimming in the ocean. You don’t know what is down there. In the dark, you don’t know what is out there.

Butch up and quit being such a skirt. :wink:


Dessert peoples, nice, I am an idiot…who likes dessert, or maybe I subconsciously believe in Jesus the Pie Man. Anyway, I am appreciative of all the supportive words and thoughtful advice (especially Quicksilver), but I am not so troubled by my intermittent abject terror. This has of course, not always been the case, but its been going on ever since I can remember, and getting older, having kids, etc., reduces the felt importance/significance of this kind of fearfulness.

I was just thinking its odd, the juxtaposition of the depth of my fear of childish things, and the strength of my lack of belief in them. As pbbth and Khadaji point out, it may well just be good old fear of the unknown, and I am just trying to dress up my inability to conquer it to make myself feel interesting.

Sleep paralysis combined with horrible, horrible things happening in the real world (like your bedroom), whose idea was that exactly? Its definitely one of those things that makes it very clear to me why people used to believe in spirits and crap, even if you know it is just a natural phenomena, it feels so, so, so bad. Stress definitely will lead to increases in frequency in bad dreams and especially Sleep Paralysis/Awful Visions (SPAVs), but not just plain old fear of the dark that seems consistently inconsistent. There was a reduction in the really freaky bad dreams when I quit drinking (big fucking surprise there).

Marlitharn your moldy dressed girl sounds very familiar, its usually that same kind of freaky, scary crap. And of course its not usually just something that looks horrifying, but there is all this fucked up dream “context” that makes it more awful (the dead moldy girl is actually your sister and you are somehow sort of responsible for her death, and you had to watch it eat your children/mother/wife) .

I think you solved your own problem…you believe in Jesus the pie man. I would consider converting to christianity if the messiah came bearing desserts. :smiley:

Have you considered seeing a shrink? I know my workplace provides free counciling (anonymously of course) for employees and their families. Maybe your workplace or your wife’s workplace has a similar program? Sometimes talking it through with a professional really helps.