My three year old recently proclaimed he is no longer afraid of the dark. How did that happen? Well, for one thing we didn’t make him get over his fear. Rather we empathized with how he was still getting used to the dark. Then one day, I’ll be honest I didn’t want to get up and turn on a light for him in the bathroom when he wanted a drink of water (even though he had a cup of water in his lit room already.) I told him that the hall light was on and to stand in the hall and look for the Dixie cups. Once he saw the cups he walked willingly into the bathroom and got himself a drink. While that in itself is remarkable, it got me thinking about how him overcoming his fear of the dark is a metaphor of how one can learn to deal with any anxiety. One must stand in the light and look into the darkness. Once one understands more about the darkness, then one can learn how to function despite it.
Afternote: I wrote this a few weeks ago. Now my son is once again afraid of the dark, at least some of the times. That too is a metaphor for learning to understand anxiety. With any anxiety, or any mental health challenge, often there are steps forward and steps back. Does that mean my son’s moment of not being afraid wasn’t real? No. It just means he needs to have enough of those moments to cohesively learn about the dark and feel he has mastered it.