We were all scared of the dark as children and grew up hearing stories of ghosts and watching horror movies. Most of us stopped being scared of it. Some of us didn’t. Deepa* was one such person. A 37-year-old married woman, Deepa* had an intense fear of the dark since her childhood. A month before she came to us, one of her relatives had died, thus exacerbating her anxiety and manifesting as breakdowns.
During Deepa*’s first session, she revealed that she also had a fear of ghosts and the paranormal. She said that ever since the death of the relative, she had extreme fear and sleepless nights most of the week as compared to it being once in a fortnight before the death. The first few sessions catered to psycho-educating Deepa* how primal instincts and survival cause the brain and the body to react in a particular way. Along with this, she was also introduced to mindfulness to help her respond to the unpleasant thoughts she has. As homework, she was asked to write positive self-affirmations every morning which can help her along with a daily journal which can help her prove to herself that nothing had gone significantly wrong in spite of her brain telling her otherwise.
As the sessions progressed, Deepa* engaged in exposure therapy where she agreed to experience the situation in a safe space so that they can reconstruct ways of dealing with it. Once this happened, in a dark room facility, with Deepa*’s consent, we tried to change the perception of darkness and death and the danger that Deepa’s* brain perceives. In spite of initial discomfort, mindfulness and psycho-educating Deepa* had helped her surf those waves of discomfort. As the activity was repeated multiple times, she was able to handle it better. She also learnt to re-establish meanings to words. For example, death equaled ghosts and the working on re-establishment of words helped her understand that, it didn’t have to be that way. This re-establishment of words helped her understand how powerful the meaning we give to words and concepts are and had a significant impact on her.
(*name changed for anonymity)