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Sleep, you black-eyed pig
Fall into a deep, foul pit full of ghosts.

19th c. Icelandic lullaby

Ohh, by the sacred lint that girds the lotus in the navel of Vishnu, I do love the research phase of writing. My business handle is McGowan Writing & Research, but some days I’d gladly chuck the middle word if only somebody would pay me to read alllll day.


As I dig into research for the fear book in the coming months, I’ll post the occasional passage here. So:

Researchers in Europe1 recently confirmed — no surprise to me — that parents consistently underestimate the intensity of their children’s fears. It is interesting that in Western culture we send them off on their own to bed when they are least able to handle the solitude. In primates and humans [sic], the startle reflex is potentiated by darkness. Neurologically, we have evolved to be jumpier and more hypervigilant after sunset, whereas, for example, rodents and rabbits are more wired during the day. Yet this is the only time that we actually require our most vulnerable members to fend for themselves. Improbably, we position them as scouts around the periphery of the campfire, then offer them no instructions beyond insisting they not sound an alarm while we slumber.

Patricia Pearson, A Brief History of Anxiety…Yours and Mine

1Lahikainen, A.R. et al., “Child-parent agreement in the assessment of young children’s fears,” Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 37, no.1 (January 2006): 100-117.

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Dale McGowan is chief content officer of OnlySky, author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies, and founder of Foundation Beyond Belief (now GO Humanity). He holds a...