Primarily, we are attracted to dark things as a survival mechanism — our brain has learned to look for problems and threats around us. We also like dark things because subconsciously they allow us to get in touch with sides of us that usually have to be repressed.
Of course, sensation also plays a role. If you are the type that likes strong excitement, particularly in the form of an adrenaline rush, then dark things such as horror movies can trigger that feeling (without, of course, being physically dangerous).
Is it bad to be drawn to darkness?
Yes and no. I don’t think any type of obsession with dark things and optimal mental health could ever coexist.
When we watch horror scenes, listen to disturbing stories, read about serial killers etc. our mind absorbs that darkness in one way or another.
This means that even if what we experience is clearly imaginary (not real, not in the physical world), our subconscious doesn’t really know that it’s imaginary.
So as a general rule, it would be sensible not to dwell on our darker side too often. In small doses, however, dark things could even be beneficial to our self awareness and mental health.
Keep reading to find out why…
Why we are drawn to dark things
Whether we like it or not, the way we react to things is largely determined by our animal brain — the one that’s helped us survive for literally hundreds of thousands of years.
A big part of survival is the ability to identify problems (threats) so we can work toward a solution. “Problems” used to be wild beasts chasing us; nowadays it’s probably not as serious.
Either way, this is the first and main reason we tend to like dark things — our brain has learned to focus on problems, issues, threats, and negative events as a survival mechanism.
So not only do we find it hard to ignore dark things — in a way, we are drawn to them because there still is a part of us that feels the need to learn more about them.
2. Inner awareness
This is another aspect no one would ever like to admit or acknowledge, yet it undeniably exists: even the brightest, most enlightened soul has a dark side.
In other words, even the nicest person has traits that are not so good. This doesn’t mean that those dark traits define them, or that are predominant, but they are in them nevertheless.
Why is it important to acknowledge this? Because it’s usually through awareness of one’s dark side that one can fully get to know it, then let go of it, and become an even better individual.
For example, in psychotherapy, through “shadow work” (a term coined by Carl Jung, who was also the first to experiment with it) we get in touch with our own dark side and inner demons as a way to grow.
If you are a highly sensitive person — someone who processes information very deeply, especially sensations e.g. light, noise, pain — you probably don’t like dark things at all, and avoid them.
If you are the opposite, that is, if you are a thrill seeker and/or you need strong sensations to reach a high enough level of excitement, then dark stories, horror, and anything disturbing is likely to be appealing.
Anything that has to do with fear, shock, or darkness triggers adrenaline in some way, and that’s what the sensation seeker seeks.
Again, the “sensation” trait is innate; we all change as we age and our circumstances play a role, but it’s mostly in our DNA. Just like some of us are predominantly extroverted or introverted.
Even if you are not drawn to dark things, you can probably think of a few villains that somehow appeal to you. Perhaps not in horror movies, but it could also be cartoon characters.
Why do we like villains, then? Psychology offers an interesting explanation — we tend to like, and even idealize, characters who embody traits we are not allowed to express.
We live in a society and this means we cannot always express our darker side, and overall this is a good thing. However, it also implies that the darker side must be repressed, which may cause tension or stress.
So when we idealize villains, and then potentially identify with them, we have the chance to let that dark side emerge, feel it, and embrace it — without actually causing any harm.
5. Reverse psychology
Lastly, think of reverse psychology. If you tell a child they should not do something, they probably will do it. Not in all cases, but it’s a very real possibility.
Well, the same works with us adults. As an example, so far I have seen at least three online ads saying “don’t click this link”, or “don’t click this red button” — what do you think the user’s reaction has been in most cases?
The fifth reason we can be attracted to dark things is that we are attracted to what we can’t do or be in general. Similarly, we tend to desire things that are unreachable and unachievable. See how it works?
The thought of not being supposed to experience a certain thing can actually intrigue us and attract us. For example, horror movies are bad for our mental health and we shouldn’t watch them, so we are intrigued.
Do YOU like dark things?
You probably came to this article through a Google search. Perhaps you are really into dark stuff and thought, surely I can’t be the only one?
Or you may be more like me and tend to avoid anything that’s creepy and disturbing, but still wonder why dark things are, at times, so fascinating.
So, what’s your experience/personality? Let me know by leaving a reply below 👇