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Reasoning With The Terror In The Night

by Rowan Elle Walters

I experienced episodes of altered perception since I was a toddler (I’m 20 now). Sometimes the room would be immensely big, sometimes very small. There were times my hands or tongue seemed incredible large. This happened mostly at night and in the dark. The effects disappeared when I put on the light and actually looked at my hands. A doctor was consulted, but he made nothing of it.

As a teenager, around my 12th birthday I began to experience Sleep Paralysis. Shortly after the death of our cat, I felt, at night, her jump on the bed, tripping over my body and nestling on my breast. I was awake but unable to move. I know it couldn’t be true because I was fully aware that she had died. Since then I had a lot of these episodes, at least one a week.

So I started analysing them. I now know when it will begin. For me it starts with flashes of light. Then the room shimmers in a silvery metallic light and I can see everything very clearly, although my eyes are closed. Then the paralysis sets in and a feeling of dread. Something jumps on the bed and lies upon me.

Sometimes it breathes in my face, scratches my thighs, breasts or arms as if it had pointy talons. Usually I can move a small part of my body, like a finger or a foot. I move it frantically in order to wake myself or my boyfriend. After a while that works, most of the time. There have been times the assaults (if that is what you can
call it) are sexual, penetrating my vagina or anus.

People have told me that this is a proof of demonic activity and advised me to see a priest. I couldn’t believe that. First of all, it’s all gone the moment I can move again. Secondly, there are never any markings on my body. And thirdly it is simply not malevolent enough. Frightening yes, in a nightmarish kind of way, but it doesn’t feel really evil.

So I decided to try to let it just happen. To see what really takes place and how it ends. And concentrate on the feelings. This is what I found out. What I took for stroking or scratching is really more a prickling sensation, like putting your finger in carbonated water. It’s not really painful, it is just very uncomfortable. I suspect the mind just produces an image to explain to itself what the sensation might be. We do the same thing awake when we, for example, are imagining that someone is following us.

What felt as anal penetration is I suspect, no more than a cramp in the sphincter. Maybe it’s a side effect of the hormones the body produces to paralyse the muscles during dreaming. The tingling sensation of the skin might have the same cause.

Since I have reasoned about it (with myself) the fear is much lessened. It still requires some discipline however. I must prepare my mind before going to sleep. That’s because the images are so vivid, emotions easily take over and it seems more natural to give in to fear. But on the whole I manage quite well these days.

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