Fear of storms involves a range of inner, intense, voluntary or involuntary warning alerts. This could range from mild wariness and discomfort, to an impromptu panic attack or, in the extreme, to an ingrained phobia about storms. And then, from another perspective, storms throughout history have been associated with superstitious fears of dark spirit worlds. In “Macbeth”, Shakespeare’s First Witch declared,
“When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?”
For some people, from children through to adults, it seems that storms plague their mind. They retreat inwardly even at the thought of a storm. Fear brews before the actual storm and continues to rise during the event.
Reasons for this fear of storms in select people are difficult to identify. They are varied and hypothetical. Looking at a range of behaviour patterns representing fear, some theories emerge.
*The person who closes curtains so that there is no sign of sudden bright lightning flashes has a visual fear of storms. This person knows the source of fear and endeavours to deal with it.
*The person who cringes and hides inside under a blanket presents signs of insecurity. This person is usually reacting to the sound effects of storms. The blanket gives a sense of close protection. The sharp clamour of a storm means that the aural senses are being bombarded, leaving little lee way for other senses to activate in balance. It is as if they are numbed, producing in some people a sense of fear. People’s physical well being is imbalanced. Some cope, some don’t or can’t. Animals, dogs in particular, present this behaviour pattern too. Their ears are highly sensitive to pitch and sound levels, so when the ears are overwhelmed, then other sense functions struggle for normality.
*The person who breaks out in a sweat and shivers presents signs of panic about all elements of storms. Panic evolves when an individual feels personal self-control is lost. Reason and logic evaporate and emotional chaos rules. Emotional panic is a sign that a person’s individual threshold to cope with Nature’s powerful forces has been crossed.
For some people, storms mean fear of any movement. The unpredictability of storms restricts human activity and restricts individual choices. This is particularly so for those who live in tornado or hurricane prone areas who have an additional fear of extreme property damage, serious injury or even loss of life. Being unable to find or focus on alternative activities during a storm seems to escalate fear and an accompanying sense of helplessness.
Perhaps then we can understand the ancient Romans and their omens. Livy records in his “History of Rome” Book 40 that,
“The spring of that year was a stormy one. On the eve of the Parilia, about the middle of the day a terrible storm of wind and rain burst and wrecked many sacred and ordinary buildings. It blew down the bronze statues on the Capitol, it carried off the door from the temple of Luna on the Aventine and dashed it against the walls behind the temple of Ceres…In consequence of these portents twenty full-grown victims were sacrificed and special intercessions offered for one day.” (Everyman’s Library, transl. Rev. Canon Roberts)
To the superstitious among the Romans, a vicious storm wreaking havoc on temples meant displeased gods. And gods needed to be appeased.
Answers to some people’s fear of storms seem to breed more questions. Is there an element of superstition in people’s fear of storms? Are they suddenly conscious that some unknown, invisible, threatening power exists and should be respected? Is a fear of storms all based on varying levels of apprehension and anxiety? Or is an all consuming sense of risk and danger a sign of an insecure, inner identity?
“When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark…”