How to deal with the fear of the forests?

People feel fear from forest

Many people when exploring the forest feel the fear. This is even more common when they do that on their own. That is usually based on a fear of the unknown. 

Modern society provides less and less opportunities to experience forests. People who have always lived in urban areas may not be used to being in forests. Unusual sights, sounds, smells, and textures may make people feel wary or off-balance.

All these aspects are more significant if person is in forests alone and even more if he plans to spend a night in forests.  The fear of forests at night is associated with the fear of the dark. A negative episode in the past, such as being left alone or being lost in a forest (and spending a night all alone) could also lead to a permanent fear of dark forested areas.

Where our fear is coming from

Where our fear of the forests is coming from is mystery. The irony of the life is that where is not the reason for fear in the forests. On the other side where our lives are seriously threatened, we are indifferent and often completely ignore the threats (e.g., cities). This is obviously simplification of this issue but it can be considered as a lesson of our life.

Of course, there are many things in the cities that threaten us and which we are well aware of. We are used to live with them and many times we don’t even admit them. There are also many things in the forests that threaten us, but because of modern life we forgot how to deal with them. Many times, is enough to keep eyes open and be careful and nothing happens to us. 

We are visiting forests either to get some benefit (e.g., collect berries) or to go relax. In that case conditions have to be optimal. Nice, sunny, peaceful time…

Our life has changed

We have gotten used to the risks and threats of the city. Actually, we do not have alternative if we want to live our public and private life in city. On the other side the experience we have learnt during previous generations of our life in the forests, disappeared. 

We are visiting forests on a more and more rare occasion. Either to get some benefit (e.g., collect berries) or to go relax. Most of us have a chance to visit forests once maybe twice a month/year. Usually in a nice weather.

Result is that we have an understanding of forests as very nice, romantic and peaceful place. However, all that romance ends in the moment we lose the track of where we are. If you’ve ever gotten lost in the forests, even for couple of hours, you likely understand what does it mean fear to be away from the well-marked trail or road. 

Wild animals are not threat

The most common fear is coming from threat that we are going to be attacked even eaten but some forest beast. The truth is that neither the animals is going to attack us. No animal is interested in harming a person, and not at all intentionally. In Europe, there is no danger of any animal wanting to kill and consume us. Only danger we are facing on when we visit forests is our missing skills to visit forests in a safe way.

On the other hand, thousands and thousands of bad people roam the city streets, treating their complexes with aggression. If they combine it with alcohol, the lives of people around are really threatened. The logical conclusion is that dangerous places can we found in the city rather than in the forests. Animals has respect before the human. If somebody is going to attack you during your trip to the forest, very likely it will be not a wolf, bear, fox, mouse or snake. Injuries made by animals, if any, occur exclusively in self-defence, never intentionally.

Wild animals are not threat if you know how to behave


The best prevention to be attacked by animal when visiting the forests is a knowledge and practical experience of being in forests. That’s kind of experience we can get only when we are regularly visiting the forests. That means not only in a nice sunny weather but also be brave and explore and admire the forest in the rain, fog or snowing. 

The frequent visit trained us to be alert and careful to minimize any kind of threat we can experience in forests. This approach can significantly minimize our contact with wild animals and reduce the fear to be in forests.

Risky situation in forests can be exposed people with various health problems. However, the forest is friendly and safe place to visit. Simultaneously people have to be very much aware of the potential risk they could face on. 

Not because of wildlife or poison plants but much more frequentkly because of the limited ability to react appropriately in a case of difficult terrain, weather change or physical limitation.

Lucia Gejdos
Wilderness Volunteer

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