Embracing the Dark

Night falls quicker. The days are shorter. I rush to get everything done before dark because I hate to go out in the evening. This is autumn and every year I know it will send me down a dark hole of lethargy, pessimism, and the blues. I hate the darkness (and I’m not crazy about cold, either). It comes every year and it passes every year. Still, I have not taught myself to embrace the dark.

It’s interesting to note that Carl Jung believed we all have a shadow self–a dark side–that holds all the darker, selfish, nasty aspects of our personalities. Of course, in polite society, we aim to keep that side hidden. But like the change of seasons, we can’t keep our nature down permanently. And when it erupts, it sometimes does so with impulsive behavior, destructive judgement, crippling illness, or other harmful expressions.

But some psychologists have pointed out that our shadows are only to be feared if we repress them. Indeed, writers such as Clarissa Pinkola Estes in her book Women Who Run with the Wolves maintains that “opening the door to the shadow world” a little bit at a time allows us to relate to the dark, perhaps even find a use for it. It seems she describe it almost like bleeding off the pressure before an eruption. The concept of embracing the dark side of life on a broader scale is fully explored in Barbara Brown Taylor’s NYT bestseller Learning to Walk in the Dark. It is a fascinating work that explores our need to accept the dark in the world at large as well as within ourselves. It recommends we dispel the vilification of darkness and instead walk into it and find out for a change what’s really out there. In her exploration of darkness, the author explores the experience of personal and physical darkness.

On the eve of the Blood Moon last year

On the eve of the Blood Moon 

As the days shorten, the darkness stretches and lengthens the night, and we descend into the mystical times of Halloween and Mid-Winter, I plan to re-read Taylor and other works on a hunt to discover what lives in my darkness. I plan to explore the darkness in the natural world (circadian rhythms, seasonal affective disorder, fears and myths), the symbolic darkness in the world around us (concept of evil, why bad things happen, how to live in the adversity), and the personal darkness within (concept of sin, depression, etc.)

Tomorrow promises a full moon. Come along and let’s see what’s out there.

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