Do you know what I am?
I am the darkness that lives inside you.
I am that black hole in your soul you fear will consume you.
I am the midnight sky that offers no relief and no hint of light.
You fear me and run from me; you avoid me and deny me
But in truth you cannot survive without me.
I always remember a favorite classic Star Trek episode when Captain Kirk is split into two by a transporter malfunction. One Captain Kirk is thoughtful, considerate, civilized, all those qualities we associate with being good. His alternate self was aggressive, violent and even dangerous, all the qualities we associate with being bad. During the course of the episode it becomes apparent that without his “bad” side, Capt. Kirk was ineffective, paralyzed and unable to make command decisions. He needed his “bad” side in order to function as captain of the ship. It was an interesting lesson in human nature, one which I think is still very applicable today.
Lately it seems to me that “civilized” society is trying to sanitize and deny our darkness – both personal and societal. We have created a world where all but the most stubborn, determined or ignorant know that there are PC viewpoints to which they must adhere or at least pay lip service. Pundits and the oblivious claim we are a “post-racial” society when clearly this is untrue. Some do not believe that we need feminism anymore because the playing field has been leveled. Other stubbornly cling to the belief that economic inequality is not at the root of many societal problems. I believe people have just grown better at hiding their politically incorrect beliefs from others. We try to suppress and repress that inner darkness and believe that means we’ve healed it. In reality all we’ve done is crush it down and bury it, hoping it won’t erupt some day. Of course that is exactly what happens. We cannot avoid our personal and inner darkness; we cannot suppress it and hope it will go away. We need to face it, embrace it and see what it brings to the table so we can remove its more destructive aspects.
I have no intention of trying to fix society’s ills today. That is beyond my pay grade. What I”m hoping to do is explore my avoidance of my own darkness and hope that it offers a take-away that might be beneficial to others.
Like many people, for years I never truly embraced or even understood my dark side. I might have joked about it and claimed I understood it. Sure I could be nasty, vicious, snarky, and mean but that wasn’t really me. I wasn’t a mean person; I was just joking. However, even I didn’t buy the “I was just joking” defense. The reality is that there was a very dark, somewhat vicious and uncontrolled part of me that would often rear its ugly head when I least expected. For years I acknowledge that I had this darkness inside me but never did anything about it. I fooled myself into believing that acknowledging was the same as embracing. Boy, was I mistaken!
It’s only through a recent inner labyrinth journey using the Dark Goddess Tarot that I began to understand this darkness. It is not evil or wicked. It is born of fear. When I looked at incidences that triggered these responses from me I began to realize they occurred when I felt afraid, powerless or disenfranchised. I reacted from this darkness when an incident triggered a memory of a negative past experience. This darkness became a defense mechanism like a porcupine’s quills; a way to keep others that made me feel threatened at a distance. Unfortunately it tended to have the effect of alienating people who had no malicious intent.
Walking the labyrinth to the deepest, darkest, most hidden depths of my soul has enabled me to truly understand this side of myself. It has allowed me to truly embrace this dark side and appreciate what she brings to the table. She is the part of me that is a survivor. She has experienced trauma and horrific situations and emerged unbroken. She protects and defends me with a fierceness and determination that I can only admire. What I have also accepted is that she does not need to be deployed mindlessly or aimlessly. She is much more effective when responding in a more targeted, specific way.
So my advice to anyone else whose dark side might be running amok – learn what triggers her. Listen to her and get to learn what makes her lash out. In my experience befriending and embracing your dark side can only happen when you understand her. Facing your fears and defensive triggers can be a first step in that process.