“You don’t know my mind, you don’t know my kind. Dark necessities are part of my design.” RHCP
We stood in the hallway of my mom’s little home, saying our goodbyes. My mom, observing my sister and I, made the comment that we were as different as light and dark. The silence that followed needed no explanation: we all knew who could identify with which description. I was the dark one.
I wrestled with this, and only now that I’m ‘middle-aged’ am I finally getting a handle on its meaning. Darkness is often, in our society, associated with everything bad, revolting, and horrible. I know myself not to be that kind of person, yet it’s obvious my choice in movie and book genres always portray dark forces that cripple the hero so that he or she must overcome monstrous challenges in order to declare victory, rather than finding my entertainment in comedies or romance. I know that I tend towards sadness more than happiness, pain more than pleasure, and I’ll almost always choose the unknown adventure over promised security.
Yet, it is a necessity to have such darkness in our midst; this is an age old philosophical idea. We would not know those among us who tend towards the light, for one thing. Could my family identify my sister as the ‘light’ if she were also compared to ‘light’? And without a measure of darkness to strike against, how do we know how light it really is and to what degree it exists…is it bright against the dark like a welcoming porch light in the winter storm, or is it a small glimmer that only elucidates the next step of the path?
Besides embracing the notion that I personally have a bent toward the darker aspects of life dynamics, I’ve also navigated the difficult task of embracing the darkness that dwells within. This is some of the most important time of introspection I have experienced. It is difficult to look in the mirror and finally notice the shadow behind my eyes; the feelings behind some of my moods. It is even more difficult to hold the image and acknowledge it for what it truly is – a part of me as much as my happiness. It is even more difficult still to wrestle with that part of me and accept it, to find a place for it to sit within my soul; to understand that it doesn’t make me a ‘bad’ person for doing so. In fact, it makes me a better person as I am more inclined to sympathize, more conscious of my self.
There’s a relief in it for me as well, I confess. Coming from a Christian upbringing, I was taught that anything ‘bad’ was to be blamed on demons or the devil, some outside force over which I had no personal control or even understanding (hence our societal perception of ‘bad’ mentioned earlier). The comprehension that ‘bad’ exists within as a means to compel me towards goodness rather than the idea that I am subject in some way to an outside boogeymen gives me a sense of control precisely because it enlightens me to certain undercurrents in my personality – awareness is everything. And, I think, when we can balance within ourselves the daily struggle most of us undertake to do the right thing and be ‘good’ against the inherent ‘bad’ we all possess, it’s not a stretch to claim that we gain a kind of confidence and strength, our steps become surer, our actions more and more deliberate when we do so. Therein lies relief – and empowerment.
Embracing our own individual darkness is not a new concept either. Luke Skywalker’s venture into an unknown cave revealed the face of his enemy instead…Harry Potter closed his eyes to see Lord Voldemort…Jesus’ forty days of wandering tested his personal weaknesses…The story line runs throughout human history as clearly as our DNA can be traced to certain areas of the world.
When considered at a personal level, and embraced as a necessary “part of our design”, darkness is not so scary and becomes a natural component of our world-view – this awareness empowers us in very real ways.
- this short audio clip was helpful to me when working through the process of acknowledging my own darkness, it speaks of Carl Jung’s ability to do so within himself and how it empowered his world view.