Afraid of the Dark
Updated: Oct 27
There is so much magic and mystery within this season...
The fall ushers us into the season of darkness... where glowing and flickering lights take center stage as they are held in the rich, black night.
It's the time of the turning of the season, of shifting light and shadows, and perhaps even a little spookiness... we have just passed through the time of the thinning of the veil between the worlds... a time to see beyond our physical reality and connect, reconnect, honor, and even communicate with those who've already passed over. A time to see the magic and the mystery within and perhaps, just on the other side of, our seemingly ordinary, everyday lives.
I believe this is also a time of the thinning of the veil within. The colder air outside, the darkening of our mornings and evenings... all ask us to go home, to be a bit more introverted... a little less social, to snuggle in, to sleep a little longer, to ponder life over a warm beverage, and offer us the opportunity to dive deeper into our own inner worlds. This is the season of going within.
This has always felt like a sacred time to me... walking in the warm, yellow light through the changing leaves... possibility and coziness calling to me as our summertime obligations subside, and the season turns briefly and brightly on it's way to winter. And the darkness that envelops me, holds a quality of depth, a tangibility, a weight and density that is palpable. There is a deeper wisdom within it that begs to be known. Do you feel that too... in this season?
Darkness is such an interesting thing... depending on where you are and who you're with, it can feel comforting or terrifying. In my home at night, I'm the last one to bed. I turn off the bathroom light and because I'm impatient, I don't wait for my eyes to adjust to the darkness... I use my body's knowledge of this well worn path, my hands finding the doorways, the side of my leg rediscovering the edge of the bed, and I feel for the familiar bedside table four and half steps in front of me... to know exactly where to go. I'm not scared at all of the dark. It is my home. I know my family is already in bed, and even though I can't see a thing, I trust my path.
It is quite different than that late fall evening, growing up on the farm and being the only one home. My grandmother lived on the same farm we did, in another house the equivalent of a half city block away. I was to sleep at her house that night, which I did frequently, but first, I had promised my brother that I would record Steven King's The Shining for him at our house, because grandma didn't do scary movies, at all...
Now, we're talking VHS tape recording on a VCR, remember those? Now, everyone knows that the best VHS recordings are the ones without the commercials. I was REALLY good at hitting the record and pause buttons at just the right time so as not to miss anything important in the movie and not have any annoying commercials to fast forward through later. It's a skill. It doesn't come in very handy now, but I was pretty proud of my attention to detail in this regard at the time.
So... for me to truly record The Shining in what I considered the only good way to do it... recording The Shining, meant watching The Shining. I think I was 14 or 15. Have you seen this movie? You know it's not going to end well, you just don't know how badly it's all going to go, and those twins... they were the scariest part for me...
When the movie was over, it was very dark outside. Probably 10:00 or so... and I had to work up the courage to leave the house and run to my grandma's... so... I readied myself... turned off the all the lights in the house, except the one shining on my three front steps outside, opened the door, looked deeply into the darkness for whatever I could see... and on the count of three, I ran, leaping out of the house, slamming the front door, jumped down all the stairs at once, and bolted in the dark... my feet hitting the concrete sidewalk, then grass and then gravel, the sound of my own heartbeat in my ears, straining between steps to hear anything moving in the darkness... as I ran as fast as my legs could carry me... reaching my grandma's backdoor... in record time... panting and safely inside, door locked, I could breath again. I had found sanctuary from my fear.
During that short time outside, I thought for sure someone was going to come out of the grove of trees to my right and get me. My mind made up all kinds of scenarios in those brief moments, simply because it was dark outside... and I had just watched something a little scary so my mind was full of scary possibilities... and perhaps also, because I was alone.
The sanctuary of my grandma's house was the locked door to the shadowy darkness outside... it was the bright lights of her kitchen that lit up the night, and it was her welcoming smile.
The light in the darkness
So now, I would like you to consider for a moment, that the light we're taking about, is our conscious mind, and our unconscious mind, is the darkness.
Our conscious mind... the one that is able to think strategically and creatively, problem solve, actively communicate in the moment, know and describe what is happening around us, to us, within us, and reflect on what we see and feel... this makes up about 5% of our brain's activity. The other 95% of what our brains are doing, is happening subconsciously... in the dark.
Think of it like this... when you are speaking to someone, so much has happened and continues to happen behind the scenes for you to compile all of the information from the vast libraries your brain holds in order for you to express yourself... the words you speak at the moment you speak them and your conscious experience of the interaction, is your conscious mind... the libraries of information and multitasking to decide which stacks are relevant for this particular conversion, even in the next few moments, is all lined up by the subconscious.
When you are in the dark with a flashlight... the flashlight you use to see your way, and everything that falls within that beam of light... everything you can see, the way it feels, and your entire experience of it... is your conscious mind... the active mind that you are fully conscious and aware of.
The darkness all around that beam... is your subconscious.
The flashlight beam... 5%. The darkness that surrounds it... 95%. Conscious... subconscious.
Scientists and metaphysicians alike agree
that the programming that occurs in the subconscious, effects change in the conscious mind... meaning, changing the reasons behind your habits, changes your habits... or the reasons behind your fears, eliminates your fears.
I've certainly found this to be true in myself and in my clients. As you know, I use tapping to make these changes. We look at the habits, the limiting beliefs, or the reasons for the fear or phobia in those vast libraries of memory and experiential information... and release the emotional charges. This shift in the subconscious, changes habits and the "in the moment" experiences that the conscious mind is having.
Embracing the shadow...
Recently, I've embraced the concept of shadow work in my practice with others, as I've been doing it for myself for quite a while... This involves actively seeking out the things in the darkness that scare me, worry me, or unsettle my spirit. It's a little different than my traditional work, because it takes into consideration the concept of Your Shadow. It also means not just looking at the libraries of memories, events, and past information... it means looking for parts of yourself that you've rejected, lost, repressed, or disowned. It means looking for your own shadows in the darkness of your subconscious.
Carl Jung, as Swiss psychiatrist, was deeply interested in the unconscious mind, which he saw as being made up by both the personal unconscious and the unconscious that was inherited by our ancestors... known as the collective unconscious. He was a fascinating person and there are so many reasons that I resonate with his work. He categorized two groups of people known as extraverts and introverts. He began explaining what are known as archetypes, and he coined the term The Shadow.
In his quest to explain who we are and how we are, he wrote a volume called "The Structure of the Psyche". In it he talks about archetypes as being products of the collective unconscious, and about them being innate wisdom passed down from our ancestors. The knowledge of who we are, how we are together, our roles, and our behaviors within those roles... that is the wisdom within the archetype.
Some of the archetypes Jung describes are the father, the mother, the child, the wise old man, the hero, the maiden, and the trickster... just to name a few. You can see yourself within more than one. And each, helps us understand more about ourselves and one another as we relate inside of and outside of our roles.
Our Shadow archetype
The archetype of the The Shadow is the one I'm most interested in recently. According to Jung, we all have a shadow. This archetype lives in the unconscious mind... in the darkness... and contains the things that are unacceptable to the self or society. In my work in this area, I find that family structures, rules, religions, societal norms, gendered obligations, and cultural restrictions set up what is considered acceptable and unacceptable. When a part of ourselves doesn't fit these human made, external structures, that part of us gets shoved into the subconscious and denied connection to the self.
Left abandoned and rejected in the dark of the subconscious, it becomes something it was never meant to become... we begin to fear or dread seeing it... and if we go looking for it, it might look to us like a monster, a demon, a ghost... a shadow, something to be feared or ashamed of... The only reason it changes shape and becomes something scary at all in the landscape of our mind, is because of our own fear that with it, we will not be accepted. That if we are honest about ALL the aspects of ourselves, that WE will be rejected... so we reject the part of us that is questionable, before anyone else can.
But it is still a part of who we are. Now, it is simply a part of us that is in pain and alone. In order for healing and wholeness to occur, it needs to be seen, acknowledged, embraced, and integrated back into the self. It needs to be welcomed home.
What if this was our work this season? What if the darkness wasn't really that scary... what if the scariest thing about this season, was facing yourself.
Honoring the light and the darkness
Healing, for me, means continually bringing light into the darkness to know more about both... knowing that they are, in fact, one and the same... my darkness and my light. We are all, both. Our wholeness depends on our willingness to embrace all of the parts of ourselves... with unconditional love and compassion, to say to each one... I am with you.
The beauty and mystery of this process is the way I'm beginning to understand my place in this world. I get to embrace my darkness with my light, expanding my capacity for both... and along the way, transforming into something far richer and more complex, more astonishing... than I could have ever known was possible. And, I get to take that knowledge, and help others do the same...
Sometimes, I'm still afraid of the dark... but I'm not nearly as afraid of my own darkness anymore.
In fact, my subconscious is becoming somewhere magical... and even downright fun to be these days... and just like my home at night, it is a familiar place... I know where I am and I trust where I'm going, and I know I'm not alone, even in the dark.
I continue to embrace my shadows whenever I find them, clearing the monsters from the dark corners of my mind, and letting the deep, fertile darkness share it's wonder and mystery.
Carl Jung once said "The shadow is 90% pure gold." I couldn't agree more.
Interested in doing some Shadow Work of your own? I'd love to be your guide! You can book an individual session with me anytime or check out this list of programs to see if I'm currently offering my annual group shadow series, Bringing Your Shadows to Light.
It's important to note that shadow work can be really challenging. These are vulnerable spaces for everyone. If you're working alone, know your limits, even before you start. And if this is a path you're interested in traveling with a bit of guidance in navigating the darkness, make sure to work with someone you trust being vulnerable with.
In love, light, and shadow
-Angela Hed Vincent