Befriending the darkness

We’re moving into the darkest time of the year. The days are shortening; the nights seem to be increasing their steady pull into the intensity of shadow and black. Halloween—with its ghosts and ghoulish goblins, its focus on death and the macabre—stalks us through leaves swirling in the fall wind.

Much of my work lately has focused on living “Above the Line.” That is, to noticing when I’m “Below the Line,” in the Reactive Brain states of fear or anger or sadness (or others); stepping back to watch the story that’s fueling my Reactive State (“You just don’t understand!” “I feel crappy and I always will…”); feeling the feelings through my body; and choosing a new story that holds more expanded energy. Once I notice my fear, “You just don’t understand” can become “I’m afraid; I lost my sense of connection with you.” Then I can feel the fear until it moves through. Then I can create something different, like, “Oh, I remember you—I remember loving you!” The “I feel crappy” can become, “Hmmm—I feel angry and scared,” taking me through to a neutral “This is what it is” or even an appreciative “I sure have big feelings!”

As I play with this model, I notice my own tendency to want to downplay the “negative” emotions (negative only because they use up energy) and only focus on the “positive” (positive because they generate energy). As I give up my old habits of blame and criticism, I have a sense of creating a backlog of energy that is unfelt and unexpressed. It’s as if the tight trio of Blaming, Criticizing, and Complaining (and their close sibling, Projecting) is my own personal Rotorooter company that I’ve used daily to clear my own drainpipes. They might be thugs, and actually rather unpleasant companions, but they’ve been this super-duper, well-oiled, reliable machine that keeps cranking the old, dense energy out of my body.

What’s the alternative to hanging out with the Gang of Sleaze? I think it’s about firing them as the middlemen, taking on the job myself. Befriending the darkness.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to shy away from the yucky stuff. Squirming snakes; snapping wolf jaws; hulking Reaper images; blood and guts and all the horror—let’s just say I prefer it to be clean and controlled. And predictable.

Except that I really don’t. My WASP background may have taught me well to appear to be “civilized” (which turns out to be shut down and over-controlled). My spirit, however, is with the wild cries of the night. I see now that, in order to reclaim my own life energy, I need to unlock the cages of what I’ve judged to be my worst aspects. Those cold, mean, whiny, bitchy, terrified, stony, attacking, freezing, despairing selves that I’ve pushed away hold the vast energies of all that is possible. Facing into them, unleashing their wailing anguish, their fiery rage, their savage howls gives me back what I cherish most: my own deep gulps of the fountain of life.

I commit to befriending my own darkness. I step into my despair and my shame and my anger and my fear and my homicidal, suicidal, fratricidal, genocidal impulses. I find ways to express them that don’t harm me or anyone else and ride the wild waves of their passion.

 How about you?

As you move into this season of darkness, what is your commitment? Would you be willing to befriend all of your destructive and creative impulses? Like the goddess Kali, will you fully embrace all of the energies that course through your body?



Have you checked out my new book yet? You can find the Relationship Skills Workbook: A Do-it-Yourself Guide to a Thriving Relationship at, at, and wherever books are sold. 


4 thoughts on “Befriending the darkness”

  1. Reading through your last few gems…love them. And this one…Wow! Thank you for sharing….Befriending my darkness…if only for a minute.

  2. Beautiful. Here’s to finding channels for all that wild, crazy, powerful, messy energy! There is so much truth in this writing- Step One is learning how to step aside from that stuff, and at some point, Step Two is diving in and finding the hidden gems. Thank you!

  3. I am new to your work, and have just finished reading your new book. My partner and I are reading it together now and have just finished the second chapter. Thank you! I am changing as I use the tools you offer. This post deepens my respect for and trust in what you are offering, as I think it is so important to balance my desire to “transcend” my “negative” emotions, with being able to use them, be with them, to “reclaim my own life energy” as you encourage us to. I am reminded of the work of Miriam Greenspan, in “Healing Through the Dark Emotions.” Thank you for not being another writer who is advocates disconnecting from and disowning these unwanted parts of ourselves, but rather invites us to embrace them, as Tara Brach, Pema Chodron, and Thich Nhat Hanh among others have taught. With a bow to you and the many teachers who have provided tools and road maps!

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