Cycles of Dark and Light: Welcomed or Hidden

Flowers in field in sunPeople have been asking me about all the negativity taking over our conversations and our world. Now is the perfect time to respond. Now as the spring equinox arrives, having done so at 7:02 a.m. EDT today.

The spring equinox. One of two times during the year when the night and day are approximately equal … when the light and the dark are approximately equal.

I am usually not comfortable using the words “positive” and “negative” because people misuse them so terribly. People call painful feelings negative, when they are really just painful. People call them negative as a code for saying, “I don’t want to feel them.” People call them negative as a code for saying that painful feelings, the ones they don’t want to feel, are bad.

And people call positive feelings positive, when they are really just pleasurable feelings or feelings that are comfortable for them. The feelings may be pleasurable, but most important, they must not be painful. And people call events positive when they are not painful; negative when they are. So people equate positive with good and negative with bad. And people call events positive when they are not painful; and negative when they are. Get the gist?

Then when the painful events happen, people can label them, make them “bad,” and turn away from them to the “good” things. This can all be done on the surface and nobody has to deal with what is happening beneath the surface. For example, everyone is fighting about whether people can have guns. It’s all over the news. The following is an oversimplification, but it will make the point: Some people say we have to have guns; some people say we can’t. While they’re fighting about who’s right and who’s wrong, who’s good and who’s bad, people get fed up with the fight and decide to go off and watch a comedy—a happy movie—on television, and no one looks at what’s happening underneath that’s causing people to express their feelings with guns. Have you seen people do this? Do you do this yourself?

Or perhaps people go under the surface level a bit, but no further. Perhaps they go beneath the fight about guns to the tragedy at Sandy Hook, remembering that’s what brought the fight this time so far out into the open. But instead of feeling, instead of working with and working through the very painful feelings that the Sandy Hook disaster stirred up in them and still stirs up in them, they turn their attention elsewhere. They turn their attention to something more comfortable or pleasurable to them, whether that be entertainment, recreation, or another hot-button cause.

Let’s make a bridge from this to the seasons and the spring equinox.

The seasons go ’round and ’round—summer, fall, winter, spring. Again and again and again. Cycle after cycle after cycle. Light, darkening, dark, lightening again. Right now we’re coming through the end of winter and getting ready to make the transition to spring once again.  Summer, fall, winter, spring …

This same kind of cycling occurs within each of us and within our society as well. There is darkness within us. People think of that darkness as bad. They think of its contents as ugly and even evil. But that is not so. That darkness contains so much more than what we can conceive of. That darkness is fertile ground for everything. We have within us—in the darkness within—hatred, meanness, and cruelty, but also love, kindness, and compassion that we don’t even know we have the capacity for. We have within us deep, raw, painful wounds, but also amazing strengths and gifts … many of which lay dormant within the darkness within until we become aware of our wounds, heal them, and spin the straw of our wounds into the gold of our gifts and strengths.

Imagine a child who grows up in a family that lies and refuses to acknowledge its lying. Yes, the child is deeply wounded by the experience. Yes, the child grows up with the capacity to lie like an expert. Yes, the child develops a mistrust of people that he generalizes across the board. But with that wound healed, the child now grown can use his sensitivity for lies, and be like a lie detector in behalf of truth. Granted, this gift can be misused, but if the wound is truly healed, part of the gift used well will be a commitment to keep exploring whether the lie detector for truth is being abused or truly used in the service of truth.

What needs to come out into the open, into consciousness, from the dark unconsciousness within, will inevitably come out sooner or later. In the end, it will come out into the light of our own consciousness. It will come out into the light of day. It will come out into the light of springtime. If we welcome it as clues for healing, we can eventually resolve and heal it—it won’t be buried again, and it won’t have to come out with an explosion again. If we don’t welcome it as clues for healing, we will call it names, make it “bad,” and bury it once again … just as we did long, long ago when we were children. And it will haunt us from our own underground—individual and communal—until it explodes out into the open once more.

We have a choice of which cycle we ride: Out and choose to heal, or out-call names-bury-fester-explode out again and choose whether to use for healing. Cycle after cycle after cycle. Just like summer, fall, winter, and spring.

Which cycle do you choose to ride?

© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Judith Barr, MS, LMHC, therapist in Brookfield, Connecticut

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 11 comments
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  • Lisa

    Lisa

    March 20th, 2013 at 10:13 AM

    Oh, my lord. I am so confused. I read this like five time and I am clueless as to what this is saying.

  • Nadine

    Nadine

    March 20th, 2013 at 10:15 AM

    The analogy of the turning of the seasons to the turning of our emotional states is rather interesting. I had never thought of this concept before. I had also never thought to compare the darkness of winter to the darkness I harbor within. Or that the darkness could turn itself into lightness if I will only let it. So, thank you for this well put and timely article.

  • morris

    morris

    March 20th, 2013 at 10:17 AM

    but how can you say a bad experience isn’t negative? there are people out there who really are evil and want to do bad things so other people experience negative things i am not sure how you can say that negative things are really negative things

    am i missing something here?

  • peter o

    peter o

    March 20th, 2013 at 10:19 AM

    how can you even say something good can come of Sandy Hook?

    All of those precious little ones lost.

    how can anything ever come out of that that is good and how can that experience be anything but negative

    im sure the moms and dads would love to hear how this negative stuff is only in there heads when really it is good

    who says something like that

  • april

    april

    March 22nd, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    The message isn’t we are happy sad situations occur. When sandy hook happened it stirred up emotions for all of us. You can use it as a gift for healing. We all have a journey in his lifetime…some experience tragedy while others do not. My heart went out to all this families who are grieving the loss of their children. What message we can send ourselves is this happened to me for a reason….on a human level it is very sad. On a spiritual level its all perfect for us to grow and heal in ways we never imagined. Gary Zukav has done wonderful teachings around this. Thank you for this article

  • Quince

    Quince

    March 20th, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    First of all, can I please get an amen and a halleluja for the return of Spring? This time of year is without a doubt, hands down my favorite. I love the return of the light and the flowers just can’t be beat. I know a lot of folks don’t appreciate Spring because of the pollen, but I’ll roll around in it if it means Spring could just last a few more weeks before the onslaught of the summer heat. But, I digress. I love the comparison of the Earth’s spring to our own Spring within. When we learn from our past, we certainly do give both ourselves and those around us a tremendous gift. We become experts in our past pain in all the right ways rather than the unhealthy and destructive ones. And, the winter of our lives can last too long if we let it. We all have wounds and we all need healing. The sooner we can start, the sooner we can experience our own internal Spring, no matter what time of year it is.

  • Erica

    Erica

    March 20th, 2013 at 11:03 AM

    I have always loved the use of spring in terms of an analogy for a rebirth, a renewal, a time to take a hard look at your life and make the changes that need to be made to create a more sound energy for you and your life. I know that there are those people who think that is hokey, that it is just a season. But for me it is more than that, it is a time to really take inventory of the things going on in your life, and if you are ready to make a change then what better time to do that than this season of beauty and newness?

  • leonard

    leonard

    March 20th, 2013 at 12:16 PM

    always have done what most of us do – run away from the undesirable feelings and into the embrace of what’s comfortable.never thought there could be potential or even some good in all the ‘darkness’.this was a wonderful read that taught me quite a few things.will explore this philosophy more and I hope it helps me develop a more positive and better frame of mind about things that I have so far only run away from.

  • Norma

    Norma

    March 21st, 2013 at 4:02 AM

    Am I the only person who actually gets a little more of what I need form the dark? It is those dark times that make me appreciate the light even more.

  • Regan

    Regan

    March 21st, 2013 at 3:12 PM

    Foolhardy to expect life to be a bed of roses. Always a cycle of light and dark, of highs and lows. The sooner we understand and accept this the better it is. The presence of sad moments actually gives sense and brings sweetness to the happy moments. Had there been no dark we would not acknowledge and appreciate the light!

  • Judith Barr

    Judith Barr

    March 24th, 2013 at 7:35 AM

    Thank you all for your many and diverse comments on my article, “Cycles of Dark and Light – Welcomed or Hidden.”

    I’m always glad for the comments that come. The ones that indicate people need help better understanding what I’m saying give me a chance to clarify and teach on a deeper level. The ones where people are in synch with what I’m saying . . . or feel supported by what I’m saying, give me a sweet sense of knowing I’ve written just what will reinforce and validate them at this juncture of their journey. And the ones who have learned something new that may be life-changing for them . . . that is so refreshing and heart-touching. I’ve received all three in this set of comments. And appreciate all of them.

    To reiterate April’s comment, I’m NOT AT ALL saying that an experience like the Sandy Hook shooting and other tragedies is not painful. On the contrary. The point is that we often think about and talk about such experiences, thoughts and feelings as being “negative” in an effort to dismiss or repress them. For the purpose of burying the painful feelings, rather than to truly feel and explore the feelings and utilize them for healing. As a matter of fact, it’s insulting and harmful to encourage someone to “just think positive” or to “get over it” when painful events occur in their lives. It’s dismissive of the pain they are in and seriously disrupts the grieving process.

    The problem comes when we learn to use calling painful feelings “negative” as a way to justify avoiding them, running away from them, pushing them down or burying them. Instead we need to acknowledge the painful or dark places in our lives and in our selves, and build the capacity to truly feel the pain we experience . . . without using anything as an excuse to run away from it.

    And thank you, Leonard and Nadine, for sharing parts of your growth in your own healing journey that has come from this article . . . Very heartful. Very touching.

    May we all learn to utilize what is painful and what is in the darkness to heal and grow.

    Many blessings . . .
    Judith

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