The dark side

We were walking, and I mentioned to my companion that he is one of the few people I really trust. He warned me, half-jokingly, that there is a much darker side to his nature, one that isn’t usually visible. I knew this. I asked him if he had considered the possibility that I trust him because I can see that in him.

We all have threads of darkness in our psyches. We all have impulses towards all manner of things that aren’t socially acceptable, aren’t good for us, or safe, tame, or clever. What I’ve found along the way is that a lot of people are totally in denial about this. It’s natural enough to want to present to the world as something made of goodness and loveliness, but the denial of the dark side tends to result in problems. I think much of the hypocrisy we see in both religious and secular hierarchies can be blamed on this refusal to recognise the dark.

When you don’t admit to those troubling impulses, they do not magically go away. What can happen instead, is layers of denial, justification, warping your view of the world to make it possible to keep believing that you are good and right. A person intent on denying the darkness within themselves can be tremendously damaging to encounter.

On the other hand, someone like my aforementioned friend, who knows their darkness, can be a lot safer to be round. They won’t be acting out of repressed impulses. Furthermore, if a person who owns their darkness messes up, it can be talked about, because they aren’t afraid to admit their capacity for that which is a problem. That way lies solutions.

I know my darkness. I’m obsessive. I have a huge capacity for rage and anger, which can manifest in really destructive ways. For the greater part, that tends to be turned against me, because that seems safer and more appropriate than unleashing it on the people who inspire it. I’ve mostly healed from what I did to myself the last time that happened. It is ok so long as I can keep it secret and hidden, but the problem with that method, is that if someone who cares for me sees the very literal damage my rage inflicts, that too is painful for them. There are no easy answers.

I know how to cause pain. I have an absolute knack for working out exactly where a person is vulnerable and where to hit them for maximum effect. I can hold resentment for years. I also have a dark and twisted imagination, allowing me to envisage hideous things. The inside of my head is full of monsters.

All of these things, if buried and left to fester would make me an absolute nightmare of a person. If I tried to pretend I did not do them, I could not guard against them or manage them. In owning them, I am able to work with them. Obsession can be unhealthy, but it also gives me a lot of power to harness for getting things done. The same is true of the rage, which I’m finding political outlets for. The tools that make a torturer can be used other ways, the desire to cut people up might make you into a good surgeon rather than a psychopath. That I can see how to hurt people can be turned around sometimes, allowing me to also see how to help. And that dark imagination, full of fear and horrors, is useful for being an author. I write stories, and nobody in the real world dies.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

14 responses to “The dark side

  • Irisa MacKenzie

    You are very right in what happens if we do not acknowledge our dark side. There is a misconception that we are not a spiritual person if we have this anger. We are people, we have anger and resentment. It is what we do with these emotions that speaks to our character.

  • Bruin Silverbear

    Darkness seems to be a “thing” with me this morning. I keep getting reminders of it all over. My darkness has quieted down substantially in the last few weeks because I allowed myself to acknowledge it in a very real way during an all night ritual about that time ago.

    As human beings, we are special in our own way and we have value to our ecosystem. I gave a workshop a few days ago during Pagan Pride Day about being a warrior in today’s culture. I found that much of my darkness was untapped rage over the feeling of helplessness I have in effecting real change not only in my own life but also out in the world. What I came to realize is that we first must fight the battles within ourselves, fight our own darkness and find a balance with it. Using the experience of those battles, a warrior can then project that balance outward and help their own community to find balance both with themselves and with others. Without darkness, there is nothing to fight within ourselves and no experience to be gained there. Thank you for a wonderful reminder of that…yet again you help me along my own path by sharing the experience of yours.

  • angharadlois

    Brilliant, resonant words. I’ve just finished reading ‘Kissing the Hag’ and am taking some time to look again at these dark qualities, understanding how they came about, how I can learn from them and how they can be harnessed. Anger turned inwards is something I know all too well, and it’s a bugger of a problem to solve, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be useful somehow, somewhere. Thanks once again for providing a space where these things can be probed and shared.

  • Chantelle

    I can relate to this a hell of a lot. Like you, I have a knack for seeing where a person is vulnerable and exactly how to really dig the knife in between the chinks of their armour.

    I see that side, I look that knowledge in the eye and then I say “but I don’t want to use that knowledge.” I actively choose not to use that knowledge because I don’t want to be known as the person who causes pain, who can’t be trusted, who benefits from gouging pieces out of others. That’s not the person _I_ _choose_ to be.

    I think that, just as important as recognising the darker sides of ourselves, it is important to recognise that we really do have a choice of whether or not we let that dark side control us or whether we find non-destructive ways of controlling it (for example, as you mentioned, channelling rage into a push for positive political action).

    For all that we are impacted by and, to a degree, shaped by the world around us, we have the power to decide how we behave and what we do with these darker aspects of ourselves. There are lots of people who like to pretend that’s not true because it’s easier to place the responsibility onto the shoulders of others or Fate. However, despite the difficulty in shouldering that responsibility, I firmly believe it’s important to look our dark side in the eyes, give it a respectful nod and say “how am I going to use you to do good rather than ill.” I’m glad to see you think likewise.

    Here’s a thought to end with: there’s a lot of responsibility but also freedom, too, in knowing there is a dark side there and how not to let it control you.

    • angharadlois

      Chantelle – more thoughts inspired by your comments: that knack of seeing a person’s vulnerability can be used not just for attack but also for healing.

      • Chantelle

        Precisely, angharadlois. I think we can probably go a little further than that, too. Knowing that seeing a person’s vulnerability and deciding not to jab at said vulnerability also flags up the fact that another person might not make the same decision.

        If at all possible, I think it’s a good idea to try to bolster said vulnerabilities against such an attack by another, even if it’s through small acts of encouragement, kindness and support, even if they’re not recognised as such. You never know if those small acts will provide enough armour to help the person in question shield off a jab at the vulnerability.

    • Nimue Brown

      I have long feared the darker sides of myself. The destructive streak has very often manifested as an attempt to destroy all the dark things inside me, I had several good goes, it does not leave much of anything in its wake, just a presentable sort of shell. I fear what I might do, and what I might become, if I drop my guard much at all. Years of dealing with people who found any expression of discomfort tantamount to an assault have not helped with this at all.

  • Ivameep

    Have you read A Wizard of Earthsea? This blog reminds me of when I first realized this but I suppose that comes with acceptance as well.
    Sent via my BlackBerry from Vodacom – let your email find you!

  • Nimue Brown

    Well, not everyone will have read them, and those are books it is always worth pointing people at, and it was a good reminder. Reading and remembering are different issues 🙂

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