Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.
On this new moon (also called the dark moon, since there is no moon visible in the sky for a day before, the day of, and the day after a new moon) remember that darkness of all sorts can be a gift.
Carl Jung says, in On the Psychology of the Unconscious, "It is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses- and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism. The individual seldom knows anything of this; to him, as an individual, it is incredible that he should ever in any circumstances go beyond himself. But let these harmless creatures form a mass, and there emerges a raging monster."
In the domain of psychology, renowned psychologist Carl Jung devoted a lot of thought to this problem of the “Shadow Self”, being deeply invested in the research of ancient esoteric knowledge and spiritual scriptures to not only treat the mind of man, but his soul as well. In response to his serious preoccupation, Jung created the Archetypes model, a concept wherein he believed our unconscious minds are fragmented or structured into different “selves” in an attempt to organize how we experience different things in life. Two of Jung’s major Archetypes are The Persona and The Shadow Self.
The Shadow Self is an archetype that forms part of the unconscious mind and is composed of repressed ideas, instincts, impulses, weaknesses, desires, perversions and embarrassing fears. This archetype is often described as the darker side of the psyche, representing wildness, chaos and the unknown. Jung believed that these latent dispositions are present in all of us, in many instances forming a strong source of creative energy.
We are all born pure, like blank canvases. But at some point during our childhood development, we learn knowledge that teaches us to separate things into good and evil. The moment we eat from this tree of knowledge, our shadows are born and we begin to divide ourselves. Furthermore, in our cultural ‘socialization’ process, we begin to sort out those traits within us that are acceptable in society, and those unacceptable traits that are not (which are later hidden away).
By embracing your inner darkness, I mean that it is necessary for you to “accept” it. Accepting your darkness will allow you to take responsibility for yourself, and once you truly acknowledge one of these dark traits instead of avoiding them, suddenly, they will stop having control over you. By being honest with ourselves and accepting our shadow elements, it frees us up to truly witness the uncharted areas of our minds, allowing us to see that we are not these elements, but simply possess thoughts, feelings and drives that come and go.
To completely experience Self-Love we must learn to experience our Shadow Selves, and voyage into the dark, murky waters of the unknown courageously. A whole and balanced self is a reconciliation of all parts, an inner unification. It is not an indulgence of the darker parts of our natures, but an acceptance and direct experience of them in the light of mindful awareness and deep honesty. This is the entire opposite of many self-denying traditional spiritual methods of subduing, denying, or ascetically disciplining the self. To live differently, as is the aim and motivation of Homespun, is to be authentic. And in order to be authentic, we have to embrace our inner selves – that which is often considered culturally uncommon or bizarre.
To accept and embrace your Shadow Self is to go back and become “whole” again and thus taste a glimpse of what authentic “holiness” feels like. It is when we are confronted with darkness that we move out of our comfort zone to release what is not ours to carry any longer, and clarify our current visions, desires, and boundaries. Do not reject the dark; both the dark of the night, the darkness within yourself, or the darkness of another. Instead, use the dark times as an opening to more stillness, intimacy, and connection to the Divine.
And, I love Mary Oliver. Like, a lot. If you have not read her...you should.