Deepening into the Dark

At this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, when the playful activity of summer begins to cool and withdraw into fall, I feel my energy draw inward. This can feel depressive, especially to someone prone to it, but the quality is different. The period from spring and summer feels like a time of broadening and expanding outward, engaging in new activities, finding new friends, planning and executing, working, playing. When fall occurs, I feel it is time to deepen and sink, to go more inward, to shift attention from relationships that feel casual to those that feel more nourishing, at times more intense. In my early twenties, I remember that there was a belief that now was the time to find an intimate partner, if you did not already have one, so you could share the winter months with someone intimate. Rarely, of course, did that work out as planned, but to me it speaks of that seasonal movement of energy. We are as much animals as we are anything else, but sometimes we forget our relationship to the seasonal cycles.

Sandro Botticeli, La Carte de l’Enfer

The roots of the psyche lie in murky, deep, mysterious territory, and sometimes we need to sink more deeply into it. The ego develops its habits and stories to support a sense of self, and that is as limiting as it is necessary. Making room to grow, change, or discover something new about the self means that the ego needs to relax and let awareness sink, finding the truth or insight that lies beneath the surface. Our dreams always offer us a new insight, an expanded perspective, a truth that can heal and balance us, but dreams come from our larger Self and tend to push against the waking ego’s habits and beliefs. In a dream, we might feel a sense of truth and power that follows into those early waking moments, only to later look back and wonder, “What the hell did this even mean? This dream makes no sense.” The ego is the part of us that says it makes no sense, the dream is meaningless, because the dream truth is beyond the ego’s blind spots and limitations, and the dream symbol has a deep truth that cannot be completely characterized by logical description.

Dream work, trance work, automatic writing, and art are some ways of connecting with the deeper Self and becoming open to its larger insights and deeper mysteries. We do not have to kill the ego to benefit from these, but we have to practice alternate ways of thinking and processing information. Dream work in groups can be useful for bringing up elements of the dream that the dreamer’s ego cannot recognize. Looking at mythological symbols and archetypal patterns, making art, even writing down the dream and reviewing it later allows us space and time to process and integrate the dream truths. The ego’s refusal of meaning is not the entire truth, it is the moment in which the ego feels threatened and wants to clamp down. If we want to grow, we need to breathe and keep contemplating.

In truth I do not think it is necessary or useful to throw out the logical, rational side of the mind, only to be able to integrate irrational, intuitive insight when possible. When life feels confusing or dried up, when I feel despair or lacking in creativity, I turn toward the unconscious dimensions of the Self to find the mystery that refreshes and invigorates. In turn, I think our communities, our cultures, even our species has its own larger unconsciousness, facets of which make up what Jung called the collective unconscious.

If you are in Seattle and looking for support sinking into your larger Self for inspiration or renewal, consider the Diving into Enthusiasm workshop I am organizing for November.