I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about the darkness that exists in our world ad seeks to consume and destroy all that’s good about life. My rationale for spending this time with darkness isn’t because I have some macabre desire to be a part of darkness. Nope, just the opposite. I spend the time I do understanding the darkness because I have come to see that the darkness of our world has a progression just like everything else. This progression is deadly and its key ingredient is fear. Fear has become my primary target, as it is both darkness’ main weapon and its primary weakness.
Every single person on this planet will feel negative feelings at times. Sometimes those negative feelings can build into full-blown diseases like depression and/or addiction. In studying these diseases I see that anxiety is a key symptom to both. Anxiety is deep fear; fear gives strength to negative feelings and it is through and upon fear that worry and then anger build. Anxiety wants and needs relief; sometimes people relieve anxiety in less than healthy ways. From those unhealthy negative behaviors comes shame. Shame then causes self-loathing and anxiety. Then the anxiety-shame cycle continues and grows and crescendos into severe conditions like addiction/depression.
The thing is that we don’t have to “cope” with fear. What I prefer to do is try to understand that which makes me afraid. If I can summon the courage of will to name fear’s trigger and then allow it to emerge in my mind as something I can deal with, then I can dissipate its power. Any graduate student will tell you that “exposure therapy” is the treatment for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Really, exposure therapy is triggering fear and then allowing it pass through one’s consciousness.
Maybe there are those who cannot believe that they have the capacity to deal with negative emotions and think that the emotions are too powerful. For them, perhaps, it’s not safe to understand darkness on their own. Still, darkness passes through stages, just like everything else on the planet. I believe with all that I am that whenever anyone approaches life through a lens of fear, their behaviors tend to result in more negative energy. For example, a mother who wants her son to stop using heroin may spend many nights worrying that she’s going to get a visit from a police officer that her son was found dead in a ditch. I’m willing to bet that every time she sees her son, she tells him how worried and scared for him she is. But, I can assure you that all her admonitions and begging does is build more shame that then will lead to more anxiety in her son. I’m also certain that he does not handle those emotions well and responds with more heroin use.
My preference is that, in this case, the mother first neutralizes her fear as best she can by learning about the functions of heroin and its users. Heroin users tend to use heroin to feel “normal.” in time, the high goes away as tolerance is built and then the heroin user then must use or he will get very ill. Fear of illness compounded with the rest of the anxiety-shame cycle drives the heroin user.
Once the mother understands the functions of heroin, she can then work on accepting her son as he is, not as she wants him to be. That is, while wanting health for her son is noble, if she’s approaching her son about her issues with fear then he will pull away. The best thing the mother can do for her son is work on her own issues because I’m also willing to bet that she wants him off the heroin so that her fear is alleviated. In accepting things as they are and him as he is, she can better see the situation. In time, as her fear reduces, it does become possible to talk with her addicted son and discuss with him the reasons why it would be healthier for him to get clean, but those reasons have to for his sake, not hers.
These dark aspects of life have a progression and order just like everything else on the planet. I try to understand why I feel dark feelings rather than project them onto everything and everyone around me. I want health for me: I want health so that I can be a better father, husband, son, and friend. The darkness rises in me, I am not exempt from facing its clutches. However, what the darkness has to teach me is for me to learn alone. I don’t fear the darkness and I won’t stop learning about its ways. I hope everyone learns that their struggles are for them to understand their place in this world. Once we understand we can then overcome. In overcoming the darkness, our mission in this life will be revealed. Of that, I am certain.