There is something special about darkness that both fascinates and frightens us. There are also various types of darkness – it is not merely a lack of light.
I have lived most of my life in towns and cities, and so darkness outside is normally tempered by street lights, house lights and there is never a total blackness. Or I am in a car, in a bubble of light in the middle of inky blackness.
Once, when I was staying at a convention in a seaside hotel, I went for a walk into the town just as it was getting dark, and on returning later realized that the road to the hotel was not lit, and was surrounded by trees that shut out all the light. The way was, to my eyes totally pitch black – but I had no option than to walk it to get back to my room.
Walking down that road was really strange; I could not actually see the surface I was walking on, nor where I was going. My clues were only the sound of my footsteps and the feel of the road – it was like being cast adrift without any idea of where I might be or be going.
That feeling of encircling darkness can sometimes be a comfort.
When we are in a familiar place, and feel safe inside ourselves, it can be a welcoming restful feeling of safety. It can be the place that we can hide from the world when we feel the need to, our warm and welcoming womb.
Emotionally, we may feel more comfortable in the dark, where our secrets are hidden from prying eyes, and the things we are ashamed of can be out of sight, and out of mind
But more often, darkness brings feelings of fear and aloneness.
When we cannot see around us, our most basic way of protecting ourselves has suddenly been taken away. We not only don’t know if danger is there, we KNOW that we don’t know.
Suddenly this is not the warm comforting darkness of a blanket drawn over our head, but a blindfold that has been placed over our eyes without our consent.
Emotionally too, darkness is more often where we go when we hurt. We do not want the light to shine on our sordid secrets, and so we hide them in darkness. And there, unlike natural healthy things that need the light, our shame grows and the secret becomes overwhelming.
It is like a monster hiding in the dark – because we can no longer see it, we imagine how horrible and fearful it must be. We give it all the power of the darkness to grow, until it totally consumes us.
Darkness is a part of life, and so we need to embrace its good qualities. But it is also a place of fear and we have to have the courage to turn on the light, to dispel the monsters.