We Don’t Have To Go Into The Darkness Unarmed
This time of the year is tough for most everyone. Holidays with a loved one in crisis is beyond challenging. I was speaking with the mother of a client today and I asked her how she was doing with all of it, and her response struck me. She said, “I am feeling sad. I went to pick up my husband from the airport, and I saw all the college-aged kids being greeted by their parents and it made me very sad.” And that makes perfect sense to me.
Shortly after her check in about feeling sad her son joined our phone call. Her son has been reading Man’s Search for Meaning. He shared with her what he was learning from the book. He paraphrased Frankl’s work and Nietzsche’s sentiment shared, “If a person has a why they can overcome the how.”
And, while our feelings are true, they aren’t the TRUTH. The rest of the story is yet to be told.
Why am I sad? Because my son is in treatment… this wasn’t the plan. Why does this suffering have meaning? I am sacrificing my time, holiday, money so that my son can move forward in a more healthy and adaptive way. I am giving this up so that I can have a better connection to my son. I am giving up this holiday with him... and most importantly - I am starting to understand my own work and patterns in relationships that have influenced this situation and now have the opportunity to make changes in areas that I wasn’t previously aware of. I get to find myself and help relieve my son of the burden of having to make me ok.
If we can understand the why, the how becomes more clear. We are tackling difficult, challenging, scary and downright painful stuff at times in therapy.
Carl Jung said, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.”
We don’t have to go into the darkness unarmed. We go with support. We go with love. We go with courage. We go with the “why”. We go with hope. And, we also go with openness because chances are when we go into that darkness, we just might find something beautiful that we never even knew we were looking for.
As a person in recovery from my addictions, I have found that all of the things that I am inclined to hide from are the very things that give me strength.
When I entered rehab in 1998, it was the worst day of my life… Now I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. My shame, my fear, my suffering, turned into my recovery. My recovery, in turn, has allowed me to help many people in my life. My worst traumas, mistakes, and insecurities would one day become my most valued gifts to the world. My relationships are better because of them. I am sincerely grateful for my addiction.
Honor the sadness. It’s real. And, know it’s not the whole story. And further, know that it might be the most important ingredient to cultivating the relationships in your life that you’ve been longing for. Maybe, just maybe, the kids getting off the plane from school will never have the conversations and connections with their children that you have the opportunity to cultivate as a result of this situation you never wanted. I know for me personally… I am grateful it didn’t go the way I planned it to go. After all, as Victor Frankl said, “when we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.”