Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The "Dark Days" Are Our Greatest Teachers

Everywhere I look, friends are unhappy, clients are riddled with anxiety, depression, self-doubt and fear, and life appears dark and without hope. At least that is the message I'm hearing from many.  Nothing feels satisfying anymore including relationships, work and the long-term picture looks bleak.  I see one of my responsibilities as a marriage and family therapist and art therapist as helping to instill hope into the psyches of my clients and teaching them that they can learn a thing or two about themselves during these    challenging times.  Since I know all too well about the dark days of life, I feel compelled to share my experiences with others and help them SEE that these challenging times help move us to higher emotional planes. I feel, and so do many spiritual teachers, that the so called dark days are our greatest teachers. That is, if we choose to look closely at our lives and what the darkness is meant to teach us. If you have ever received a diagnosis of a life-threatening or chronic illness, you understand how this news can propel you to take action and re-examine your life.  It is a motivator for many to change eating habits, start exercising, reconnect with old friends and repair relationships and hopefully see one's life from an awakened, eyes wide-open perspective. I believe we can view the cloudier days of our lives the same way...as propellers to experience a deeper understanding and respect for ourselves and lives.

Recently, when a good friend of mine asked, if I ever felt like just "ending it all," I had to be honest and reply, "of course." But, I also added, I'm sure glad I didn't follow through on that thought. I would not be the therapist, woman and healer I am today if it weren't for those dark moments of my life. Once I learned to not fear the dark days and to look them straight at them, and to learn from them, understand them and heal the pain, I found myself in a healthier and stronger place.  We are taught to extinguish sadness, pain and depression, not use them as teachers. We are taught to run from these
feelings and to pretend they don't exist. What if we took care of them, loved them as part of us and allowed them to be really felt and understood? Imagine what we might learn from them.

What I am suggesting, is the next time you experience emotional pain, try sitting with the feelings; try getting to know them and see them as a guide that can teach you about yourself.  Try really taking care of them as if they were an unset child instead of something to extinguish and reject. I would have your journal with you and write about what comes up. Write about what insight you might gain and allow your darkness to speak.

In peace,