Growing In The Dark: Why “Negative Feelings” Matter

“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.” ~Pema Chodron

Pop spirituality and our cultural attitude would have you think it best to banish negativity from your life. Give it the quarantine treatment until it gets better and can rejoin our polite, positive, placative society.

We are encouraged to cleanse negativity, a blanket descriptor of things that don’t feel good. Push it away with an exhale and inhale positivity. Anger, sadness, and critical thinking can all be forms of “bad vibes” that are sought to be avoided.

This banishment of negativity is so simplistic. We are humans, capable of such a wonderful range of emotion and experience. Who are we to banish some of the low, dark, hollow notes from our octaves of existence? Too much cleansing makes us dry, brittle, and sterile.

When joy and exuberance are out for too long, they get stale. When you are always bathing in the light, the light bulb begins to wane and eventually will dim and burn out. A life of constant light is not sustainable. It’s also not possible. Life is much more wonderfully and tragically complicated. Some of the richest parts linger in the shadows or even in the deepest, dark corners of our lives.

It’s quite easy to sleep through happiness. A good, easy-going life does little to keep us awake and alive. The darker feelings bring us right into the present. The physicality of crying, shaking, with quaky breath and a hot face brings us into our bodies. To our emotional life. To our knees like no other. Darkness is what pops our eyes open to your life. It’s the catalyst for change and renewal.

At this juncture in my life, I am spending a lot of time in grief and anger. I do not wish to get into all of the intimate details of it, but the gist is that I am going through a divorce. An icky, shattering, tearing asunder of the life I once knew and the dreams I had for the life of my family.

It’s been tempting to push my feelings aside and pretend I’m okay. But a very small part of me recognizes there is this opportunity for something new. Renewal. Rebirth.

While I haven’t given birth myself, I have been in the room during a birth. Birth isn’t only the beginning of a delicate, new life. It is deep and wrenching pain. Pain that steals your breath and turns your voice into a howl. It is uncertainty and a dark intensity that knocks at your ability to stand on your feet. It is sitting…

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