An Invitation to Peer Into the Darkness

Happy Halloween, loves! October has long been my favorite month of the year. California doesn’t reach full autumnal glory until the end of the moth, but come October 1st, I still feel a shift.

October welcomes us to let go of our overbooked summer social calendars and nestle into our homes. The hours of sunlight slowly dwindle. The air finally feels thinner, crisper, after months of the thick air of a boiling summer afternoon. It’s a time to start roasting vegetables and baking pumpkin muffins. It’s a time to turn inward.

All of these shifts are grand - really, love them all - but by far my favorite thing about October is Halloween. Halloween ushers in its own unique cultural shift. For just this one month, we are encouraged to open ourselves to the darkness. We embrace the macabre, allowing our dark and twisted inner selves to come out of the shadows.

In Jungian psychology, shadow is the dark side of our personality (in extreme summation). Dr. Connie Zweig describes recognizing our shadow as:

“…[turning] away from the peaks toward the valleys, away from the heights and the rarefied air toward the depths and the dark and the dense. it is to turn toward the unpleasant thoughts, hidden fantasies, marginal feelings that are taboo. Our secret lust, greed, envy, rage.”

We repress our shadow selves because they generally don’t align with the story we want tell about who we think we are. I tend to think of this repression as the Land of Should. Our parents, schools, workplaces, friends, lovers, society at large, tell us how we should behave. We internalize those messages and do our best to shove the “unacceptable” parts of ourselves in a closet.

Lust, greed, envy, and rage have long been deemed taboo. But let’s unpack that. To associate these feelings with immorality means enough of us (all of us) feel them. Otherwise, why summon the energy to cast judgment on these feelings across history?

Acceptance of our shadow selves does not mean our lives become a Bacchanal orgy of previously repressed delights. Acceptance does not mean we turn to our greed or anger and manipulate their meaning to hurt ourselves or others. What acceptance of our shadow selves brings forward is a completeness of being. We allow ourselves to become whole.

So why not use Halloween as an occasion to dive deep into the darkness? Maybe it’s time to open the closet and take inventory of everything that was locked up tight.

Here, I’ll start. Anger is tucked away in my closet. Time and time and time again, I’ve been told I shouldn’t be angry. Recently, I was told that my anger was a “threat to the safety of the workplace.” Direct quote, folks.

I turn to such a deep place of shame when I feel angry. I lock that anger up as quickly as possible before striking out on an apology tour. These actions suffocate the possibility that perhaps my anger was a healthy response to an unjust or otherwise hurtful situation.

Ok, your turn. If you want to give it a try, there is an exercise on Psychology Today to safely guide you into your own darkness.