Mental Health & Counseling

Dark Places

April 10, 2022

I’ve always been afraid of the dark. I have stories I could tell. Sounds in the night, unexplained, eerie. Things that go bump in the dark, creaks and groans. Gray, moving shadows in the woods. At night I take the basement stairs two at a time: you never know what’s coming up behind you. 

But dark places hold secrets that can set you free. Dark places are where gold and diamonds are found. Treasure troves. 

Deep inside a dark place, hidden away, are often found the things you need to find fulfilment, peace, and meaning. 

I must credit Jordan Peterson, a Canadian sociologist and philosopher (author of The 12 Rules for Life) for bringing this basic concept to my attention. He has said that gold is found in dark places and is often guarded by dragons. These dark places could represent our past and the baggage we carry. The things that happen to us in our childhoods, the experiences of our developing years, influence every part of our lives. We do not often look there to understand our present challenges and mental conundrums. 

Here’s a real-life example or two. Perhaps you struggle with anger. Outbursts happen all too often. Anger is often a result of a deeper emotion or process that lies beneath the surface. Often it’s frustration, sometimes grief, offense, stress, or exhaustion. We can live with this anger, hurting ourselves and others, or we can take a journey into the dark place – sometimes a place we don’t want to go, in order to find out what is actually causing the anger.  Sometimes it’s not a dark place. But often in hurting people, deep down, there is a spot they don’t really want to go. It may mean facing their offense, a deep wound, or grief at a deeper level in order to find true healing. 

Another dark place is adverse childhood experiences such as abuse or neglect, which often haunt a person for years. We struggle with addictions, and addictions produce behaviors. We can deal with the surface – attempt to treat the addictions by suppressing the behaviors. But the bigger question is, what is causing all that pain? What is making us soothe and medicate ourselves with these addictive and maladaptive actions? Often that “thing” is in a dark and painful place. Somewhere we don’t really want to go. 

But that dark place is where the gold is. And that’s often where the journey to insight and understanding begins. Once we understand what is causing our anger, our addiction, our behaviors, we can seek treatment and interventions that aim at the root.  

One last thought: there is another dark place that too often gets overlooked in today’s rush for mental and emotional healing. To get there take the road from where you are, down to the garden of Gethsemane. Linger in the darkening twilight, but for a moment.  Continue then towards Jerusalem until you come to Golgotha. There you will find three crosses. The one in the middle is the epitome of a dark place. A dark place that when faced, gives way to sunrise, to salvation, and to healing. It puts meaning in your suffering and gives hope in whatever circumstances you face. 

The dark place is where the treasures are.

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