This is probably the oldest story we know, told and retold in some of our favourite stories of all time, stories that have become classics. Classics because they are timeless, and timeless because they are still relevant. The story of dark and light seems to strike a chord within us perhaps because we realise its not a story, but an ancient wisdom. It is not quite as straight forward as some tales tell, we are neither dark or light but we are both.
On any given day, the percentage of time we spend between the two depends on us as individuals, and what is going on for us internally and externally, or at least how we perceive it to be. Our perceptions of what is ‘dark’ and ‘light’ may also differ between us as we are guided by our own cognitive experiences; values from our upbringing, ancestors, culture and society; ethics, morals, and inner compass which includes our consciousness and sub-consciousness and our higher self. However, if we are all connected at a level beyond ourselves, it is probable that there is a common thread of what is ‘dark’ and what is ‘light’.
“For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are” – C.S. Lewis, The Magicians Nephew.
If we look at our relationship with self and others in terms of ‘dark’ and ‘light’ energy, things can start to become clearer, far more simple and hopefully far less personal. It may surprise us when we listen to our own voices in our heads (if we can all admit we all talk to ourselves) that some, if not the majority of those messages, are quite dark (unless of course you have great self awareness, received ideal conditions in childhood which helped you to reach your full potential – in a self actualised way). Merging Light and Dark energy with Transactional Analysis (TA) we have our ‘parent’, ‘adult’ and ‘child’ ego states within us and they all have a certain amount of talk time, and they seem to have a connection with either dark or light energy. The ‘critical/controlling parent’ for example, can berate us, humiliate us, embarrass us, control us, limit us; therefore engaging with dark energy. We could have a critical parent that engages with light energy thereby coming from a place of caring when it barks ‘don’t stick your fingers in that socket!’. I may have won a few Darwin awards in my time without that critical parent. My dark energy parent puts me down and disempowers me. If separate to me we would not be friends. Despite counselling training and absorbing Louise Hays work, if I happen to do something ‘stupid’, that voice is quick to highlight how stupid. I am now able to catch it however, and change what I am saying to myself. Dark energy could also be present in our unhealthier side to ‘nurturing parent’, (sometimes known as the ‘smother mother’), and with the child ego states – the rebellious ‘free child’ who may be a wayward teenager, or the ‘adapted child’ who may have learnt to be quite manipulative with adults. If you are spending time with your extended family this holiday season it may be interesting to observe yourself and see if you revert into any of these ego states. You may also observe others doing the same as they interact with you. It may be of use to note the energy of dark and light within you and within others.
“To defeat the darkness out there, you must defeat the darkness in yourself” – C.S. Lewis, Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
These darker characters within us seem to be triggered when certain situations or people present themselves in our lives. Often they push older buttons in us – though we may now be in a different time, circumstance or surrounded by different people. It seems the same life lesson is presented because we haven’t learnt what we needed from it. So maybe the bigger lesson is about not engaging with the dark energy, unhooking from the trigger and staying with light energy. If we stay with light energy, we are more likely to be in our adult ego state, although we could also be in the healthy side to parent or child ego e.g. nurturing/caring for self and others, and enjoying life with our pure childlike and innate emotion of joy. If we stay with light energy, we can often align ourselves to our souls purpose for being here, awaken our passions and our unique gifts and talents (that are not ego derived) that are intended to radiate love and light out to the rest of the world. When we dance back to the dark side, and we will because we are both, we can feel blocked, dissatisfied, or perhaps not worthy enough to shine. We can become jealous of others that do shine, and we can become involved in gossiping about them, sending out our darkness in the world instead. Darkness creates misunderstanding, hurt, separation, isolation, chaos, anarchy, wars – it engages with our innate emotions of fear, sadness and anger.
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering” – Yoda, The Phantom Menace.
When looking at our interactions with others, a useful piece of theory to take on board is the ‘drama triangle‘ again from TA. The positions we can play are: Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer – all engage with our dark energy. With more self awareness we can change our interactions with people to play positions on the ‘winners triangle‘ – Vulnerable, Assertive, Caring – engaging instead with our light energy. It can be hard sometimes to switch from the drama to the winners triangle especially when those around you are still acting within the drama and keep pulling you in. Again, if we step back and observe it all as energy, it is not really people hooking us in, but their dark energy is, and it creates more drama combined with your dark energy. If we can stay with our light energy, we can stop playing the drama roles that we may have played for quite some time. I have been playing in the drama triangle, and I have played the rescuer role mostly. When I was younger I made assumptions that the victim needs my help so I would rescue. In truth the victim played this role because it served them with a purpose, and that purpose was none of my business and they had not requested my help. The victim would switch roles to persecutor and attack me for my inept rescue and I would become the real victim, often to feel devalued and hurt. I did attract victims who requested help, and again I would respond. I thought they would then be able to help themselves next time, but they never did. I realised I was in the drama once again. Protecting a victim from perceived persecutors was my more recent role on the drama triangle, and so many persecutors joined the game. I became exhausted fighting a never ending battle with institutions and systems that ‘attacked my victim’. I was so angry. Sad. Fearful. My lesson being, that I can not protect ‘my victim’, they are not ‘mine’ nor are they my responsibility. I observed that whilst I was in ‘low spirits’, I was consumed with my dark energy, in the drama, and therefore not putting my light into the world instead.
“We have all got light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are” – Sirius Black, The Order of the Phoenix.
‘There are two kinds of people in life’ someone once said to me, ‘those that wish to help others, and those that wish to make a profit’. In energy terms – those that engage mainly with their dark energy could appear greedy, materialistic, make decisions based on profit not welfare, involved with self interest maybe to the known detriment to others. Those that engage mainly with their light can be observed genuinely caring about others, choosing roles in life that are not necessarily well paid, but chosen to make a positive contribution in the world, regardless of recognition. You may have heard the phrase ‘unsung hero’, I apply it here. I have observed people engaged in their dark energy that can become threatened by competition, perceived or otherwise, even if it would not have any financial impact. I have observed people engaged with light energy shine brightly in the work they do, and sadly they then become targets of dark energy, as some of my friends are right now. If you are going through something like this, remember to look at it as energy, so you do not take it personally and get drawn in. If their dark energy hooks into yours, you may spend a great deal of time worried, defending yourself or ‘fighting back’ and whilst you are engaged in your dark energy creating drama, you are not with your light giving your gift to the world. You could take it as a compliment that dark energy is so threatened by how much your light shines that it continues to push against any of your darker doors to stop you in your tracks. The more illogical the attack, the more ludicrous and nonsensical…the greater the compliment. Figure out your triggers, most will be from childhood things connected to conditional love (not unconditional). Once you acknowledge and deal with your triggers, the doors that let dark energy in are sealed and lessons completed. Dark will (of course) look for another door, but that is part of the dance. How you move across the floor is up to you.
“There is a light in this world, a healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. We sometimes lose sight of this force when there is suffering, too much pain. Then suddenly, the spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways” – Mother Teresa
Acknowledgement: I would like to thank Janet Williams (MBACP) for her enlightenment and inspiration, and also for putting up with me for my 40 hours of personal counselling.
Art by Jonah Shafer