This past weekend I had the incredible good fortune to travel to Oregon to witness the amazing celestial event that was the total solar eclipse.
Being in the path of totality was like nothing I had ever experienced. I was surprised by how powerful it was compared to partial eclipses I'd seen in the past. The sun is powerful and not easily covered.
As the moon slowly crossed over, the temperatures dropped and the light turned eerily cool. Yet, even with just a sliver visible things were not dark per se, just strange. Then the moon completely moved in front of the sun, and a deep twilight fell over everything. The stars were visible in the middle of the day. People cheered. A few in our group, myself included, immediately burst into tears - it was so beautiful and energetically powerful to stare straight into the corona of the sun.
It made me think about how much we, as humans, resist darkness. We create a million twisting, turning strategies to prevent ourselves from feeling the dark parts that live inside us. We have stories about why they are bad. We fear them, afraid that they will destroy us.
Cultures throughout history have felt that way about eclipses. Most myths involve the sun being eaten by a creature, a dragon, a frog...and then being spit back out again into the world. Susan Milbrath, in her book Star Gods of the Maya: Astronomy in Art, Folklore, and Calendars, discusses how various indigenous Maya groups believed that eclipses could bring about the end of the world.
So, too, we believe that to unleash the darkest parts of ourselves will end our own worlds. We will be unlovable. Our closest friends and family will desert us. Our lovers will leave us. There are parts of us that are intolerable, even to ourselves.
One of the most profound truths of therapy is that we enter into it with a desire to change, and most of the work is really about accepting and being with. Creating the capacity to be with those incredibly dark, unlovable parts. Learning more about them. Experiencing someone, your therapist, not running away in fear. But staying. Looking directly towards them with you. Until they become less scary. And as a therapist, the privilege of being allowed to witness these parts that people feel as their darkness, is just like staring at the corona of the sun. It is incredibly beautiful to see something so rare and fleeting.
Developing the capacity to hold, nurture and love the darkest parts of ourselves allows us to reemerge into the world more fully alive. All the energy we previously devoted to hiding that which we thought was unlovable, we can now shine out into the world.
When the first slivers of sun began emerging again from behind the moon on Monday, it was like someone was turning the lights back up on the world. As if the day was starting all over again.
So too, when we find a way to move into our own darkness, can we remerge into a new light and a new day.