Embracing Dark Feelings
In preparation for an upcoming intensive retreat with Richard Moss, whose work I've been following for nearly 20 years, I've been re-reading his latest book, Inside-Out Healing. In chapter 8, he discusses dark feelings and the role they play in psychological and spiritual deepening. According to Richard, dark or abysmal feelings "are part of the ingenious way in which our souls help us to evolve; therefore, experiencing them is intrinsic to deep healing." (p. 159)
For most of us, the tendency is to run from these "untamed" feelings, to avoid them through busy lives and busy minds – compulsively thinking, repeating old stories that keep us in familiar, and often unhappy, territory. While it's not easy to do so, our willingness to stay gently present with the mystery and physicality of raw feeling lies at the core of the heroic journey. In spiritual mythology, the hero descends into the underworld of psyche, faces inner demons and returns transformed – empowered, cleansed, comfortable in her own skin.
"The underworld is a gateway to the God within who is forever without a face or name. You cannot descend to the darkness without being carried up into the light, and you cannot realize the light without being called to descend into darkness. All feeling is mysterious, but in the lower realms in particular, some part of you knows that you are meeting what is and will always be beyond you as an ego or separate self. If you can meet the abysmal feelings with awareness instead of letting your ego take over, in that meeting you are reborn." (p. 158)
"Make it a practice to turn directly toward any disturbing feeling, whether it is just a kind of restlessness or a deep sense of threat, and clear your mind of any thoughts. Steadily 'touch' the feeling with a soft inner gaze. Remain spacious, extending your senses far beyond your immediate location, and open your intuition to the limitless expanse of being. Keep relaxing without losing the sense of readiness.
"This does not protect you from the abysmal feelings; you do feel them. You need to feel them because they are part of being human and can deepen your humanity. But not joining with any thought about them keeps you from letting your ego disguise the dark feelings by turning them into guilt, anger, terror, or self-loathing. Moreover, when you can make space for the dark feelings, you discover that they are never as terrible to experience as the psychological misery your ego creates with its stories about what is wrong with you." (p. 163)