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Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Tomorrow night, as the earth moves through and incinerates space dust caught in its atmosphere, we'll have an opportunity to witness the peak of the Perseid Meteor shower. It's said there will be up to 90 meteors an hour!

Our orbit takes us through this concentration of asteroid and comet debris every summer, but this year is extra special. Tonight is the new moon (and a super new moon, no less), which means no visible moonlight, and thus many more visible stars - shooting and otherwise.

For optimal viewing and to take full advantage of this astral event, over the weekend some friends and I camped overnight near a remote alpine lake in the North state.

The idea was to be somewhere with as little artificial light as possible. What we failed to fully consider was that the thick blanket of smoke created by fires raging in Shasta County would nearly obliterate our view for the first half of the evening. (Not to worry; a late night "thermal inversion"cleared the smoke long enough for us to eventually enjoy the show).

While the initial conditions were disappointing in one regard, they were also significant in at least one other. You see, smoke-socked skies + no moonlight + wilderness = utter darkness.

What an opportunity for reflection! Or rather, in the smokey pitch black, a lack-there-of ...

As the blackness set in, the four of us found ourselves huddled together on camping pads under sleeping bags, talking, laughing and awaiting the light. Not surprisingly, darkness is much easier to face when we're not alone.

* * *

I've been seeing a lot of new clients these days. What stands out most with newer clients is how fresh the experience is of sitting too long in the dark, all alone. Thus, we come into therapy feeling overwhelmed, disoriented, and frankly, terrified.

These feelings can be crippling - which is probably part of why so many of us wait to ask for help. Maybe we've been sitting in the darkness so long, we can't tell anymore which way is up. We may have even lost our faith in the coming light. Believe me, I know. Those nights can feel long.

As a therapist, I'm aware we're at times thought of as authority figures or people with some kind of cure. Myself, I prefer a different perspective - that we're more like guides through the darkness.

During the daylight following the darkest night, while reading Goddesses in Every Woman, I discovered even more about my role as guide through the lens of Persephone. She's as familiar with darkness as anyone.

Although probably best known for being kidnapped and held hostage in and by Hades, during the process, Persephone transformed from damsel in distress into Queen of the Underworld! In doing so, her role shifted from frightened maiden to Guide, as she put herself in service to others who find themselves in similarly painful and unpleasant circumstances.

Persephone became familiar with fear, desperation and longing during her time in the dark - which in turn, prepared her for supporting others also making their way through to the other side. As the story goes, despite that after her initial escape she found herself still destined to darkness for one third of each year, rather than despairing, Persephone purposely transmuted the darkness into light.

* * *

My night with friends under the darkened sky distinctly illustrated the power and benefit of having good company during dark and threatening times.

It also reminded me of my own strength in this capacity. Like Persephone, I've been to the underworld and back. I've gained some skills, and found my way out. And I've returned with a certain regularity to do it all over again.

I know what it's like to be lost in the dark. And I imagine I'll always get scared. But I also know there's a way out, and I'm willing to help you find yours, if you're willing.

In the meantime, if you have the chance, get out there tomorrow night! Drive someplace far from city lights and reflect upon the night sky. You'd be surprised at what you may find.



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