Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

By Dr Anastasia Belikova

You are a pretty well-functioning individual. You probably have income or you figured out ways around needing to have an income (equally commendable). You might be doing a good job raising kids (be they of the flesh-and-blood or work-project kind). You have people who like you, you like yourself (sometimes). You do alright (you are in Bali, for christsakes).

And then there are these days. The days when the biggest achievement is brushing your teeth. The days when you feel like a complete and total loser. When heavy thunder clouds follow you around and you rain viciousness on heinous peace offenders like loud chewers. Or maybe you walk around with foggy beehive of a head feeling confused, overwhelmed and plain sad. We all have them. Our dark days. The buzz-off-to-the-whole-world days. Indecently, my favorite days are the bad days. Let me tell them why I love them and why so should you.

First thing first, what makes bad days bad? Often we call ‘bad’ something unusual, something that we don’t really understand and cannot, therefore, figure how to control or fit into our steady lives. Something not according to plan. We (instinctively) crave the safety of stability, and we abhor chaos and uncertainty. But let’s get real, stability is not an accurate description of reality. Things just don’t stay in orderly neat structures forever. From the smallest to the largest most complicated thing you can possibly imagine, everything goes through changes. All living organisms age and die. Mountains get worn down into the sand. Stars cool down, explode and get reabsorbed into planets. Whole galaxies collide, merge and even disappear. ‘Change is the only constant’ (Heraclitus). And embedded in the process of change is disintegration, collapse, and chaos. This is a difficult concept to accept. We are taught to define what we want and go for it. We are not taught to adapt or accept, we are taught to dominate. Collapse scares us. To be unable to have what we want is a cause for depression. One of the most common and most difficult emotion that people bring to therapy sessions is the feeling of self-inadequacy (or its forms, like jealousy). We simply cannot stand the sharpness of the ‘not’ – not being, not having, not achieving. Bad day is often a day of feeling bad about ourselves. To master the art of life is to master the art of transition. It’s about getting good not only in doing and achieving but also in surrendering, losing control, failing. It’s very much like surfing – you are not controlling the waves, you are waiting for the wave that feels right to you. You know you have to wait for it, you accept that you will miss some awesome waves, you accept that some waves will come crashing on you, confusing you, pulling you down. Exactly the same with the life-waves. Let yourself be in a difficult space. Let yourself be confused. Let yourself not know what exactly is going to happen next. Which brings me to the next kind of prickly days.

Many people define days as good or bad in terms of productivity. A day when you can’t be bothered to do work or unable to produce good work is a bad day. When you are not creating, making, improving or outputting. And usually, this lull is a result of being overtaken by ‘bad’ emotions. So unproductive badness is very often intertwined with emotional badness of being unable to switch from an undesirable emotional state into a desirable productive/happy/social state. Feelings that are not sunny and fluffy are bad. It’s bad to be low, unstable, to want to cry, eat copious amounts of chocolate and watch silly movies. Wanting to rage, crush and destroy is bad. Or is it?

The worst thing you can do is succumb to the tyranny of ‘should’ – ‘I shouldn’t be like this’, ‘I should be doing that instead’… We surrounded ourselves with wonderfully ever-producing machines that are always there for us at a press of the button (until they break of course). But you, my friend, are not a machine. You are a thing of nature. And like anything in nature you have seasons. Not a single alive thing in this universe operates in a straight upward trajectory. Life is a pulsatory event -everything exists in cycles (including our earlier order – chaos – reorder cycle). An up is followed by a down. The night comes after the day. Barren winter inevitably follows the warmer months of abundance. The emptying, the laying low, the silence, the nourishment – our type-A world with type-A dreams and type-A lifestyles have forgotten how to effectively do these things (I’ll come back to the fact of poor self-nourishment in the next column). The uncomfortable is abolished. We live in an age of spiritual bypassing – we hop from practice to practice that will make us feel better, if just for a moment. At the slightest tug of a heart we grab a drink, a friend, a fun distraction of some sort. But negative emotions, no emotions, and difficult emotions are not the states to be banished, ignored or fought. If you are willing to stay with the edgy feelings, bad days will tell you what’s not right in your life, who’s not right in your life. Bad days are honest – they smack you with the sharpness of realization of which need is not met. They tell you which promises to yourself you haven’t kept, which dreams you filed away in a neat cabinet of ‘later’. Bad days blow up the neat and demand attention now. Bad days bring pain, and pain is one of the (if not THE) strongest motivators for change. And this is precisely why I love the ‘bad’ days. Incidentally, Bali is a wonderful place for relearning how to embrace emotional realism. Here the darkness is workshopped along with the light, the ugly along with the beautiful. Here the natural is not embarrassing. Here the feminine soft energy governs, encouraging to slow down and reassess. Not a bad place for bad days.


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