Last week’s post talked about the dark presence at the end of my hall, what I think it is, and why I’m so afraid of it. Today, this very moment, I’m going to share what I’ve been doing to counteract my fear.
Enter: “The life changing cure for your fear of the dark.”
I try not to use “life changing” too liberally in daily use. But in this case, “life changing” is perfectly dramatic. Because even if fear of the dark isn’t your issue, this life changing cure can also heal other negative thought patterns, like depression and anxiety.
Let’s quickly recap my theory and then dive in.
Quick Theory Recap
I’ve got an, um, presence, at the end of my hall that freaks me out almost every night. One night after hearing a voice in my head, I started thinking critically about what I was actually afraid of. This is what I came up with.
The presence at the end of my hall is not something outside of me, but the parts of me I haven’t fully acknowledged or loved.
Since I’ve made no space in my conscious mind to deal with these parts of myself, my subconscious mind has assigned them to somewhere outside my body but always near.
In short, we are the monsters under our beds.We are the monsters under our beds. Click To Tweet
What Won’t Work
If my theory is true, there are a few things we can do to put off addressing our fear. However, none of the following are going to actually free us from it long-term.
- Ignoring it and hoping it goes away – “A presence? What presence?”
- Logically rationalizing your fear away – “There are no such thing as ghosts.”
- Denying your fear away – “I didn’t jog back to bed because I was afraid, I just wanted a quick workout.”
- Succumbing to paranoia and panic (or any other negative thoughts) – “I am a target and the evidence is everywhere.”
- Blaming your fear on other people – “I’m only scared because I was peer pressured into watching The Ring too young.”
- Self-medicating your fear away – “Maybe one more sleeping pill will get me through the night this time.”
The Life-Changing Cure
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s move on to what does work – the life changing cure I’ve been talking about.
So, what is it?
The short answer? Integration.
The long answer? Well, you asked for it…
As humans, we don’t exit the womb fully equipped with the mental tools we’ll need to deal with all the shitty stuff that happens to us. I’ve tried just about all the things that won’t work (listed above) to deal with the shitty things that have happened to me and, well, they didn’t work. Go figure.
But what the ignoring, rationalizing, denying, succumbing, blaming and self-medicating has done for me is keep me from acknowledging and loving the parts of myself that are inconvenient (and sometimes downright painful) to deal with. These unhealthy habits keep me separate inside, with some parts that I have acknowledged and loved and some parts that I haven’t.
While there are a ton of unhealthy ways to deal with the pain life brings us, neurobiology research (read anything by Daniel Seigal) shows us there is really only one healthy way to deal with the pain life brings us and that is integration.
What is integration?
Well, the plain ole’ google definition of “integrate” is:
Integrate (verb): Combine one thing with another so that they become a whole.
If the opposite of integration is separation, and if integration makes something whole, something that is separate cannot be whole.
Seems like common sense, right?
But let’s say, when it comes to our well-being, “whole” is synonymous with “healed.” What happens when we replace “whole” with “healed” in that sentence?
The opposite of integration is separation, and if integration makes something healed, something that is separate cannot be healed.
No wonder this presence keeps following me around, amiright? I’ve made it something separate from me, and if there are parts of me that are kept separate, they can never heal.
If my theory is true and what I’m really afraid of are actually the parts of myself that I’ve kept separate, I need to integrate those parts of myself back into what I call my “heart” in order for me to stop being so afraid.
Sounds cool, right?
It’s not cool. And it hurts like hell. Because integration doesn’t allow for any more pussyfooting around your fear, sadness, anger, shame, judgement, pride, etc.
Integration requires you to do two of the hardest things for us humans:
- Acknowledge there are parts of us that suck.
- Love those parts anyway.
Integration Part 1: Acknowledgement
Acknowledgement is a straightforward task but it is surprisingly difficult to do. All it requires is seeing something in front of you, and then acknowledging that thing in front of you.
However, when “that thing in front of you” is how you were probably out of line in that argument you had with your spouse two days ago, it becomes more difficult to acknowledge.
But honestly, if you actually reach the point of seeing something you should acknowledge, even if you can’t bring yourself to truly acknowledge it, you should be applauded by a thousand angels. Because mustering up enough courage to acknowledge the parts of yourself that are painful is the second half of the battle. The first half is actually seeing the thing in front of you that you are supposed to acknowledge.
In order to see the parts of ourselves that need to be acknowledged, we must first learn how to be self-aware. And before we learn how to be self-aware, we must develop a sense of humility. Which, unfortunately, is one of those things many of us weren’t equipped with coming out of the womb. This is why it often takes a great tragedy or fallout that teaches us humility before we can even start on the path of self-awareness, acknowledgement, and finally, love.
Integration Part 2: Love
Love is less straightforward because it looks different for everyone. Even how you love different parts of yourself sometimes looks different. How you love the same part of yourself could also change over time.
Quite honestly, I’m still figuring this “love” thing out. While I can’t describe to you the exact mechanics of love, I can describe what it is not through a quick example:
Imagine you’ve done the really hard work of practicing humility and self-awareness and you acknowledged that you were out of line in that argument. Congratulations.
Now you can go two ways.
Way #1 – Separation. Do any of the things that don’t work:
- Try to ignore what you’ve just acknowledged because it is too hard to deal with.
- Rationalize in your head why you did what you did to avoid feeling true remorse.
- You can’t really go back to denying it because you just acknowledged it so you’re off the hook on that one.
- You can succumb to feelings of self-loathing, depression, anxiety, anger, etc. This is a big one for many of us.
- You can blame someone else for why you acted the way you did and take no responsibility and/or fault for it. Another biggie.
- You can take another sip, puff, hit, or pill to alter your brain chemistry to extinguish the pain, if only for a little longer.
We’ve already established these things keep you separate, unhealed, and hiding under your covers. Luckily, there is another way.
Way #2 – Integration and Love. DON’T do any of the things that don’t work.
Yep. That’s all I’ve got. There is no “how to” for loving yourself.
The good news is, unlike humility, we were all born with the skill to love. It is innate within us. It may look different for me than you, but it is always there.
If we allow just a few moments of NOT doing the stuff that doesn’t work (which is harder than it seems), love will fill that space and take it from there.
Just try it, you’ll see what I mean.
Fair warning – this is usually the part that hurts the most.
But it is so, so worth it.
Examples of the Parts of Myself yet to be Integrated
There are probably many more “scary” parts of myself that I haven’t acknowledged and loved, but here are a few parts of my weird life that still make me feel uneasy, guilty, sad, angry, and fearful. Lets see if you can relate to any of them:
- Various instances when I did really stupid stuff to get a boy’s attention
- I’m still afraid of my depression taking me over again
- How I sometimes put people down with my words and thoughts to make myself feel better
- My need to always appear like I have it all together
- I’m angry and frustrated at myself about how I always back down during a confrontation
- My lack of social and conversational skills
- How prideful I am sometimes
- My underlying greed for fame and fortune that I try to ignore
- How often I judge myself and others solely based on appearance
As you’ll notice, some of them are just human nature, like putting people down and judging by appearances. Some are things that I can’t help, like my lack of social skills. And still some are specific embarrassing incidents that I look back on now and continue to berate myself for.
The point of these examples is not to highlight their differences, though. Rather, to point out what they all have in common for me: I try to ignore them, shove them down, and have never fully been able to acknowledge and love these parts of myself.
After reading this list you may think, “Boy, I don’t want to ever learn to love things like my pride or how judgmental I am. Shouldn’t I continue fighting to make these parts of me go away?”
For me, loving my pride and judgmental tendencies doesn’t show up as complete acceptance to continue doing what I’m doing. It shows up more like an appreciation for these defense mechanisms; how they are really just trying to protect me, and how they show me the parts of myself yet to be healed.
Integrating my prideful and judgmental parts is less like, “Great job, keep it up!” and more like, “Thank you for working so hard to show me where I should focus on healing next, but now you are free to finally rest. I’ve got it from here.”
A couple important caveats before you go off and do all the rewarding work of integrating:
- Integration is not something that can be forced. But it is also not something elusive. If you want to travel down the path of integration all you need to do is set your intention upon it, and wait to see how love fills the space.
- Integration is done in pieces. I’m still terrified of the presence at the end of my hall. But there have been a few items I’ve been working on integrating, and as a result, I am noticeably less scared.
- Integration is done in stages. Don’t expect to learn humility, become perfectly self-aware, see all the things in front of you need to acknowledge, acknowledge them, and then love them all in one instant. Or even all in one year, or decade. I would feel so blessed if I finished my integration work before I died.
- Integration is not about the end result. Even though imagining yourself as fully integrated sounds awfully badass, each step of the way is just as rewarding.
Integration, the life-changing cure for your fear of the dark, is truly life changing. It may cure your fear of the dark, but as you can imagine, it could also cure you of so many more negative vices that stem from the parts of yourself you’ve kept separate.
No matter where you are in integrating your weird life, I encourage you to share your story with others so everyone can know they aren’t alone on their journey just as you now know that you aren’t alone.