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Owning Darkness: Accepting the Shadow

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Owning Darkness: Accepting the Shadow

In this impending wintertime of late sunrises and early sunsets, I find myself exploring darkness, not just the extended night-times but the darkness within me. Sometimes I find myself experiencing frequent dark nights of the soul. You know the scenario. You wake from a nightmare to see the digital clock blinking 3:12 in bright red. The room is dark, void of moonlight, and you’re alone – or your partner snores quietly, blissfully unconscious. The broken record starts spinning in your head. “What the hell am I doing? Who do I think I am to think I can take this kind of risk? I’m not smart enough/ loving enough/ healthy enough/ talented enough/ devoted enough/ pious enough/ good enough…” Head spinning, you find yourself doubting the very fiber of your being, as the ticker tape of negative self-talk repeats itself endlessly.

Where for art though, God?

If you’re like me, you turn to God, and you start to pray. You pray for guidance, for peace, for signs, for faith, but you feel alone. The signs seem to have left you. The angels are silenced. Why has God forsaken you? And you start to cry, with the ticker tape spinning ever faster.

You try meditating. You try praying harder. You count sheep, anything to pass the time until the sun rises and the night ends. But hours later, you look at the clock, and it’s 3:15. Time marches.

Related: 3 Sleep Tricks to Try in Bed

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Read more: Guidance, Health, Inspiration, Mental Wellness, Peace, Self-Help, Spirit, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.  She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.  Lissa blogs at and also created two online communities - and She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.


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6:07AM PDT on Jul 17, 2011

Thanks for the article, i wish more people would recognize how much influence depression have on health, work, etc. That it is an illness and not beeing sad for a while. There are still too many people, also in families, who do not want to see the problem, who shake heads, call a depressed person lazy etc., that he/she should pull him/herself up (is it the word? Sorry, but i am not from an English speaking country). They do not want to read about it, do not know something about it - as if this ignorance could erase that problem... this reminds me about that monkey figures, on with hand over the eyes, one with hand over the ears, one with hand over mouth (i do not know if there are more). I have depressions, too. Since childhood i have been silent, shy and thoughtful, then, i don't know when it became more. I also have borderline (wounds and wishes to not wake up anymore since childhood), trauma experiences, and burnout. And i still have not found out how to live with all these, it has always been a "surviving"...

4:54AM PST on Mar 5, 2011

cover up the light of the clock... helps me go back to sleep faster :}

10:20AM PST on Feb 1, 2011

Thank you, love that you are so candid and real...

Yes, wow- have had the same time in the wee hours. The did I do this, why am I procrastinating, it seems all the little devils we thought we could forget about leap out in the night. I find when I walk my talk, accomplish what I need to to keep my life in balance and I am generally happy, I do not have these dreams and wake up reminders and the darkness looming. Only when I am over worked and also left things to the last minute, the stress is there, or I am worried( usually because of the things I type about ).. Love to get up out of bed, move about. breath and tell myself to get it all together and it will be great. And it usually is. Also a popsicle or 2 helps..


2:51PM PST on Jan 14, 2011

I have given myself mental test in the past when restless and full of doubt and fell asleep during so...go figure...I think it was the "order" of and trust in the answers that allowed me to rest. :)

2:45PM PST on Jan 14, 2011

Every bright light cast a shadow. :)

5:05AM PST on Jan 12, 2011


4:50PM PST on Jan 5, 2011

"Without darkness there can be no light, for there is nothing to illuminate." ~ Jimi J. Jemel

8:05PM PST on Dec 15, 2010

I change beds, or go sleep on the couch. Somehow the physical change helps me break the loop and get back to sleep.

9:36AM PST on Dec 12, 2010

I too would separate physical darkness, devoid of light in daytime hours from what spiritual darkness is. We retain conscious, subconscious and R.E.M. sleep states of which we are inbetween. In the subconscious state, or when attempting to achieve it to sleep, the walls of our conscious self are lowered, in this time our inner voices of sometimes turmoil, conflict, chaos, confusion, dilemma, more emotionally aware, there is enlightenment and answers if we listen to all voices, remain aware of all levels of our beings. The quiet still of physical darkness allows for many positive aspects that result, dreams and nightmares are often msg's we should pay attn to and address in finding more of a sense of inner peace. I enjoyed the article, though I'd not interject specific religion into it, I am a person whose mind races when one wishes it would slow down to sleep peacefully at nights. I've never slept or rested at night, don't deny the sleep deprivation is annoying, I actually sleep better in the daytime, the nights are for introspection and achievement of a deeper understanding of all layers of myself, to embrace the night, listen, learn, grow and heal. TY Gale Johansen, I love your comment.

8:07AM PST on Dec 12, 2010


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