People are often afraid of the dark: of what it symbolises, what it is – an absence of light, of not knowing or seeing. Darkness for you might mean sadness, despair, loneliness, depression. In our world we are taught that being positive, that light, brightness, noise and enlightenment are most important. That ‘thinking positive’ is the ideal. I’ve been struggling with these questions for many years. I’ve always thought that ‘thinking positive’ – chasing after euphoria, happiness, joy, was the ideal. That there is something ‘wrong’ with me if I incline to the sadness side of the scale. That feeling deep sadness or longing is wrong.
Yet darkness, sadness and not knowing are all part of being human. When you’re someone who tends towards introspection – the darkness within – the metaphorical ‘in the dark’ is an essential part of moving towards new ideas. We are all in the dark. Sometimes we find light to guide our way, or there will be a ‘lightbulb’ moment.
For me, darkness means a few different things. I’ve always enjoyed stories, films and TV programs that tend towards exploring the darker side of life. Some of my favourite authors explore supernatural themes and the darkness within people. I know there are shades of grey and shadows within every person. Night is the time when I turn inwards, thinking about the world, indulging imagination and reflecting.
I used to be afraid of the dark because we all learn from a young age that there are things in the dark – our over-active imaginations imagine things. Childhood isn’t really an idyllic time – there is just as much dark in childhood as there is in adulthood. Sometimes I’m afraid of the dark, of being alone in the dark – but at the same time, darkness has its mystery and joy, just as much joy as a bright summer afternoon.
Exploring and expressing sadness, loneliness and longing is not a bad thing. There is nothing wrong with these feelings. Writing requires long periods of solitude, of sinking into and exploring the darker side of being human. The fear I’ve often felt about writing, about going deeper into ideas and imagination, are precisely because I have been afraid of the sadness or the loneliness that comes about from diving into that depth.
It takes a lot of energy to force ourselves to ‘think positive’ when our core selves don’t incline towards that kind of thinking. I don’t think I’m a particularly ‘negative’ thinker, but I’m a worrier, I can over-think things and definitely experience different kinds of low moods. But I’m slowly coming to accept that this is who I am – and that it doesn’t make life any less interesting, poignant or happy.
I aim for contentment, for gratitude and mindfulness, but not for a constant state of ‘positive thinking’ – which to me, personally, can be exhausting. Much like behaving like an extrovert is draining for those of us who are introverts. I feel that true happiness comes from accepting and understanding who you are – it’s a journey, and has taken me a long time to do so.
I may still occasionally find myself buying into the ‘think positive and everything will change!’ thing, but change comes from doing things, making choices and acting on them, not constantly being upbeat and hoping that this will attract good fortune. My kind of positivity comes from thoughtfulness, hope, love, planning, learning and being open minded. A balance.
‘Introverts don’t need to get everything out into the light. We focus better in the dark. Rather than putting all our cards on the table, we can wait until the time is right, until ideas are fully formed, and until people are ready to hear. […] There is a lot to be said for positive thinking, and an exclusive focus on the negative can be destructive. But denial of the negative is just as dangerous.’ – Laurie Helgoe, Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength.