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A Word about Darkness

A Word about Darkness

It has happened to you and to me.  We walk into a dark house or a dark room.  As we are fumbling for the light switch, we see something out of the corner of our eye–something that moves or at least appears to move.  We are startled.  Our heart rate increases as does our breathing and our blood pressure.  Our muscles tense as our body is preparing to “fight or flee.”

Once we turn on the lights, we realize there is nothing there, nothing to fear.  But our bodies are still reacting as if the perceived threat was real.

The concepts of darkness and light are rich with meanings!  In therapy-speak, we encourage individuals and couples to “turn on the lights,” that is say what needs to be said.  Of course, we want them to say it in a way that is respectful and considerate.  But unspoken fears and anxieties have a way of growing out of proportion and seeming far more “threatening” than they really are.

John and Julie Gottman, two of our most respected couples’ researchers and educators publish a blog entitled “Marriage Minute.”  Here is the most recent article:

Is that a monster or a coat rack? A stranger or a shadow? A harbinger of catastrophic divorce or a disagreement?

Sometimes, without sufficient light, your eyes can trick you. Fear has a funny way of messing with your head.

Often, something will actually be much smaller than the big, scary shadow it casts. What’s casting shadows in your relationship? What monsters are hiding under the bed?

To talk about an issue is to bring it into the light. Maybe, once you can see it better, it won’t be so scary after all.

We encourage our couples in therapy to talk about it, whatever “it” may be.  The conversations are often difficult and emotionally-charged.  But not talking about it is worse, because it allows “issues” to appear to be scary when they may in fact be addressed and managed relatively easily.

“You cannot defeat darkness by running from it, nor can you conquer your inner demons by hiding them from the world. In order to defeat the darkness, you must bring it into the light.” 

Seth Adam Smith, Rip Van Winkle and the Pumpkin Lantern

Harold D Duncan, PhD



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