Posted by: innerpilgrimage | August 5, 2010

“With No Other Light or Guide than the One That Burned in my Heart”

      I am currently reading Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life’s Ordeals by Dr. Thomas Moore (Ph.D., not M.D.–though he is a psychotherapist).

      The name was already known to me since I read Mirabai Starr’s book, Dark Night of the Soul–Dr. Moore wrote the foreword.
      This book is inspiring me to do my Step Eight and Nine footwork. It’s interesting that I had to read Dr. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning to really get the most out of this book. Within the foundation of logotherapy (the search for meaning through what I consider mostly self-imposed suffering and its corollary appreciation of the beauty of the world and the good deeds I can choose to perform), I was able to understand that walking through the darkness of my own past brings it into me with love. I am human, neither evil nor good. The concept that embracing my darker nature (not necessarily by acting on it but simply accepting its role in my life) resonates. So, this is a good book to read. My experiences have brought me here in my life–good and bad. Denying the negative has eaten me alive as I have eaten everything I can to help numb those negative feelings, thoughts, beliefs. I am imperfect, and that is okay.
      It’s that final understanding of why I really should say with conviction that I am a food addict. It is a symptom of what is there deep in the recesses of my psyche, in the shadows I fear to tread. But it’s inside me, and I can’t run from it trying to be happy all of the time. I can, however, find peace and balance within it and make life choices based on acknowledgement of what meaning I want in my life. I, personally, have something more I want to be and do. While it might look “good” to the casual observer (as opposed to “evil”), I consider it fine-tuning a life with a depth of meaning that has been lost to me for a very long time. I, as I have said before, am a being of love, of the creative. My life isn’t meant for the purpose of destroying anything–especially me.
      I am, as St. John of the Cross eloquently stated, in my still house. The path out is through my own past, through the pain that I inflicted upon me and others while I fought to be good instead of accepted that I, like every person, am a balance of light and darkness. I have selfish desires, as all people do. I have longings, wants, cravings, and any manner of unproductive feelings which drive my darker nature. And I am afraid of that darker nature much of the time, because I want to contribute, to create, to bring into the world instead of take for myself. I did not say, “take only for myself”, for that is a fallacy. Part of the self-abuse is that I deny my needs, emotions, and desires. To be “good”, I have become a shadow of servitude. That servitude, placating all others’ wants even before my own needs, has its reaction. I martyr myself then become jaded when my ego is not given its standing ovation for it all. The food is brought in to salve the disappointment, and I am left numb so that I am not forced to face this failure. I become a Lotus Eater, living in a softened world of apathy, physically queasy but not suffering any emotional distress. A price I was once willing to pay. No more.
      I have been hiding from this journey yet have been taking it, too. Moore writes about the tribulations of Jonah of the Old Testament, who turned from God’s purpose and was sent overboard from a ship he was using to travel away from his divine quest. Held prisoner for three days in the dark belly of a fish, Jonah was returned to land and went to Nineveh to complete his purpose–which he did.
      While I have sought reading in order to bolster myself, I have been led to Frankl’s work, I have been reminded of Starr’s work, and I have been led to Moore’s work. The introduction to St. John of the Cross’s poem and its subsequent analysis by Mirabai Starr years ago gave me the understanding I needed when I reached Dr. Viktor Frankl’s book. With logotherapy in hand, I was able to finally approach Dr. Thomas Moore’s book with an open mind; because of Mirabai Starr’s book, I recognized the name and that alone drew me to pull it from the library shelf so I could read it. And, today, I am finding that to walk through the darkness with no more than the light inside myself to guide me is about the most compassionate thing I can do for myself. I am the person who was given the least compassion in my own life. I am the person who was made to suffer the most. I get why I worry I cannot love, because I have not shown love to the one person I cannot walk away from–myself.
      I have feared Steps Eight and Nine because I have feared revealing (even to myself) the wreckage I may have left behind. The “good girl” does not want to admit the intense failure of a life not lived in submissive servitude. While the submissiveness was a coping mechanism which helped me survive childhood, it has no place in my adult life. It was the natural desire to share, to be compassionate, to love, which was twisted into a desire to avoid the pain of growing up as I did. The details are not meant for here, but they will be exposed. Just not here.
      I see, now, that desperate act of a child to save itself. That final act of love, to sacrifice love itself in order to preserve my mind and body enough to survive to adulthood. I loved myself once upon a time, and I denied my soul’s needs in order to survive. While I was not perfect as a child (no one is) and I was often selfish and thoughtless, I tried to become perfect. I failed. But I survived.

      I survived.

      The fallout of the battle was the decimation of my soul’s home. Instead of a thriving place of love and creation, a void was left. And I began to eat to fill it, to have that solidity. This started in childhood. My drug of choice has always been food. I rebelled against the drugs of the people who I believed hurt me intentionally–alcohol, narcotics, gambling, power, religion. I did pick up smoking because I wanted acceptance more than my own health or life. That was a symptom of the addiction to find the fire of real and true love so my own embers could be re-lit. I sought external sources instead of trying to re-ignite my own soul. But one can’t use another person’s fire to reignite their own soul. Well, at least not directly.
      I am reading what I can and adding fuel to the embers. I often neglect it because I wonder sometimes if it wouldn’t just be easier to let the thing go out. With no soul, would I feel pain any more? I’ve learned to shut down my emotions. When I do that, I feel numb and apathetic again. Neglectful in my woozy dreamlike state of my own spiritual growth.
      I have come to a bit of a personal revelation, that perhaps my soul is like a well-protected pilot light. It’s not going to go out. I have a Higher Power that’s maintained it this whole time. And maybe even if it did go out, it would be re-lit. Or maybe . . . just maybe that child who sacrificed itself to survive to adulthood is in there maintaining it. The who or why or how of the imagery does not matter. What I call my “soul” is there because I cannot get away from it, even when I want to. It is an eternal flame.
      So, I have a deeply spiritual journey to take, to walk through the valley of the shadow. It may not be the shadow of death, but it might as well be. If I am clocking time until I die, as I have done while deep in the food addiction, am I not already dead? I am merely a prisoner in a flesh prison, waiting for my release from it.
      I’m not returning to that prison of self. I am not returning to that oubliette where I am jailer and prisoner all-in-one. I may not know where my purpose lies (seeing as I don’t hear voices telling me what to do), but I have a serenity that I am not supposed to be wasting what time I have left in a food coma, or a narcissism-driven intrigue fantasy-high, or even a haze of nicotene-filled smoke. My purpose may be small and seemingly unimportant (like the boutanier on a wedding usher’s rental tuxedo in comparison to the bridal bouquet), but it is part of the grander celebration (life). I don’t want to dishonor where I came from and what I sacrificed to survive to forty.
      That means I have to enter Dante’s portal, to exit the poorly illuminated woods and enter the dark tunnel of my past. When I emerge into the light, I will have meaning again. I will have faced the darkness and will have found meaning in it. And I will remember that I am a being of balanced darkness and light, human to the core and ever more humbled for acknowledging it and accepting it as part of me.
      My name is Jess, and I am a food addict. I have closed my eyes in the darkness before, using the drug of food to avoid the fear and pain and suffering. I have caused myself more fear and pain and suffering being unwilling to face the things I fear most. And as they hide in the recesses of my self, rarely jumping out at me (because they are part of my fear-driven self, unwilling to face the potential eternal flame that guides my way), I do not confront them–either gently or with courage.
      But that time is coming to an end. I walk with a fed flame. It may not be so bright that it illuminates others’ ways, but it does not need to be. It only has to guide me through to the other side, where I can live in a world of sunlight and shadow and know that I can be part of the sunlight and of the shadow, as well.

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Responses

  1. If you are interested in Thomas Moore’s writings and work, you may want to visit a blog, Barque, dedicated to him at http://barque.blogspot.com. Moore is also blogging with The Huffington Post. Barque provides links to his entries with HuffPost. Thank you for taking the time to share your reactions to Dark Nights of the Soul.

  2. Hello, Barque, and welcome. I’m surprised you ID’d the weblog as “a” blog instead of yours, but I am pleased that you brought it up anyway.

    Actually, I am less “interested in Thomas Moore’s writings and work” and more interested in collecting observations on the soul-changing journeys which correlate to Juan de la Cruz’s “Dark Night of the Soul”. The trail to Dr. Moore’s book started with Loreena McKennitt’s song, trailed through Miriabai Starr’s insightful treatment of it (with Dr. Moore’s foreword), meandered through world religions to find meaning, slogged through the 12 Steps (my first real resistance to necessary change–a good thing), hit upon Dr. Frankl’s logotherapy, skidded by Robert Price’s “Top Secret” (a condemnation of pop-spirituality blended with praise for the core concept which was sadly diluted with high-fructose, processed feel-good for mass consumption), and landed squarely on “Dark Nights of the Soul” by Dr. Moore.

    To quote the good doctor, “An education of the heart and mind might be the best way to come through a dark night a better and happier person” (p. 255, hardbound). He is but one of many teachers on my journey. His book slid a few realizations in place that I needed right now. It isn’t the man but that particular work relating to my current journey which makes the difference, which means that I’m not going to obsessively hunt down all of his writing now and begin to worship him as a therapeutic Messiah for the ages. However, what was written in that book was the right message for the right time in my life. For that, I am grateful.

    However, if anyone is interested in reading a compelling author and doctor whose methods of therapy I wish I had come across 20 years ago (thereby avoiding the authority bullshit power plays that drove me from 1-on-1 therapy years ago)? Hit barque’s blog and jump on in to Dr. Moore’s writing and seminars and check out what’s going on.


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