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Updated: Nov 16, 2021


“Although we cannot manage the amount of pain that comes to us in our lives, if we chose to meet It on purpose, and with intention, it can hold the key to healing.”


“We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.”

-Anaïs Nin

Sometimes that darkness grows slow. Sometimes it lies dormant for a long time and shows up unexpectedly like when we have that thought about that person who triggers something in us, we are not too proud of. Sometimes it leaps into action, like a lion, when we find ourselves in a vulnerable place.

It is true that hurt people hurt people. We have all had moments when we were unkind and even cruel to someone else without realizing where it came from. We might justify it by believing the person deserved it, they might have irritated us or made us feel angry by their stupidity, lack of empathy, or even their privilege.

But the real reason was because that person or that circumstance triggered us in our own traumas. Or those people were also acting from their traumas. The easiest people to fall under this situation are the closest to us. This is the major reason why abuse, especially sexual abuse, is perpetrated by family members or family friends. As children we are taught to watch out for stranger danger but even a kidnaper creates a relationship with the kidnaped to gain access. Darkness is not an external, out of our control entity like an earthquake, a flood, or a hurricane. Our personal darkness is an integral part of our psyche.

Darkness exists for contrast with light, just as pain exists to contrast pleasure. And darkness lives in all of us. From my experience and observation, I realized that self-hate was at the root of my transgressions from my own darkness.

The opposite of love is not hate but indifference. A callousness that creeps into our psyche as a defensive reaction to trauma. How we are seen and treated by those closest to us determines how we see and treat ourselves. And how we see ourselves determines how we see others. That is our reality.

Pain is not rational and if one does not learn healthy ways to deal with it, it turns into suffering which then clouds our vision of ourselves as victims. Victims then victimize.

Our pain, unobserved, builds protective walls around us, fortresses to protect us from the pain of living. These walls isolate and numb us. Once we are numb to our own selves, we become numb towards those who we perceive symbolize the source of our pain. The concept of The Other, separate from us, is born. We believe the Other is not us. The Other becomes a mirror onto which we project our darkness. Racism, sexism, ageism, classism, all the “isms”, any “anti” positions we take that separate us from others, that make us “better” than the “Other,” are those mirrors. The Other then, is the enemy, something, no longer a someone, to eliminate. What is insidious about unobserved darkness is that it both gives us a sense of inferiority and of superiority. Colonialism is a good example of this dichotomy. Classism is also a good example.

I remember feeling superior to rich people whom I saw as undeserving of their wealth. Or “beautiful” people who seem to get whatever they want just because they are perceived as beautiful. Another one of my darkness mirrors were “overly educated” people. I hated their smugness and superior attitude.

I’ve judged people from a place of pain all my life. I’ve done things I am not proud of and wish I could undo, because of my pain. I’ve even “protected” my own loved ones from my perceived slights, and fears of others, robbing them of their own agency and personal experience. I was always fighting the “good fight” for everyone. I am a warrior at heart, but it took me a long time to stop fighting AGAINST and start fighting FOR something. It took me most of my life to accept that my darkness is there to give me perspective on my light. My name means Grace Warrior. My traumas made me a warrior, but I had to find the grace.

“Turn your wounds into wisdom.” Says Oprah Winfrey, a perfect example of finding the grace in darkness. But for that to happen a lot of radical acceptance needs to take place. It takes looking at the lion inside and outside of ourselves. Lions have two powerful connotations for most people. It is a symbol of strength, power and courage. And it is also the primordial fear that makes us fight, flee, or freeze. That fear lion can look like many things. It can be your fear of failure, success, surrender, vulnerability, even fear of anger and personal power. The two lions are one and the same for it is in leaning into our fears that we conquer them and gain confidence. The lion on the savanna does not have to do anything to show its power. It just lays in the sun and breathes. It does not need to atone for its killings because it has accepted itself as it is. It does not dwell on the violence of living. It just lives its life. All the animals around it know to respect it. Painting our lion is a good creative and visual way to connect the two and integrating them in our psyche. Our darkness is full of these lions. Visualizing them makes them less scary. Integrating our darkness empowers us.

What is the name of your lion? What are its colors? How does it sound?

In my 20s I took an oil painting class from an interesting teacher at City College of San Francisco. This painting was a quick, in-class exercise on emotional painting. We had a number of objects on the stage to paint as we pleased. A Japanese mask stood out to me and I decided to let it guide me to an emotion. It was pretty dark. I keep it stashed away because it freaks people out. Painting it though allowed me to see it. It allowed me to observe it and acknowledge it. It would still take me a few more years to understand it completely but it was a start. That’s why I keep the painting, to remind me to always look to myself whenever I feel triggered by someone or something back into my trauma. There have been times of great depression when I confronted my darkness and the consequences of it. I’ve wanted to apologize to so many people and ask for their forgiveness. When I understood the concept of forgiveness, I realized it had to start with me. As I saw that others are only a mirror of myself, I saw how forgiving myself first was the requirement for the beginning of atonement. My self-love is the key to loving. Period. A friend recently asked how we define love. I thought about it and answered ME. Everything starts with us. Nothing outside of us is different from what’s inside of us. The maxim, BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE, is exactly this. If you want to change the world you see, change yourself first, and the world will reflect you. Everyone’s darkness is different, for it is THEIR darkness. There is no evolution without the recognition, acceptance, and acknowledgement of one’s darkness. Because there is no beginning without end, no birth without death, no light without darkness.

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