Are You Afraid of the Dark?

I really don't like being called 'Black'.

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Across Cultures, Darker People Suffer Most

I really don't like being called 'Black'. This is in large part because there is literally no part of my body that is actually black, so it feels like an inaccurate description of me. It is also because I know that the label 'Black' was not created by my ancestors to categorize themselves; rather, it was assigned to my people by oppressors of a lighter complexion in order to separate and diminish the humanity of those they viewed as beneath them. In the psyche of most people, something white is better than something black. This is why 'brides-to-be' get married wearing white dresses instead of black dresses, as whiteness is seen as a reflection of innocence, purity, and beauty.

Even for us so-called 'spiritual' people, we often perpetuate the idea of needing to move more into the 'positive' light and out of the 'negative' dark. God, Heaven, Angels, and everything Holy are represented by whiteness or light. The Devil, Hell, Demons, and everything evil are represented by blackness or dark. I think you'd be hard-pressed to create a list of any decent size of positive black or dark things in pop culture. That's because, in the collective consciousness, blackness, or rather darkness, is something to be feared and rejected. This, to answer the question on Andre 3000's shirt, is precisely why, across cultures, darker people suffer the most; because the darker you are, the more likely you are to be viewed as evil or undesirable.

The reason why darker people suffer the most across cultures is that we reflect back to society the unconscious parts of themselves that they don't want to acknowledge. All people have a shadow, and according to Carl Jung, who greatly contributed to making the term 'shadow' relevant in pop psychology, the shadow represents the unconscious part of the personality that the conscious ego does not identify with. It includes repressed beliefs, fears, weaknesses, desires, and instincts that are often considered negative or undesirable by society. The collective shadow is the only reason why 'evil' exists in the world, but because it is so difficult to look within ourselves and see the evil that is there, we instead project that evil outward and blame other people or mysterious, unseen forces for it.

Young Jung lol

The history of the black person in America is a prime example of this truth. Slavery is evil. The people who supported slavery did so because their shadows allowed them to deny the apparent humanity of others. Instead of facing the evil within themselves that allowed them to deny the humanity of others, they instead convinced themselves that because those they were enslaving were dark and different, they must be the evil ones. Unfortunately, this idea hasn't changed that much over the past 160 years, which is why Black people are still murdered by the State at a disproportionate rate to this day.

This phenomenon of projecting the fear of our inner darkness onto others is not exclusive to interactions between white people and black people but also exists within Black culture itself. Within Black culture, the lighter you are, the more beautiful you are typically seen. For Black men, if you are lighter, you are typically perceived as more attractive but also more delicate and sensitive. Darker men, on the contrary, are typically viewed as less attractive but stronger and more resilient. This sentiment is echoed in the American health system, which is why black people as a whole are perceived to have a higher pain threshold than white people and, as such, are not given the same level of comfort within medical settings at their white counterparts. What this tells me is that the darker a person is, the less human they are perceived to be, and the more okay we are with treating them as less than human. It's ironic because, in reality, there is no one more human than someone who has fully integrated their shadow. When one gains the courage to go within and confront their inner darkness, they will find that what they feared the most in others was, in reality, what they feared within themselves. This produces a person who is more compassionate and empathetic toward all people, regardless of their outer or inner darkness.

Not Like Us

I don't believe that the fear of the dark, or fear in general, is inherent within human beings. I think being startled is inherent, but fear, on the other hand, is a learned behavior. Fear is 100% psychological and requires one to be able to comprehend and imagine something fearful. If you were to read the most unsettling, bone-chilling, grotesque, and morbid horror story to a newborn baby, I can guarantee you that the baby would not feel any fear because it lacks the capacity to understand and imagine what it should be afraid of. But if you were to suddenly scream at that same baby, it would probably become startled and start crying because it didn't expect you to yell at it. The difference between being afraid and being startled is this: you can only be startled by something you didn't expect, and you can only be afraid of something you do expect. Being startled means being surprised by the unknown. Being afraid means being attached to the known. You can only scare a child with a ghost story if you have first established within the child the concept of a ghost and indoctrinated the child with the belief that ghosts are something that can harm them.

That being said, I don't believe that most children are afraid of the dark so much as they are afraid of what they were taught could be lurking in the dark. The fear of darkness is really just a fear of the unknown or the imperceivable. We believe that if we can't clearly perceive something, it must be a threat. This is why we often fear those who are of a different culture than us. Because how they behave is outside of the realm of what we deem 'normal', that unfamiliarity makes us feel unsafe. The more I think about it, the more I feel that it's impossible to be afraid of the unknown. Because if you don't know it, how can you fear it? What the fear of the unknown actually is, is a fear of getting something you've gotten before—namely, pain. This fear of pain, and our inability to acknowledge it plainly, is another aspect of our shadow selves. Because we fear facing the pain that exists from the trauma we have experienced in our lives, we instead project that pain outward onto those who are closest to us and onto those who are most unlike us.

To further support that fear is not an inherently undesirable state, just consider how much fear is celebrated within our culture. I think we'd all agree that murdering someone is bad or an evil thing to do, and yet, so many movies, books, music, and video games are centered around killing human beings. True crime is a super popular category of podcasts and seems to only be getting more popular by the day. A common saying in the news industry is "if it bleeds, it leads", highlighting how violence is engaging and attention-grabbing. What inspired the title for this week's newsletter is an old TV show that used to come on Nickelodeon called "Are You Afraid of the Dark?". It was a show that told spooky stories that were mild enough to be palatable by children. But it forces the question: if being scared or spooked is such an undesirable thing, why on earth would we create media based around invoking fear in children? Why would we tell ghost stories or try to convince our children that monsters will get them if they don't listen to their parents?

Speaking for myself, I've always been attracted to darker things. I like scary movies and video games. One of the bravest things I've ever done is complete a video game called 'Resident Evil 7', completely in virtual reality, while alone in my apartment. If you're not into video games, the technology for them has come a long way and when you're in virtual reality, it truly feels like you're actually in the game. And though I often found myself on the brink of shitting my pants, playing through the game in its entirety, all on my own, was thrilling, addictive, and left me with a sense of bravery and accomplishment that I'd be hard-pressed to reproduce in the real world. To be honest, I much prefer media that embraces the darkness of humanity to that which avoids it. Most of my favorite movies are rated 'R' or at least 'PG-13' because I feel like stories where everyone lives 'happily ever after' bypass the grim darkness that reality often encompasses. If fear and darkness were as bad and undesirable as we make them out to be, then I, and others like me, would not seek them out. The darkness is as Divine as the light is; they both exist to serve each other, and I feel like the key to living a life of peace is accepting this truth.

Screen grab of a scene from Resident Evil 7.
Gif of someone nearly having a heart attack while playing Resident Evil 7 in VR lol

The Monsters In Me

As a little boy, I wasn't so much afraid of the dark as I was afraid of seeing what might be in the dark. If I felt like a monster was in my room, I'd just keep my eyes squeezed shut or pull the covers over my head until I fell back asleep. I felt like even if something was in my room, as long as I didn't look at it, it couldn't hurt me. Which is really silly in hindsight because if there was something in my room that wanted to hurt me, me not looking at it would not stop it but in fact would make me much more vulnerable than if I faced it. Eventually I grew out of being afraid of dark rooms outside of me but there was a dark room inside of me that I was still very much afraid of.

The darkness only serves the light ☀️

I didn't really get any positive reinforcement about emotions as a child so whenever I would feel something that was unacceptable, I would just suppress it. I would send it to that dark room inside of me — somewhere I couldn't see it and could just pretend it wasn't there. For a large part of my life, pretending that there was nothing in that darkness was just how I lived. Because just like when I was little, I assumed that not being able to see the monsters in the darkness meant that they couldn't hurt me. But I was wrong. We wonder why we're so reactive, why we get triggered so easily, why we can't seem to get a grip on or express our emotions sometimes and it's because we're hurting. It's because we've sent so many monsters from our past to the dark room inside of us and they've been in there wreaking havoc ever since.

This is why many fear inner work. Because going inward means opening our eyes in that dark room and many of us fear that if we look into that darkness, we'll find monsters waiting on us. So, I completely understand why someone wouldn't want to bring light to that darkness. But if you want be free, you have to be brave. Confronting our inner darkness with intention is a powerful way of healing our inner child and becoming more courageous as adults because children are naturally brave until they are given reasons not to be. And I've found that a large part of healing my inner child came through releasing a lot of the fear based beliefs that I inherited but didn't actually resonate with me. I'm sure you have monsters in the dark room inside of you too but you should know that they only have power over you as long as you don't acknowledge them and if you can just be brave enough to open your eyes in the darkness and look at them, you'll see that they were much scarier in your imagination than they are in reality.

Growth Challenge: Sitting with the Darkness

Intentionally sit in darkness for at least 10 minutes and observe what comes up.

How to Participate:

  1. Prepare Your Space:
    • Find the darkest room in your home. This could be a closet, bathroom, or any room with minimal light exposure.
  2. Set the Mood:
    • Wait until after sunset to begin. The natural decrease in light can help you ease into the experience.
    • Make a comfortable seat in this room. You can use a cushion, chair, or simply sit on the floor.
  3. Begin the Challenge:
    • Set a timer for at least 10 minutes.
    • Turn off all the lights and close your eyes.
  4. During the Session:
    • Focus on your breath. Take slow, deep breaths to help stabilize your awareness.
    • Pay attention to any thoughts, feelings, or sensations that arise, particularly note if, and what, fears arise. Do not judge or try to change what comes up; simply observe.
  5. Reflect Afterwards:
    • Once the timer goes off, slowly open your eyes and take a few moments to allow yourself to reacclimatize before turning the lights back on.
    • Reflect on your experience. What thoughts or feelings came up? How did you respond to the darkness? Did any insights or realizations emerge?

Further Study

Understanding and embracing our shadow is a critical part of learning to love ourselves fully. Here's a brilliant video that breaks down Carl Jung's theory of the shadow and why it's important to understand it.

Direct Link:

What's Been Going On With Me?

Lately I've been heavily contemplating what it means to be a 'friend' and why intimate friendship has eluded me for most of my life. Don't get me wrong, there are many people whom I consider 'friends' but to be honest, none of them really fit the idea of what a friend should be in my mind. And I don't say that as a slight; I feel a big reason why I don't feel like I have close friends must be because I'm not a good friend myself. It is hard to be my friend because, though I'm generally pretty open & dependable, I don't attach to people easily. I don't trust people easily which means I expect them to disappoint me at some point in time. And when they inevitably do disappoint me, because no one's perfect, I take that as proof that they were never a friend in the first place, which isn't fair.

I also think it's hard to be friends with people who don't have a similar level of self-awareness as you do because you will see things in them that they don't see in themselves and for me, that makes it even harder for me to trust you. Because if you're not aware of the ways in which you are hurting yourself, how can I trust that you'll be aware of the ways in which you hurt me? I don't know. But what I do know is that I'm done entertaining shallow relationships in general. So going forward, I'm going to be exploring what it is in me that prevents me from forming deep friendships and opening myself up more to the possibility that I can meet, and have intimate friendships with people who are on a similar wavelength as me.

If you're reading this, I definitely consider you a friend as you probably know more about my inner world than 99.9% of people who claim to 'know' me and if you're interested in deepening our friendship, I'm always open to talk.

With love,

Micheal Sinclair 💜