"In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy." Brother David Steindl-Rast

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Nigredo

Today I am grateful for forgiveness from others and for myself. I am also grateful for the friends I have in recovery and how we can laugh together.

Today's word is NIGREDO. It is not a word I was familiar with, until last week when it was shared with me. Jera, who is with our local arts center and is facilitating the poetry readings I have attended, brought it to my attention. I am grateful she did, because the meaning it carries certainly resonates with me.

A quick look on Wikipedia tells me that, in psychology, nigredo has become a metaphor for "the dark night of the soul, when the individual confronts the shadow within." It originated as a term in alchemy, which was early chemistry. It means blackness, decomposition.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung and others of his time compared the alchemist idea of nigredo to the human ego; how stemming from our darkest times and deepest despair can come light and growth. And how at least some of our problems of our own making, thanks to oversized or undersized ego.

I relate to this idea. With the disease of alcoholism, I had to face the darkness in my life, hit bottom, roll around in deep despair at times, and feel intense emotional pain before I started climbing out. Only with the help of a Great Spirit and others did I start that climb and make it.

That darkness can and does return at times, but it stays for far shorter periods of time, and the way out is more manageable. Such darkness is part of being human, I think. It helps us appreciate the light, the hope, the energy that comes when it is lifted.

If darkness is too much a part of your life and thoughts, please reach out and seek help.

Practicing gratitude is a wonderful source of light for me, including lighting the way out of a dark time or dark thoughts.

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