Becoming aware of all the potential within through the study of Gothic Literature
The human psyche has a dual nature as it encompasses both light and dark aspects, which in a way replicates many of the dynamics that take place in many natural cycles, like for example the fact that in order for it to be day, first it needs to be night and the other way round.
Normally we consider light aspects of our psyche as those elements that, interestingly, coincide with our consciousness and that have been filtered and selected by our historical and cultural context.
Everything that belongs to the dream world, the aspects we are ashamed of, what we consider might be criticised by others, or things that we are not even aware of, but that can come out in the form of complexes or that we project as part of our Shadow when interacting with others, are all the great elements that not only horror scriptwriters pick on to create engaging stories but also information the rest of us could be using for our personal growth.
Did you know that there are studies that show that those who are exposed to horror can cope better with survival experiences such as pandemics?
The bad news for those who are afraid to explore their dark side is that avoiding this part can make you neurotic. Simply put, if you ignore a part of who you are there is a split in the interconnectivity within yourself: that is a split between your conscious mind and your unconscious.
There is a dangerous conventional view that often emphasizes the importance of what we may consider exploring positive traits and virtues, and that's why we are nowadays surrounded by that toxic over-positivism that doesn't leave room for anger, tears, frustration, grief, and many other feelings considered negative. But what happens when we bottle all those up? We become walking bombs that can get easily triggered by the slight shake of our micro-world.
Delving into the darker facets of the human psyche can offer unique advantages and insights so necessary to balance that over-optimistic, unrealistic, and scary approach that can turn us into hysterical beings with low levels of the threshold of pain and without tools to face the shocking outcomes of illnesses, personal crisis, natural disasters, bankruptcy, and even death.
And this is what I want to talk to you about in this article. I want to reflect on why understanding the dark side of the human psyche can help you unearth hidden motivations and help you foster personal growth.
The importance of understanding your own Dark Side
When I became a burnt-out teacher of English as a second language, I had also become a burnt-out human being overall. It was too scary, even to myself, to notice how easily I jumped at certain comments or suggestions. I didn't know at the time that I was having too many encounters with my "Complexes" in Jungian terms and probably repressed traumas in my "Shadow" too. A lot of this was the result of a few traumatising professional experiences. Some of them had started to shape up only a year after we opened our language school when someone we knew closely decided to set up in competition in the same small village.
Without trying to go into all the details of that event and what came after that, what I learned from myself was how every time something disturbed me deeply, I had to write it down, which was something I had always done, anyway. Many times these writings turned into a Gothic or even a Horror story. I realised that my creativity exploded and as it couldn't be contained it came out in the horrific way I felt it. I think if I had tried to suppress all that anger, frustration, fear, and uncertainty that always comes during transitional moments, I would have become crazy.
Looking attentively to my sometimes disproportionate and amplified reactions helped me use specific vocabulary, and look for certain structures, that could better define all that pressure I was feeling and create self-awareness. It also helped me bring to my conscious mind, material to work with, even though at that time I didn't know how to make the most of it.
Understanding what was happening in my dark side helped me connect with other people going through similar experiences, or simply connect with my frustration and pain through the eyes of some characters.
It also made me analyse things that had happened in my past and that I had also written down in the form of a Bröntesque autobiography. This emotional deep connection with myself helped me understand, and manage my emotions as well as empathise with that of others. I also remembered how it felt when other people had criticised me for this deep connectivity with my soul and blamed my "Mediterranean blood."
Somehow when you do this kind of analysis you also become aware of your own flaws and dark aspects of your psyche, helping you foster humility. Have you ever seen your own arrogance in your words toward others? That probably means you have some work to do with yourself. Being more humble can lead to better decision-making and interpersonal interactions.
Catharsis and Escapism
As I mentioned earlier, not only reading, but also writing Gothic stories, can provide us with a safe and controlled environment to explore and experience all those intense emotions, fears, and anxieties derived from our daily issues. Delving into our darker aspects, we can undergo a cathartic release and find a form of escapism from our everyday concerns.
This started becoming clearer to me when I watched Supernatural for the third time in order to write an essay for a collection that is still being edited.
The first time I watched it was for entertainment purposes, the second time to bring my family to my hobby and share with them one of my passions, interpreting and talking about the issues raised there, and the third time as an analytical exercise trying to decipher all the symbols I was presented with to elaborate my own theories on an academic essay.
Something similar was happening to my fictional writing. I was becoming more aware of what was coming up from the unconscious, what made it to the consciousness, and what was unfiltered and raw information that just wanted to explode under my pen or keyboard.
The mind has its own very interesting agenda to let us know what is important.
Social analysis and becoming a voice for awareness and self-development
Those of you who come from an academic background would know that literature in general helps us learn more about the historical time people lived in from outside the factual history books. This probably applies even more so to Gothic works as they serve as social critiques, addressing societal issues and taboos.
By exploring the darker aspects of human behaviour, Gothic literature has been shedding light on issues such as power dynamics, social injustice, and the consequences of unchecked ambition, allowing readers to reflect on the flaws and challenges of society.
This is something that those truly engaged teachers, who want to have an impact on their students by creating awareness, so future generations don't replicate the atrocities of the previous ones, try to do in their lessons.
It is important to point out how some past actions are still replicated in the present, which explains why a hundred-year-old text can still be relevant in our times.
We all have an important role to play in this world. I am even starting to think that we all have a purpose, hopefully, one that doesn't imply destroying others or achieving what we want at other people's expense.
You may have very clear what that call is or it may take you almost all your life to figure this out. It could be that your purpose also changes. My personal trajectory in this space has gone like this:
In my early 30s, I discovered that my passion for scary and psychological stories was called Gothic Literature. In my late 40s I discovered that Jungian psychology explained what lay beneath all that attraction. It was then, after much investigation, study, and connecting with others, that I realised how blending all these parts that made me who I was could also be the parts that could make other people be who they want to become openly, but still haven't managed to figure out how.
The fact that we still have a fascination for vampires, ghosts, witches, zombies, werewolves, and other classic monsters, is because we still identify with them somehow, they are all representations of different archetypes that belong to the collective unconscious, and when they go viral over and over again, it's because they still have the power to tap into something deeper. The new versions only have to change a few items and contexts to be more up-to-date, so they don't feel remote, but very close and tangible instead.
Moreover, the fact that psychology is still seen as an "other" we all need so much in our lives but that still carries its own stigma, is something I am looking to develop further together with a broader understanding of Gothic Literature.
Immersing ourselves in the depths of Gothic art, literature, and even TV productions, exploring its themes under the Jungian lens, and connecting with its emotional core, we are able to find a sense of home and inspiration within its intriguing, dark, and evocative world that will open many personal and professional doors to those who are starting or want to start their process of individuation.
If you feel like this is a big endeavour to carry out on your own as there isn't a program out there for this, and would like to be accompanied by other people like you and me, I have the perfect mentoring course for you called Exploring the Gothic Psyche: Jungian concepts in Gothic Literature. An introspective journey to learn how to connect with your internal figures.
For more information about the course visit the following page:
Embracing one's Gothic nature has an important and life-changing transformative potential. That's why, if this article has resonated with you, I invite you to embark on your journey of self-exploration and share with the world your unique Gothic essence.
By delving into the Gothic within, you will discover a path to personal greatness and authenticity that will even surprise you.
Did you miss my FREE webinar: Exploring the Depths? Click on the following link:
I hope to see you very soon,
Until my next entry,
Stay Gothic, my friend!