And does this connect with our psychologies?
In the holy quest of defining the Gothic to bring it to you in a simple way, I find myself going down a never-ending rabbit hole.
I have followed experts, attended seminars, done courses, read many books, interviewed people and they all agree that the Gothic is everywhere. The second statement that is being made is that:
If the Gothic is everywhere, blending with everything, it will eventually stretch so much that it may even cease to exist.
Is the Gothic a notion, a sensation that arises in us as a reaction to certain atmospheres, places, events, characters and certain narratives? Or is it something more internal at an individual but also at a collective level? Can it be all of the above?
Is it not that, in the impulse and need of describing it and classifying it, we are trying to control it? Wouldn't that go against the nature of the Gothic, then?
I recently asked my readers on Substack what the Gothic means for them. Only one person replied and he couldn't be specific. His explanation lingered in the feeling of comfort he felt in that space.
His answer made me reflect on the following thought:
If Jungian psychology deals greatly with the parts of us that we repress and that can only be found in the Shadow, is the Gothic a representation of the Shadow, and therefore a symbol? Is this difficulty of describing it an attempt to contain something that cannot be contained and therefore we don't even have the words for it?
As a philologist I find the linguistic aspect fascinating and extremely daunting.
Let's dive in:
I think we cannot start even to begin to attempt to figure out where to find the Gothic without first analysing the concept of fear.
... fear is itself a rather vague emotion which may be caused by anything that poses a sense of threat ...
Xavier Aldana Reyes in Horror , a Literary History
This statement makes us face our first difficulty as fear is a very individual and unique experience.
However, we can't ignore that many people share the same fears. Some are representations found in the physical world, like the fear of spiders or clowns, and others have an existential origin. We don't all react the same way in front of the thought of dying.
It all comes down to one's own acceptance about what is life and death threatening and/or past traumas and projections that, as Gina Wisker says, continue to act as visual "architectural forms", that despite having "changed overtime", "still resonate with cultural messages and interpretations." (Contemporary Women's Gothic Fiction, 17).
Sam Winchester being scared of the drawing of a clown at a kid's amusement park. Image from Fandomania.com
THE EVOLUTION OF THE LITERARY GOTHIC
The first English Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole (1764), was in fact what it is known as a 'horrible romance'.
With its 'formulaic' structure, this first novel set up some guidelines of future productions that treated "the supernatural, the spectral and the ghostly" through the "emotions of mystery and horror" (Aldana, 20).
Since that very moment, the Gothic has kept evolving and embracing everything that has to do with discomfort, uncertainty and liminality produced not only by the unknown but also by daily events that threatened the stability of people's lives. As a consequence the Gothic started broadening its presence and started invading spaces like realism where certain themes were dealt with before (Wisker, 25).
The Gothic, at least in its literary form, shakes up and problematises tired ways of perceiving and expressing normality by disrupting the everyday world of residual compliance.
Gina Wisker, Contemporary Women's Gothic Fiction
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL CONNECTIONS
Gothic literature took another step at the moment the theories of Sigmund Freud stepped in with his concept of the 'Unheimlich', in other words 'the uncanny', which is when the familiar becomes unfamiliar. This can go from people, objects, places and I would even dare say beliefs.
However, for me, it is Carl G. Jung's analytical psychology which has a lot more connections with the Gothic.
When talking about monsters we are not only talking about vampires, ghosts, witches, etc... we are also talking about the monsters of the mind.
In the world we are living in these monsters are more and more accentuated due to depression, mental disorders, narcissistic behaviours, pyschopathies, trauma, denial, and even problems with transitioning and change. These are not only dangerous to oursleves but also to others.
The information we find in our own dreams, the lack of self-reflection, facing our Shadows, willing to understand what the messages inside and outside of us are telling us where to go, these are all aspects we can work on when we dive into Jung's school of thought.
What are your dreams telling you?
In issue four of my online magazine You Are Gothic But You Don't know It , I dedicated a whole section to sleep deprivation and monsters of the mind, precisely because there are many grey areas regarding the moment just before we fall asleep (hypnagogic state) and the moment we are about to wake up (hypnopompic state) that have generated a lot of controversy since the beginning of time. Some of these controversies are found in the form of Incubus and Succubus.
In this entry, I have explained what experts mean when they say the gothic is everywhere and how this is connected to us at a psychological level.
In order to do that, I started talking about the importance of fear, the evolution of the literary Gothic and where to find the psychological connections.
I hope with these you have a better understanding of the difficulty of trying to describe the Gothic and how grasping this can help you comprehend yourself better.
A question for you: Where do you think the Gothic is more prominent and where do look for it?Let me know in the comments.
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Until next week, stay Gothic my friend!
Thanks for reading,