My Gift: Seeing in the Dark
The crux of my career began in darkness; a powerful dream unveiled the radiant endowments hidden in dark places revealing a significant opus (purpose). The dream constructed an alchemical vessel, illuminating the psyche’s conscious and unconscious aspects and the descent into the darker side of my psyche. As a secret keeper and highly empathic child, I held the darkest memories and moments of other people’s psyches from a young age. The dark side of human nature rarely intimidated me until I had to rely on emotional or psychological support from others.
I was accustomed to doing things on my own and preferred not to be vulnerable and under the control of another. My independence and heightened sensitivity ignited an unusual career, helping people see in the dark, yet decades of transmuting traumatic experiences of murder, death, and pain took a toll. After years of containing psychic debris for others, I was breaking down and found myself in the same dark places I dedicated my life to helping others navigate. My dedication to supporting others turned to resentment; I wanted to be alone.
Saturated in Sadness
My household’s overall tone and mood were depressed; it felt as if it were saturated in sadness, surrounded by unusual deaths and a melancholy cloak of sorrow. Loved ones struggled with mental illness, and the household was never emotionally stable, a concept unrealized until later. I spent as much time outside as was permitted. The woods held my heart as the natural world was a benevolent guide; animals were often entrusted more than humans, and I looked to them for connection. Rocks, trees, and the earth were sacred; However, the word sacred was not yet in my vocabulary; I felt and somehow knew this to be true early indicators of blossoming intuition.
The sanctity of nature settled my mind and regulated my nervous system; C.G. Jung and the alchemists described the instinctive luminosities that are invoked to guide us in places where our ego-consciousness is not yet up to the situation, referring to them as lumen naturae, in these moments, I unknowingly engaged with an animate world beneath conscious awareness. The woods offered me stillness and peace, a reprieve from the darkness I held for others at a young age. Quiet and reserved on the outside, yet on the inside, ideas endlessly moved through my awareness; I wrote short stories or poetry to move the pain through my pen. Social interaction became increasingly uncomfortable, igniting a people-pleasing tendency. I was highly empathic and cried so often that my grandfather called me the crying child.
An Affinity for Darkness
Bothered by the lack of a basement, my natural curiosity drew me to explore other people’s underground spaces; this odd fascination was cultivated each time they allowed me to rummage through the basement. The cool, still darkness was peaceful; I was enthralled by the mysterious allure of potential hidden treasures. The stone walls and dim corners held promise; while my friends feared monsters, I was intrigued and wanted to hunt them. Some expressed concern about my attraction to horror movies and psychological thrillers. As a five-year-old, I felt a mysterious and kindred connection observing another five-year-old, Danny Torrance, experience frightening visions in The Shining or the little girl haunted by spirits, Carol Ann (also a five-year-old), in the movie Poltergeist (1982). My affinity for macabre and unusual things grew as I matured. My studies of depth psychology revealed the parallels between basements, darkness, the unconscious, and my love of the unknown.
I opened my eyes to the value of the arts, film, and music as tools, drawing out psychological afflictions and shadow content from the observer. Horror movies helped me emotionally process the disharmony and discord I absorbed from others. An intuitive preview of a career in the making, my intuition recognized darkness kismet to the formation of a daimon (aka purpose). I was driven by a curious desire to look into hidden dimensions of nature and human nature. Early intuitive perceptions became an inner compass, although natural to me, yet terrified others, and their discomfort was palpable. I knew things without knowing how I knew, including foresight into the passing of loved ones. I became oriented around the natural world, scary movies, and ghosts. Eventually, I built a business and lost the enchantment of my childhood curiosity. I abandoned myself and dark things, wanting to appease others by tethering myself to ‘lighter topics,’ hoping to lessen their discomfort toward me. The darkness turned inward in a way I had not prepared for.
The Shadow of Vocation
My work revolved around utilizing intuition to guide others; my intuitive expressions supported and cared for others, shepherding people through their darkest moments. Though my work was valuable, I was longer fed by it. Holding darkness wore me down; I was at capacity, on the edge of a breakdown. My only respite became long hot soaks in the dark, a tub filled with pink Himalayan sea salt, purging the stories absorbed during the day. Filled with dread, I felt trapped; the joy was siphoned from my work, and I operated out of obligation. It felt like I had created a prison out of the same career I thought would offer me freedom. Each time I decided to make a change, I was overcome with guilt and felt like I was abandoning people who needed me, yet the intuitive warnings and feelings persisted.
I was at a loss trying to read the signals from my physical body. After the physical ordeal of burnout and recovery from a severe illness, powering through was not an option. At a threshold and unsure of how to proceed, I began waking in a state of panic. As a certified hypnotherapist, I helped people retrieve a piece of themselves lost during an impactful moment. Yet holding the psychic debris of other people’s darkest moments began breaking me down; their decaying matters affected me. I dreaded another day of sitting with them in the dark. Then, I had the following dream…
I open a door, and a doctor with a clipboard sits with a patient. The doctor turns to me and shakes his finger ‘no,’ signaling me to leave the room. I move on to the next door, trying to enter the room, only to have the same response from a doctor in four rooms. Confused, I turn around to be greeted by thousands of women, all standing in a group, smiling and excited that I finally see them. There is a knowing that I am the guide they have been waiting for.
Walking with the group in tow, we turn a corner; I stop in my tracks, overwhelmed by a glass wall spanning the length of the building, from floor to ceiling. Behind the glass is a beautiful ocean floor, a colorful, magnificent container of varied blues and greens. At the center, a massive floating octopus, tentacles stretching in all directions. I look into its eyes and feel deeply seen. Peace floods my heart; the octopus’ arms move in a harmonious flow… the movement is alluring, pulling me into a gentle trance. I turn back toward the women and see relief in their eyes; we carry on the journey; I wake from the dream.
Dream Analysis: Octopus as Psychopomp
I scribbled the dream into my journal; for the next few weeks, undeniable synchronistic occurrences of octopuses infiltrated my thoughts and waking life in interesting ways. A gentle yet firm impression nudged me to observe, allowing meaning to unfold without an initial analysis of the dream. One day, I felt it was time to bring the pieces together. The dream analysis resulted in three segments, each conducted while soaking in hot salt water, aside from the concluding breakthrough, which arose during a meditative moment in a local salt cave.
Animals can act as psychopomps when they appear in a dream, the essence of an animal is uncensored; the raw, pure state of an animal’s existence provokes and reveals unconscious contents within the observer. We can learn something about the mythological and archetypal movements within the psyche.
The Dream Landscape
The following insight arrived while exploring the dream landscape: The octopus floats, situated at the bottom of the ocean, knowing its rightful place, unapologetically oriented in the depths without fear or concern for others’ opinions. As the dream meaning unfolded, there was a heightened awareness to pay attention to the body and my environment. The landscape resembled a vessel, the ocean behind the glass wall, the octopus a form of contained experience, at home and alone in the depths of dark, salty water. Observing unified our essences, observer and the observed as a singular experience, alchemy underway.
Observing the environment divulged new meanings, the octopus alone and entirely at peace as a singular being powerfully holding its energy. This reflected a deep desire for me to work in stillness, independent of the influence of others, time in solitude for contemplation and reflection, something I was too busy to apply. My unconscious behavior was to parent others with my gifts; guilt overtook me if I considered utilizing my gifts for myself.
An additional theme, adaptation, is one of the ways the octopus navigates its environment. A healthy octopus reveals an array of vibrant colors, yet it may change or lose color entirely when distressed; the octopus’s temperature will match the ocean’s temperature. I was highly adaptable, too much so, people pleasing and easily affected by my environment. Another insight became conscious: learn to self-regulate when I find myself in hot water, knowing hot water can be purposeful and perpetuate growth. Take time in stillness and work with the body, allowing it to be slow and uncomfortable, refraining from rushing the alchemical process underway. Hot baths forced me to be with myself, to sit with thoughts and sift through them, releasing with breath; what remains is often essential and a solution.
For as long as I can recall, the water element has unlocked intuitive messages; I refer to them as ‘shower downloads’ whenever I am in or around water, especially salt water. The element of salt to the alchemists, relates to the earth, and is a purgative with the ability to rid us of poisons. I continued to mother others, the second position, the auxiliary function of the good parent while neglecting my needs, a blind spot. My intuition permitted me to pick up on the things going on in other people’s minds. Being in salt water slowed down my internal dialogue, creating distance between my thoughts and feelings from those around me. Soaking was cathartic, and often tears would fall as I surrendered into the water. Water reflects the states of emotion, stagnant or in flow; I became gentler with myself.
Soaking in salt water is a tricky way for me to receive somatic sensations. Sometimes there are tears; long ago, I was told tears equate to truth, with an alchemical power. Soaking creates space without the typical disruption of unconscious shadow contents; many invisible psychic wounds have been healed with time spent in water.
The Octopus Body
While looking into the eye of the octopus, I felt at home. The eyes emitted a frequency of trust while conveying what felt like ancient truth. Eight arms, symbolic, associations with the number eight float around my consciousness: prosperity, overcoming challenges, and the same number of arms attributed to the deity Durga. Another message: just because you can hold it all doesn’t mean you are meant to. The many arms directed me to examine the shadow, the archetypal animus – unable to follow through, chasing ideas, and rarely committing or finishing something started. Resentment builds, and I feel trapped when I have to do something, even if it is my creation. There were moments of defeat, yet worse, the idea of someone knowing this about me felt humiliating even though it was a trait others were aware of.
The octopus has three hearts, and although on the physical level, this does not reflect human experience, psychologically, the amplification of three hearts offered an energetic expression of empathy…having three hearts signified the potential of loving large. Yet, it was time to learn how to treat myself the same way I do others. This may seem obvious, yet often necessary information is hidden in plain sight. The three hearts symbolically reflected forgiveness of self for meaning well yet sometimes getting it wrong, offering grace to self as much as I have to others in their wrongdoings.
Octopuses are invertebrates; they are flexible and can move in and out of tricky situations, relying on their flexibility and high level of intelligence. An octopus may find itself in uncomfortable terrain due to its flexibility, entering spaces of danger; when partnered with intelligence, the same flexibility can help it get out of a double bind. Another side of the invertebrate is looking closely at being spineless, running away from situations when the intensity increases. The absence of a backbone energetically signified my lack of aptitude to remain present. All of the interactions with the octopus reveal the shadow and light qualities of psychic influence and potential.
Octopus crawl to conserve energy; stillness is a strategy— as a feeler, I need time to process, and it can be really slow; my thinking function does not come online without strenuous focus. Otherwise, thoughts blend into the background as feeling becomes the decision-maker. I felt compelled to examine the ways an octopus utilizes ink as a form of protection. At first, the connection wasn’t clear until I thought about my favorite part of my business: writing. Writing is a ritual practice; I healed as I wrote through obstacles and my darkest nights. Ink, through the written word, could express or repel depending on my intention. Ink can be detrimental to the octopus if it does not regulate its use of it, and this was symbolic of the power of my words and to use them responsibly and intentionally, a moment of the daimon emerging.
While sitting in the salt cave, the ritualistic nature of the experience became clear, from dream to amplification. An interesting difference arrived at the last moment of the dream analysis as I sat in a salt cave while amplifying the image of the octopus. The hands, eight arms of enchanted movement, the recognition of their far-reaching influence never in perfect balance, yet always in flux and continuous movement. Sitting in the cave revealed an uncanny and synchronistic sense of being on the ocean floor, surrounded by 40 thousand pounds of salt. As I sat with the image, a thought rose to the surface of my mind; I had missed an obvious and critical detail: I was not holding my darkness or allowing myself to be held in that psychic space, and trying to do it alone wasn’t going to work. I unknowingly became one-sided in my approach, desperately trying to force a new feeling from the stagnant experience.
Conclusion: The OPUS (O
As the wisdom of the octopus encounters continued to integrate, it was clear that writing was a powerful tool providing access to the unconscious through surrender. Writing became a vehicle to dissolve tensions in the body and burdens of the mind. Writing created internal space, allowing fragments of unconscious aspects of shadow functions to move into consciousness. I craved the feel of the pen in my hand moving across a fresh untouched piece of paper; writing became a bit of a secret obsession and provided a sense of feeling at home in my body.
The octopus dream was a powerful omen I am forever grateful to receive. The invaluable lesson of learning to hold my darkness and allow writing to become a more significant part of my work. Darkness, a close, endearing sacred friend, I abandoned out of fear, denying myself the night’s richness and mystery of the dark, all in the name of something lighter. Octopus lured me back into the spellbinding terrain of the unconscious, the radiant nature of darkness. Trusting my soul drew forth hidden desires. Saying yes to the ‘right things’ led to countless synchronicities, validating the necessity of honoring the dark side of the psyche and human nature. I came home to myself, a soul retrieval through the octopus dream….
Now, I help others see in the dark.