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The Underworld

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

We all carry with us an invisible world, an internal unknowing, a darkness to be explored. There are many names for this space; the subconscious, the unconscious, the shadow-self, Hell or Hades, my personal favorite, the void. This underworld is guarded by death and ruled by life, the twin pillars of our existence. In Western culture the word ‘death’ sends many of us running in avoidance. For the purpose of this essay, lets remove the physical sense and read this word as a symbol for ‘change.’ We all know it well, for life simply cannot exist without change, so we may understand that life cannot be without death.

From the untamed underworld, if we allow, seeps our addictions, our unnamed fears, shame, guilt and insecurities, to wreck potential havoc upon our lives and bodies. At first glance, this seems bad; but, only from a singular perspective. You see, while the results of our unconscious habits and actions may have a negative impact on ourselves and others, this darkness is neither good, bad or evil, it simply is. Like ourselves within life, it exists. The positive news, with good effort, we are entirely capable of managing the impact. Through this understanding we may cause intentional direction of our own rebirth, allowing new life to grow from any change. We all naturally seek to on some level or another; this is the basis of all religion, spirituality, psychology, mythology, even fables and fairy tales, the key is merely remembering who we are and what we are doing.

To reduce the chaotic affects of the subconscious upon our lives we must first cross the threshold of grief. It is through grieving that we may dig into this darkness and uncover active and long forgotten aspects of self. Intentional grieving becomes an act of accepting the impact of all that we have lost and all our unmet expectations. By enlivening our natural thoughts, behaviors and emotions, observing them without judgement as good or bad and allowing ourselves to be as we are and have become, we do not remove our grief, but more, we expand to encompass all of it, all of us, as whole. The strangeness of it all is that internally, we then come to consciously understand our existence as ever further contradictory. We are both living and dying, both brave and afraid, peaceful and enraged, individual and community, the list goes on. It is within the sum of all our contradictions which exists our intentionality, our ability to purposefully create our life within our existence.

It is thus through contradictory measures we may control the impact of this underworld by letting go our desire to control its existence, regardless of the feelings or opinions we have about it. In order to live in control of ourselves, we must grant ourselves permission, offer the safety internally to relax our nervous systems and establish healthy expressions of our responses to our own lived experience. This, I will say, is no easy or light-hearted task. The reality remains, our underworld exists regardless our acceptance of it. We are all invited to find the wisdom in this acceptance, to continuously forgive our past journey and trust ourselves to manage the underworld within. The question we must ask ourselves is; am I willing to face the dark?

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