American novelist Wendel Berry expressed a powerful concept in a poem titled “To Know The Dark.”
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
– Wendel Berry
We often perceive the dark as evil, harmful, or wrong. The concept of light vs. dark is an age-old concept. The attitudes around “the dark” have are often conflated with disaster. According to Berry, the label “dark” may be best described by the unknown. We fear it.
It can be uncomfortable to move into the spaces of the unknown. Typically when we approach uncertain situations or areas with caution. Sometimes the best strategy to explore the hidden things is to lean-in to the unknown by embracing without predictability (go without sight). When we do, we find the unknown sings with beauty.
This process isn’t always easy. Some people find companionship helpful. A partner could be a spouse, parent, or close friend. When seeking a companion, its best to find somebody who can offer support, without judgment, or contribute to the fear. Others find it helpful to ask for help from their Divine power for protection and guidance.
What of “dark feet and dark wings?”. Perhaps the exploration of the beauty of unfolding song originates from allowing for the steps through new elements to emerge naturally. Wings typically signify power and movement. Could real change and receiving come from flying with confidence, embracing the tension by thinking of what happens “to us,” is happening “for us”?
Most of us grew up hearing the adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” While the intent of this quip perhaps was to toughen kids up, in more recent years we’ve clued in to how false this message is! Name calling, harsh words, verbal bullying does hurt. Aggressive words and/or harsh tones can inflict emotional pain just as real as getting physically punched. And when such verbal punches are thrown in the home, it is especially hurtful. As parents and/or the adults in a child’s life, most of us are quite clear about the need to protect children from the bullying that can too easily happen among groups of children. But are we aware that when we speak harshly or critically to our children or spouse it is potentially even more harmful than schoolyard bullying?
What is the verbal climate in your home? How do you communicate with your children or spouse, especially when the pressure is on? Do you yell when you’re frustrated or angry? Do you use harsh, cutting, or condescending words with your family or with others within their hearing? Does this happen frequently? Occasionally?
A growing body of research is demonstrating how verbal hostility negatively impacts a child’s brain in much the same way as does acts of domestic violence including sexual abuse. The greater the intensity of the verbal hostility, the greater the frequency of it, and the occurrence of other forms of abuse in combination with it are factors that determine the degree of the damage inflicted upon the child’s brain. In short, yelling at your children can cause actual, measurable brain damage (Teicher, Samson, Polcari, & McGreenery, 2006; Teicher, 2016). To be sure, this damage can be healed, but the abuse has to be stopped first—the child’s climate has to be changed.
If the verbal climate in your home is “hot,” the therapists at Wasatch Family Therapy can help you reset your emotional thermostat and change out old, broken down communication styles for healthy, refreshing ones—ones that create a safe climate for your family to live in. Give us a call at 801-944-4555 and make an appointment. It’s one of the best things you can do for your children, your spouse, and you.
Teicher, M. H., Samson, J. A., Polcari, A., & McGreenery, C. E. (2006). Sticks, stones,
and hurtful words: Relative effects of various forms of childhood
maltreatment. The American Journal Of Psychiatry, 163(6), 993-1000.
Teicher, M. H., & Samson, J. A. (2016). Annual research review: Enduring
neurobiological effects of childhood abuse and neglect. Journal of Child Psychology And Psychiatry, 57(3), 241-266.