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  • Writer's pictureAnn Manning

Softening the Darkness

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

Woman comforting young girl

It had happened before. It was happening again. It felt like my whole being had shut down. I could take care of the small mundane tasks: cooking a meal, washing dishes, responding to emails. It was the big picture that seemed out of reach.

Inside I was empty. Nothing.

The vision, the plans, the projects. Now there seemed to be no way of connecting with these.

I did trust that things would settle, that something would form, and I’d be able to recognise feeling in myself again. You see, I understood that this darkness was the darkness I have held inside for so long, hidden away from my conscious awareness at a time when it had seemed to be too much to bear.

I know a story, how a little girl (me), was assaulted by someone who was supposedly a trusted family friend. And it seemed to this little girl that her parents, the ones who were supposed to care for her and protect her from harm, were complicit in this event. That it had their consent. With the limited resources of a child, the only conclusion she could draw was that what had happened was somehow her fault. Overwhelming feelings too painful to acknowledge - shame, fear, confusion, anger – were locked away in her body, hidden from conscious awareness.

For over 30 years I have been circling the fallout of this experience. At first feeling constrained without understanding why. Then learning to gently meet these locked away feelings and sensations as they emerged, navigating a sense of worthlessness, and gradually building a more resilient relationship to myself. As I have developed and strengthened inner resources, I have also increased the capacity to be present with deeper and more challenging aspects of the pain.

I tell myself: give it space. Allow what needs to emerge to emerge in its own time. What happened was not your fault. The truth is that you deserve admiration for surviving, for making your way in this world and for the courage you show to be present with these deep and hidden wounds, to give them space and let in light. To allow the possibility of meeting the pain and reclaiming wholeness.

You are not alone in this. Too many children have had their light dimmed by the actions of other, damaged beings. Just maybe, with each step towards healing there is a collective relief and release, one iota of consciousness at a time.

What I can do now is tenderly hold that little girl in my awareness. Offer her love and caring. No need to interpret or make sense of what is coming up. Now, in this moment, let her know she is safe, she is loved.


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