Let’s take a look around the Dark Forest and get some bearings.
First a cautious glance at Deep Pits. If you are currently stuck in a Deep Pit, you might be acutely aware of it — or you might be in denial, since they are terrifying, lonely, humiliating places to be stuck. Some hints that you are in a Deep Pit include self-destructive and reckless behaviors, or using things like alcohol, food, sex, money, or even people to harmful extremes. A diagnosis from a professional is the best way to name what you are dealing with. Naming the pit is like throwing a rope down into the blackness — when you name your challenge you can find resources for overcoming it. If you find yourself in a Deep Pit, I encourage you to name your pit, seek those resources, and ask kind people for help in doing both.
Once out of a pit, your greatest challenge is to stay out. The tendency is to climb a tree, build a tree house, and huddle there without looking down lest you be tempted by the pits below. Tree houses are safety mechanisms that help to keep you out of pits by being regimented and disciplined — AA, diets, exercise, budgets. These are good and valuable. They can keep you out of Deep Pits, but they don’t take you out of the Dark Forest. In order to leave the Dark Forest, you must eventually hazard the pits and develop the skills to navigate the world without tumbling back into them — and get good at getting out of the pits if you do slip!
Eventually you find yourself in a part of the Dark Forest that has few pits, and the temptation is to set up camp. After all, this part of the forest isn’t quite as dark, and you can pretend that things are fine… or at least as good as they’re going to get. It’s populated enough here that you can establish a little village of fellow orphans for safety. Together you can commiserate by the campfire sharing tales of woe, enumerating all the threats that accosted you throughout the day, reassuring each other that there is no need to venture on in a forest filled with such monsters.
You can live your whole life here. But maybe you weary of it. Wonder if there isn’t something more. Faintly remember a time when you were foolish enough to have dreams of all you would accomplish in life. Perhaps there’s a vague tightness in your solar plexus that never goes away, a fear you might be squandering something very important by staying stuck where you are.
You might feel compelled to strike out on your own to find yourself. You set out on a pilgrimage… but you feel more like you are wandering aimlessly and you aren’t even sure what you are seeking. What you are likely to find is yourself shortly joining another orphan camp. Stuck again, with no more answers than before, and now some guilt on top, for giving up, selling out.
Whew! What a downer! Okay, shake it out. Get up, stretch a little, do a quick jig. Take a drink of water, think about a loved one or a cute puppy. Feel a little better?
Now’s where I suggest an alternative. What if we all tackle the pilgrimage together? Like a sort of caravan. It won’t be so scary if we’re not alone. If someone finds a pit to fall in, we can quickly help them out of it. We will look for a river, then follow it downstream. With a group to tackle the forest, we can surely clear a way out!
I have a request for those of you in the Peaceful Meadow. I honor your need to rest there after a long and arduous journey. Once you’ve had some time to recover and heal, would you make your way to the Abundant Village? Please tell the Warriors there that a band of Pilgrims is making their way through the Dark Forest.
Note: the term “orphan” is used here archetypically.