Descending into Darkness to Become Whole and Psychological Healthy
Originally published on Medium.com. Read it here or hop on over to the original post on Medium.com.
As a boy, late at night, I discovered Hammer Horror Films. I was captivated by Christopher Lee as Dracula and Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein. The Mummy, Dr. Jekyll, and the other monsters became dark heroes in my still-forming mind. The unrelenting evil and psychological tension portrayed in the Hammer Films appealed to me in ways that I couldn’t understand or fathom, but I found myself inexplicitly pulled into the darkness.
I began seeking out the classic horror novels to learn about the seeds of these wonderful movie ideas. I read Dracula in one sitting. Frankenstein in two days. These fantastic stories of dark and terrible things held some strange fascination in my immature mind. I wanted to be a vampire, a creature of the night, with supernatural powers. Halloween was a magical time of candy and transforming into Dracula, The Wolfman, and The Mummy.
Then as I grappled with the first unrelenting onslaught of puberty, everything changed. I was at a friend’s house sitting on the floor watching Ridley Scott’s masterpiece, Alien, on VHS. It was captivating and memorizing. I allowed myself to become completely engulfed in the story, pulled into another world where terror, brutality, human greed, and the unknown dominated. It was perfect, combining my two great loves, science fiction and horror.
Unbeknownst to either of us young boys, my friend’s insatiably ornery grandfather plotted a scare for us and silently crept to within inches of us. Toward the end of the movie, Warrant Officer Ripley escapes the alien-infested, space tug, Nostromo, in a shuttle. In our young minds, the alien threat was defeated. My friend and I watched wide-eyed, with hormones surging, as Sigourney Weaver striped to prepare for hypersleep. At the exact moment that the alien’s hand springs from the shadows toward Sigourney Weaver, the grandfather tackled us both causing girlish shrieks and screams of fright to fill the room.
While it was all in good fun and should have been expected, the terror of that moment stained my adolescent psyche. I lost interest in horror books and stories, fleeing to my other love, science fiction. I was challenged to watch anything frightening and chastised myself for being weak but resigned myself to leave the world of horror behind.
But my darkness and its demons chained themselves deep within me, patiently waiting for an opportunity to return and infiltrate my conscious mind.
A few years later, with life driven by the teenage paranoia for fitting in, I found myself intertwined with a group of friends who enjoyed horror movies. Faced with the prospect of being made fun of for being a scaredy cat, I opened the locked dungeon doors of my mind and peered down into the darkness. I hesitantly took the first few steps and then plunged into its depth.
George A. Romero’s movies of zombies rekindled the flames of my black emotions and longings. Michael Myers slashed his way through helpless victims captivating my attention with his relentless pursuit of murderous perfection. And most importantly, Freddie Krueger stroked my darker creative hunger by terrorizing the dreams of his victims and killing them creatively.
I worked my way through the horror section of Blockbuster, discovering new masterpieces of human depravity. Late at night with the remote in my hand, I sought out more Hammer Films and anything that would tantalize my imagination with fear and loathing. I devoured B movies with Elvira’s Movie Macabre and was mesmerized by tales of evil in The Omen, Poltergeist, The Evil Dead, Re-Animator, and Hellraiser.
As the years wore on, I read more of the classic horror stories and marveled at the works of Edgar Allen Poe. Adulthood descended upon me with cravings for Anne Rice, H.P. Lovecraft, and Brian Lumley. I loved the books that filled my hours with an escape to places fantastic, morbid, and twisted.
While I never hid my enjoyment of the horror genre, I only revealed the surface of my passion with friends and family. We all enjoyed the thrill ride of visiting someplace scary in a theater and then returning to the real world. When the lights came back on, everyone smiled and pressed on with their ordinary lives, laughing and leaving the darkness behind.
But alone in my mind, I often stayed in those dark realms, changing the plots, altering the villains, and modifying the outcomes. In the solitude of falling asleep or daydreaming in a boring class, I spun my own dark stories of forbidden and evil forces.
Deep inside of me, someplace without conscious thought or comprehension, a belief formed that the darkest fiction must be written by a minded twisted and beholden to the darkness itself. I never put pen to paper to share a horror tale or psychologically twisted story because of a subconscious notion that somehow the darkness and demons in me would manifest if I expressed the demented and warped tales clawing through my head.
My subconscious mind protected its malformed belief, holding it slightly below the surface of thought, pushing my pen and keystrokes toward less malevolent topics and stories. The thin veneer hiding this manipulation stretched at times, as my dark demons strained to find acknowledgment, acceptance, and expression. They begged with a voice just below my ability to hear in the shadowy hours between dusk and dawn.
Then one day, my demons escaped.
As the steam of a morning coffee relieved my sinuses and that black magical elixir wrenched me from my sluggishness. Jeff Goins’ @jeffgoins podcast, The Portfolio Life with Jeff Goins, featuring the brilliant Joanna Penn @thecreativepenn broke the morning silence.
Have you wondered what becoming a successful author actually takes, and if you can do it in both fiction and…goinswriter.com
I listened for twenty-two seconds, and my darkest demon discovered a crack in the cage that my mind created for him. I paused the podcast. A few, simple words from Joanna Penn shattered the foundation of my subconscious’ false belief.
“The healthiest people I know, psychologically, are horror writers.”
My darkest demon battled to the edge of my awareness and destroyed the walls that separated him and his minions from my reality. He advanced toward me, each footfall echoing through my consciousness as he marched closer and closer. I stood defenseless, unable to move as the demon drew his face close to mine.
His breath felt like ice crystals slicing gashes in my face. My morning stubble burnt by the icy fire of his hell-spawned hand as he caressed my face. Warmth fled from my body. Prickly goosebumps sprang from every pore. The malignant spirit of my dark dreams looked deeply into my soul.
His eyes mirrored the black darkness of the void that I’d long neglected within myself. The further I peered into those eyes, the more my spirit drank from the unholy energy radiating from his presence. When he spoke, I heard my own voice break forth from his mouth, twisted and darker with an evil cadence, “I know you,” he breathed, and the foundations of my pristine reality trembled as his heinous voice pounded within my brain, “for I am you.”
My subconscious mind shuddered and frantically worked to recreate that illusion that I never consciously understood. It was too late. My darkest demons were free.
A maleficent grin spread across my face. I stepped into the embrace of my darkest and terrifying desires personified. His arms wrapped around me, cradling my creativity and imagination. He leaned close to my ear and whispered, “now we are free.” His dark form dematerialized into an ethereal mist, clinging tighter and tighter to me until his essence penetrated my being.
I ran my tongue along my teeth, smiling wider as I discovered that my upper canine teeth extended further down and felt pointier and sharper than before. Even as the sun chased the moon to the horizon, filling the world with light, I understood that I was a creature of the night.
I felt my darkest of demons reassuring my subconscious, refreshing my creativity, and invigorating my imagination. We breathed together in harmony, celebrating our union, and began to write.