Going Down … Are You Doing It Regularly?
Going Down … Are You Doing It Regularly?

Going Down … Are You Doing It Regularly?

Going Down … Are You Doing It Regularly?

Down on Down

We’re okay with ‘calming down’; we’re cool with ‘cooling down’; we’re hot on ‘going down’ —yeah baby!—and we rhapsodise about ‘falling in love’.

Mostly, though, down gets short shrift.

Up and Down Are Not in Opposition

With our leaning towards one part of a pairing over and above the other part, up gets a thumbs up. Add to this Western society’s upward-looking spiritual orientation, and I learned to fear down. But I also learned you can’t get to the bottom of something by looking up.

Even so, going down meant visiting the lizard brain and the immoral, uncivilised parts of the psyche (soul). It was a damned dark and scary experience … until I came across these eye-opening words from author and activist, Parker Palmer:

‘I had always imagined God to be in the same general direction as everything else that I valued: up … I had to be forced underground before I could understand that the way to God is not up but down.’

‘If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going,’ Said Winston Churchill. Why?

If you go on regular excursions into Hell—it’s a free trip—you’d already know that a taste of Nirvana awaits you beyond the fire and brimstone. If you don’t, then getting your head around Palmer’s flipped focus might be an issue. It’s not all that controversial, though, when you consider those often-quoted words, ‘At the darkest moment comes the light.’ Or, to take it all the way back to The Creation Story, ‘Let there be light’ saw light emerging from the dark, formless earth.

Still, words might convince us of the value of going down, but words don’t console us when we’re being assailed by, well, words!

Those words and a billion+ others that have constructed and shaped our realities make up our stories. Our lives are a series of these: dramatic, romantic, tragic, comedic, ridiculous; sagas and short stories; poetic and prosaic; fact and fiction. We might not be familiar with or even aware of the very early ones—the bizarre ancient stories, but they’re still imprinted on our psyche and encoded in our DNA. When something shakes up our existence, we time-travel back through the layers of stories (think of the flashes of memories that emerge on the way down). And we can end up crash-landing in these raw, uncut ones.

Giving the Right Brain Its Due

Personally, I don’t think trying to think your way out of the badlands of psyche is all that helpful when you’re feeling insane and confused. Overthinking used to be my knee-jerk reaction. But when I lost my mind, intellectualising was useless. It fed the voices. If I ignored them or tried to scramble up and out, they bit me on the bum. And wrestling with them was just shadow-boxing. It weakened me, strengthened them. I learned a different way.

Imagining takes me part of the way.

I imagine I’m just passing through this village of crazies (like a long transit stopover as a necessary evil on the way to a holiday destination).

Letting myself feel down takes me the rest of the way.

Feeling breathes life into the starving, discarded-but-not-dead low-lifers of the psyche. Then every subsequent descent feels less unnerving and less murky. And results in less stagnancy. With more movement, as impulses and emotions become resuscitated, it’s better for our well-being.

What I’ve learned is that in looking up, we perceive our spirit. In going down, we retrieve it.

Maybe, one day, when many willingly undergo what is essentially a healing journey, Down will be the new black.

List of Comments


  1. This brings to mind a couple of quips, which we take for granted, but never really parse apart to get at the essence of what it means to ‘go down’:

    I think Winston Churchill said (my paraphrase), “When you find yourself in Hell, keep going…”

    And then there’s the ‘common knowledge’ notion when it comes to things like substance abuse and addiction, etc.: “They’re not going to change until they hit rock bottom.” The same is often true for people suffering from various forms of depression (depressions are downward spirals; in weather systems, depressions can be violent enough to spawn tornadoes!). Hitting ground hurts, but it is also something solid and substantial that can serve to hold us up (and assume some of weight we’ve been carrying — for too long, for no good reason!)

    So, it stands to reason that we have the best chance of rising from the psychic depths of darkness and chaos at the very point when there is only one way to go…

    I’m on my way back from a hell of sorts — spinal surgery! I went there, knowing it was for the long haul, and it is by no means over yet… but I’m so glad your blog is one of the stops I’ve been fortunate enough to make at this juncture in my journey.

    I am your devoted friend and fan!

    • Thank you ‘devoted friend and fan’, Steph, for your kind words. That mine can make a difference inspires me to keep diving into the depths and bring back even more! Winston Churchill obviously understood the value of this undertaking. ‘Hell’ is severely underrated because our understanding of our tainted aspects has been, well, tainted. We’ve learned that the darkness needs to be, at best, transcended, at worst, eradicated. Yet, we admire people with depth … like Churchill. So, yes, keep going!!

  2. Thank you!
    And to be honest, I don’t follow a formula. My muse doesn’t like to be constrained by any specific plan of action!
    That said, I’m familiar with the clutter you talk about — for me, all that noise comes from my inner critic. I don’t try to figure it out. I just let it have its say; I write it ALL down. And once that’s out, the ideas seem to flow.
    Interestingly, your question is timely. I’ve just posted my next blog: ‘How I Deal with the Inner Critic’. It may be of some help to you. If you love writing, keep going. Good luck!

    • How different the world might look if we accepted the shadow side as an innate aspect of the human psyche, instead of trying to purify ourselves (the dark side wouldn’t have to find an assortment of spillways to express … illness, terrorism etc)! Thank you for sharing MacDonald’s quote; I hadn’t heard that one. I appreciate you reading and commenting.

Comment Section

Leave a Reply

Please wait...

Thank you for sign up!