Quit Fighting Darkness and Turn on the Light


  • We are trained that if we can solve enough of our problems, we’ll have an “enjoyable life.”
  • Life’s challenges never stop, and we may slowly sink into darkness, “The Abyss.”
  • We become desperate trying to escape; especially from our RUT’s (Repetitive Unpleasant Thoughts)
  • The most effective way to dispel darkness is turning on light.


We are born as blank impressionable slates full of openness, curiosity, playfulness, and eagerness to learn. There are innumerable sources of learning, and we trust those who we perceive as having wisdom to teach us way to live an enjoyable and productive life.  Words and concepts are important but imitating actions are more powerful ways of learning. The possibilities are limitless.



But what often happens? In a protected and nurturing environment, the light may remain bright for many years and sometimes indefinitely. But for many of us, the light becomes progressively dimmer and at some point, we tip into the Abyss of chronic mental and physical pain. The light is extinguished, and it is a dark place without the slightest hope of escape. This is not what any of us planned when our spirits were shining.

A famous quote

It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old. 

They grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.

                         Gabriel Garcia Marquez1

I modified this famous quote based on my personal experiences and observations of anxiety:

It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old. 

They grow old because their dreams are crushed by anxiety.

                         Gabriel Garcia Marquez

                          (Modified by Dr. David Hanscom)


How quickly does darkness descend when you never felt safe and nurtured? Maybe you never felt the light that exists within you. Even if you had a great start, what about the onslaught of life?

  • Unmeetable expectations
  • Bullying – peers, coworkers, siblings
  • FOMO
  • Social media
  • Poor diet/ no exercise
  • Never-ending to-do list
  • Lack of resources – housing, food, education, finances
  • Job issues
  • Difficult parenting
  • Unrelenting Repetitive Unpleasant Thoughts (RUT’s)

The darkness settles in to the point where we can’t see a way out and eventually, we might forget what the light even felt or looked like. Additionally, there is the relentless wind, that also wears you down. Life keeps coming at us, especially the RUT’s.

So, what do most of us do? We are used to problem solving and we either keep working at fixing our lives (getting rid of the darkness) or many of us give up. Nothing seems to be working. Where do we go next and how can we get out of a place that seems to have no definition or limits? It really is an Abyss.

You cannot “fix” darkness”. It is simply absence of light. You also can’t control most of your thoughts (RUT’s) and stresses (the wind).

Darkness disappears with light. A small match is lit, and you must protect the flame from the wind. You may have to keep lighting it many times. Eventually, you are able to protect the flame and allow it to grow. Even when the light is dim, it still penetrates the darkness. As you continue to add fuel, the flame becomes a fire, then a large bonfire that can hardly be contained. The wind will eventually fan the flames and make them stronger.



“The fog rolled in.”

Many years ago, I was discussing chronic pain with a patient who was also a physical therapist. She related that she had an idyllic upbring with her parents and two siblings enjoying each other. Family outings including scenic drives, trips to Coney Island, music, and playing board games. There was a lot of fun and laughter. Then when she was 12, her father lost his job and her life permanently changed. The fun was replaced with verbal abuse, drinking, rages, and hardly even coming home. She described it as “the fog came in,” and life became dark. It never changed. I only saw her a couple of times recall how sad she was. I did not know much about chronic pain at that time and was perplexed how life could change so quickly. I did not understand the physiological nature of anger and that the thinking brain does not work is well. I don’t know what eventually happened to her.

Healing happens by moving forward towards your vision

It isn’t logical for us to spend so much time and energy fixing the dark and not paying attention to the light. But it is the only way that healing occurs. You are the only one who can light the match over and over again, protect the flame, and create a fire that can’t be put out. Knowing the tools to process darkness are necessary and are a separate skill set from connecting and nurturing your light. That is why there is a sequence of healing: 1) connection, 2) confidence, and 3) creativity.


Why do we feel that focusing and fixing our troubles is going to give us the life that we want? Not only can you escape from The Abyss with light, what about walking outside and soaking in the warmth of the sun?

Your dreams and play are always within you. Connect with and nurture them and allow your body to heal.

Questions and considerations

  1. Our biological imperatives are to first survive and then pass our DNA to the next generation. Our unconscious brain evolved to look for trouble and resolve it in order to physically survive.
  2. Humans are more complex in that we possess language and must deal with emotional pain, which is processed in a similar manner as physical pain.
  3. Instinctively, we are programmed towards problem solving.
  4. Although we also develop through play, it often gets buried in the ongoing chaos of life. We also have the human problem of our inability to escape from our unpleasant thoughts.
  5. How much of your life is consumed w ith fixing problems versus nurturing joy? Have you created any “space” for joy?
  6. If you wish to live a different life, you must create some “space” to nurture creativity and joy. Light will dispel darkness whereas all the fixing in the world will not pull you out of it.


  1. Gabriel García Márquez. Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude. 1967. Editorial Sudamericanos, S.A., Buenos Aires.