catatonickid recently published a post about facing your double, reaching a place where nothing can be explained, a place where no choice could possibly be right. She calls that the “ideal argument for healing,” or, in the quoted words of Marie-Louise von Franz: “the beginning of the process of individuation” – the joining of the separate parts of the self to form an integrated person.
As I mentioned in an earlier post about experiencing a kind of double life, I’ve been drawn to the theme of meeting one’s own mirror image as a separate being for as long as I can remember. I never understood why that should be, but every story or film I found about such an encounter simply transfixed me. The idea touched a part of me beneath awareness that felt like it was rolling in sea-like motion. For so long, I was afraid that this moving force could overwhelm me.
In dreams, meeting my double was the culmination of nightmares.
I was usually searching through locked rooms in mansions and castles until finding the one where he was sitting. He was always alone in the middle of a darkened space with his back to the door as I entered. When he started turning toward me – even before I could see most of his face – I knew he was my double and that I had to get out. The deepest fear and panic surged through me as I realized I couldn’t escape and in the next moment would be killed. In the midst of that terror I always woke up and had to wait for my breathing and heartbeat to slow down to normal.
Why was this encounter so terrifying and why was my double a Mr. Jekyll ready to savage his Dr. Hyde? Was that what awaited me if I should try to go beyond what my awareness told me who I was? Would it mean the unleashing of a monster or the beginning of healing?
I searched for possible answers, but none felt right – until I started rereading a number of essays by Carl Rogers. Here’s a passage that seemed to deal with what I felt, though not directly with the idea of the double.
Carl Rogers wrote:
An even more common reaction to the path of life I have been describing is that to be what one truly is would mean to be bad, evil, uncontrolled, destructive. It would mean to unleash some kind of a monster on the world. … I meet [this view] in almost every client. “If I dare to let the feelings flow which are dammed up within me, if by some chance should live in those feelings, then this would be catastrophe.” This is the attitude, spoken or unspoken, of nearly every client as he moves into the experiencing of the unknown aspects of himself.
Sometimes people express this concern by saying that if an individual were to be what he truly is, he would be releasing the beast in himself. … [W]hen one is truly and deeply a unique member of the human species, this is not something which should excite horror. It means instead that one lives fully and openly the complex process of being one of the most widely sensitive, responsive, and creative creatures on this planet.
– On Becoming a Person – “To Be That Self Which One Truly Is”
That sounded right – learning gradually how to release, to live, those feelings could help to diminish the fear of what might happen if I set them free. If I could set aside that terrible fear and step into the other me, instead of trying to escape, perhaps I would begin to see these separated selves not as enemies but as parts of a whole. I had spent so many years hiding powerful feelings even from myself that I did come to believe I concealed a monster that must be kept locked up at all costs. He was like the madman in the attic room that must never be opened by anyone, least of all by his keeper.
Kierkegaard wrote: “Dread is the possibility of freedom.” It is the sign that an opening into life can occur if that feeling is recognized as a step toward accepting everything you are.
And it’s true that the work I have done to get through recovery has diminished the intensity of fear about releasing the feelings I had hidden away. The dark part of me – the monster – really seems now more shadow than substance.
But as wonderful as that change has been, there is still a power about the idea of my own double that I do not understand. There is much to learn that even goes beyond recovery from depression, as critical and life-saving as that has been. So I keep searching – and I don’t know where this might take me.
I have no idea if the powerful draw that I feel to this concept is widely shared or not. Is it something that pulls at you? What have you made of it?