In world myths, the underworld is often depicted as the dwelling place of unhappy spirits and demons. In fact, in Greek mythology, the river leading to the underworld and is known as the “river of pain.”
In many stories the hero or heroine must make a tremendously dangerous and difficult journey there as part of their personal quest for wisdom or to regain something or someone lost.
The Place We Least Want to Go
Like the trials of heroes and heroines of myth, pain initiates us into our own underworld journey. It demands something (or many things) and does not release us from its grip easily. Everything that is familiar, dependable, and bright seems far away and there is very little to rely on along the journey.
Finding the way back is full of treacherous pitfalls, and we can easily get lost. Like the heroes and heroines of myth, we have to depend on our own source of inner courage, strength, and stubborn will to find our path through the darkness and out again. One thing is certain: there are no easy outs, and no short cuts.
We Become the Path Out
We may think we are alone there because the underworld feels like such a desolate place and the journey can certainly seem very dark and foreboding. Nevertheless, in every underworld myth, there is always a way back, always a path through. There is a track to follow, a guiding spirit, or a river that flows through the underworld and out again. If we look around us, we can find signs that others have been there before us, leaving clues about how to find our way out again. They have left their writing, their art, their poems, and their music.
We may be tempted to sit down and give up, but we have to find a way to keep going. We may become discouraged because we think that our healing can’t start until we leave the underworld, but that’s an illusion. Pain is what brought us here, but our commitment to healing is what guides us through.
Healing doesn’t start only once we have left the darkness, it is, in fact, the path through. It is the path that others have left for us, and it is also the path we create by believing in ourselves and by taking step, and then another. Each step is not just along the path, it builds the path. In a way, we are the path out.
Sarah Anne Shockley has lived with nerve pain from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome since 2007. She co-produced and directed Dancing From the Inside Out, a multi-award winning documentary on AXIS Dance Company (integrating wheelchair and able-bodied dance). She is a regular contributor to The Mighty and author of The Pain Companion (New World Library, June, 2018), The Light at The Center of Pain, Living Better While Living With Pain, and 30 Days of Living Better While Living With Pain.