I had actually started writing this article over a month ago and tried finishing it over the past few weeks. I kept shelving it because I felt that it was too dark.
But I remembered that I have written nothing except about life since the very beginning. And to write about life is to not pull any punches, to write about it as it is.
Nevertheless, I’m here to remind you that trauma and depression are very serious matters. This article or any of my writings are not substitutes for professional help.
“When you find out that there was never anything in the dark side to be afraid of, nothing is left but to love.”
I recently watched an episode of Viceland’s The Therapist, and it made my heart ache.
It was a session between Dr. Siri Sat Nam Singh, a licensed marriage family therapist and Corey Taylor, the singer of the bands Stone Sour and Slipknot.
While Stone Sour’s music is generally softer and focuses more on tender topics such as love, Slipknot is known for their grotesque imagery, as well as their heavy music and dark lyrics. They are famed for wearing masks onstage, and for writing about topics that we tend to repress, such as anger, trauma, grief and misanthropy.
Yet, Slipknot has amassed a large following since their inception. It is likely because their fans, who mostly come from unassuming backgrounds, listen to their songs and attend their shows as an outlet to let out their repressed feelings about themselves and society.
Dr. Siri starts the session by discussing Taylor’s lyrics. Rather than being repulsed by their darkness, he expresses his fascination for them as a therapist.
“We have an addiction to light in this culture,” says Dr. Siri. “And I always say the divine is also in the dark.”
Taylor agrees and remarks that even all of his tattoos revolve around that concept. He says, “They deal with duality, because you can’t have that dedication to good without admitting the fact that there is darkness.”
Dr. Siri suggests his hypothesis to Taylor, that Taylor “masks” himself in his childhood and that his unresolved issues are personified in his music.
He says, “I think you’re in the mythic world, and myth is the realm of the unconscious. So you’re bringing forth masks and creatures and experiences that are very, seemingly dark — but that is the world of the unconscious.”
He continues, “You spoke up when nobody really heard you, and that’s why the music is so loud. It’s like this cacophony of sound that has almost a war experience.”
And to that, Taylor also agrees. “To me it’s this barrage of music,” he says. “It’s like creating a message out of chaos — like reaching your hand into white noise and pulling out the exact message that you wanted to convey in the first place.”
Throughout the session, Dr. Siri gradually guides Taylor towards peeling off his childhood experiences, one layer at a time.
Taylor shares about his troubled upbringing, where his father was absent and his family was constantly moving a lot. He shares about struggling with drug addiction in his teens and nearly dying from an overdose.
Holding back tears, he recounts an experience that he had when he was only 10 years old. He and his family had recently moved to a new area, and he was eager to make new friends.
He quickly befriended a 16 year old man, whom he would often visit and play music with. One particular visit eventually took a turn for the worse and Taylor was raped. He was blackmailed into keeping the incident a secret, being threatened that he and his mother would get hurt if he told anybody.
And that is when it all made sense for Dr. Siri.
Dr. Siri credits Taylor for the strength that he has had as a trauma survivor. Being as strong-hearted as he has been, he is able to channel all of those negative experiences into something musically productive, as well as an unconditional love for his children.
As Taylor says, “All I’ve ever wanted to be was a dad. I have three amazing kids. I never wanted my kids to go through what I went through. It was very important for me to, right out of the gate, set up college funds, bills were paid, clothes were bought, food was made, everything. Solid foundation — they have a place to live, they have a room that’s theirs, and they don’t have to worry about anything. They’re protected.”
In psychology, there’s a concept called “the shadow”. According to Carl Jung, every one of us has a shadow — a dark side to our personality, commonly in the form of repressed emotions and ideas, instincts and weaknesses that we would unconsciously play out.
While we can’t possibly get rid of our shadow, we can become more aware of it. Rather than letting our shadow run our lives, we can become one with it, accept it, and in turn, use it for our advantage.
As Jung wrote, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”
It’s like that scene in The Babadook, where the character finally gains control over the demon, which personifies her grief for her late husband, by accepting its presence and keeping it in her basement. While she is able to live happily with her child, she still steps into the basement every now and then to tend to her grief.
For Taylor, he has mentioned in his session with Dr. Siri that “the darkness is someplace that I visit. I don’t live there. But it’s there.”
While he writes more conventionally in Stone Sour, he does channel his darkness into Slipknot.
Stone Sour’s “Zzyzx Rd.” for example, is a thank you song that Taylor wrote for his ex-wife for helping him through his drug addiction.
Slipknot’s songs, as mentioned, are much darker. For one thing, “The Devil in I” explores Taylor’s struggle in having to deal with the death of his fellow band member. “Left Behind” is about a period of time in Taylor’s life when he was homeless.
So understand that all of has our dark side. While we tend to lock it away, it can be a good thing to acknowledge it, to visit it sometimes, and channel it into something that benefits others.
That something doesn’t have to be creative work per se. It can mean love. It can mean selfless leadership, like how Abraham Lincoln was able to turn his crippling depression into a deep empathy for anyone who was suffering, effectively ending slavery in the United States. It can mean anything that is much larger than yourself.
If you’re dealing with darkness in your life, it’s alright. It’s a part of you. It’s a part of me, and I feel it too.
All of us do.