How to find sweetness in the shadow.


I avoid shadow work.

I don’t enjoy watching or reading horror. I don’t listen to sad Spotify playlists. I don’t have curtains or blinds on most of the windows in my home. My wardrobe doesn’t even include black.

I’m a full-sun plant! I won’t even swing in a hammock if it’s in the shade.

Existential Kink by Carolyn Elliott has helped me playfully investigate my shadow.

It was recommended to me by three different people in my life — all very different readers. When I read about Carolyn Elliott, I was intrigued by our shared background in Cultural Studies. I bought it last spring, and I’ve read it twice.

In BDSM kink, people take pleasure in things they don’t normally like — being controlled, shamed, or whipped. In Existential Kink, Carolyn Elliott suggests that we can experience pleasure in what we feel as psychological suffering.

Using our imagination, we can play with the feeling that something awful is happening to us, and consent to enjoy the struggle in a kinky, subversive way.

Then, our experience becomes one of freedom and choice.

This changes our perspective, and puts us in the position of the angel in the Temperance card. We have the power to mix water from the two cups of good and bad, to make an elixir that tastes of the whole human experience.

This is the alchemy of story, poetry, song, screenwriting, and memoir.

We crave all of life, on some level. Even the darker, more frightening stuff. We know those things are in us somewhere, because they come out in our dreams to freak us out when our conscious mind is asleep.

All the unpleasant feelings we try to avoid in real life — grief, shame, jealousy, conflict — obviously, these have an important role to play in a story! But for a writer to write pain means that a writer must feel it. And who wants that?

Expanding our ability to feel the myriad of psychological burdens we go through in this life gives us more tools to use in our writing.

In other words, when we know how to feel more, this gives us more colours in our palette.

We can experience anything without judgement, if we can let our ego fall away.

This book offers a compelling way to practice that: by opening up to a radical kind of pleasure. This book unexpectedly helped me go deeper in my scenes. I recommend it.

Sarah Selecky

Photo credit: Mike Kenneally on Unsplash.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something using one of these links, I may earn a commission. I only recommend books or products I trust.

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My five favourite shadow writing prompts.


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