Expressing the grotesque: Darkness in fantasy

Expression is an often overlooked aspect of the self when it comes to anything perceived as negative or “dark”, especially in regards to the self, this is oft called “The shadow self,” in Jungian psychology. The fact is, anything psychologically that is repressed or ignored mutates in obscene and horrific ways and oftentimes outwardly manifests in much the same. Sexuality, violence, kink, deviance, atypical thought, hatred, resentment, lust, envy, negative feelings towards one’s self,  etc… are all natural but darker aspects of the self.

Anger and hatred are especially prevalent aspects, as they tend to mutate into other things, such as resentment, violence, and other deviations. If these things are not expressed in a positive way, they will manifest in a negative way and affect your life and the lives of those around you. There is a saying that if one has a wound, it’s best to treat it because if it’s ignored, it will bleed onto those around the wounded person.

While many try to repress and or ignore these aspects they harbor, it isn’t mentally healthy or conducive to good mental health overall. Creative expression is often the best means of outwardly expressing them, to keep these negative/dark aspects in line, safe, and healthy. Art, writing, poetry, music, and crafts, are productive means of expressing the dark aspects of self in a way that will illuminate those spaces while keeping them from growing into something destructive or otherwise harmful.

It is for this reason that many find a darker aesthetic appealing, along with media that has a darker tinge to it, and yet seemingly stand as normal, productive, and or peaceful individuals. Expression of that negative or darker element allows for it to come out in a way that is wholly beneficial, rather than exploding outwardly in a detrimental way or transforming into something far worse. Many very normal, compassionate, productive individuals are into music and aesthetics that people would think were subversive, odd, or extreme. 

Performative art, art, and music are especially prevalent in this form of darker expression, as they can immediately be experienced by the senses. Generally speaking, the more primal, raw, real, and visceral the creation, the better the outcome overall, this is due to the individual tapping directly into that subconscious darkness. When deviance is expressed in its extreme form through fantasy, especially via creative means, it helps to “get it out,” and keeps it from internally festering and becoming reality. 

The arts are especially powerful to express that darkness in fantasy, as it creates something from the psyche that can be revisited and recreated as needed. How often does art (in any branch) make someone feel uncomfortable and yet to others, it stirs in them something that attracts them all the same? In fact, this is common in musical genres such as extreme metal (and many others), the visual arts such as painting and sculpting, etcetera, whereas the art is purposefully created to offend the senses and batter the psyche in some way. 

When others relate to the grotesque or horrific expression, it creates a sense of acceptance and community among one another and can often be identified through some outwardly shared aesthetic. You can see this in music, especially where band shirts, attire, metal battle vests, and in some cases makeup can all be easily spotted by others as a sort of beacon of collective thought and welcome. 

This shared expression builds camaraderie and allows that fantasy to breed and spread, helping others to work through their darkness in a productive way. In the case of music, there are dozens of genres and subgenres that hold varying degrees of darkly emotive expression, each bearing something that individuals can relate to and work through knowing that others feel the same. This helps to also alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation, which when coupled with unexpressed darkness, can become a monstrous abnormality within the psyche of the individual. 

Many individuals will look different by society’s standards when they accept the expression of their darkest aspects, they will dress outwardly to reflect what is inward. The aesthetic also serves the dual role of impressing upon others the person’s individual preferences and will help in finding others of like mind. Yet again, some do not change their style of dress at all, electing to remain in the shadows in regards to their expression of their innermost darkness, purposefully choosing to be alone in it and or to disguise themselves for work or to blend into society. 

So long as the darkness is manifest through fantasy alone, and expressed in a productive and creative way, it is wholly beneficial to the mental well-being of the individual. While a change in personal aesthetics and expression may seem shocking to those around the individual, it isn’t anything to truly be worried about in most cases. Positively supporting the individual is in fact, more beneficial than rejecting and suspecting anything more sinister from them and can lead to a healthier relationship overall. 

One final word of note, age plays no role in any of this, from kids to adults, anyone at any time can begin to explore their inner darkness, and more often than not, it is not just a phase. Kids are often seen as “rebelling,” in this, but in fact, they are trying to deal with all of the newfound thoughts rampaging through their minds due to hormones and trying to find themselves. It could even be beneficial to undergo the exploration with your children, instead of alienating them with thoughts that it’s a rebellious phase or even something worse. 

This exploration by individuals of all ages can help to enrich life, make one feel more whole, and lend direction and clarity to the lives of those who do so. In exploring the shadow side of you, you essentially get to know who and what you are on a deeper and more meaningful level than repressing or ignoring it ever could.