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I am a localization manager/translator and intercultural consultant living in Berlin (Germany), passionate about languages, cultures, diversity management, dancing and good movies.  

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Sunday, March 13, 2016

The dark forest one should be aware of, or the only way to become an adult that's really worth it

What does a long, unexplained silence mean?
Which misunderstandings could be fatal for any kind of relationship with friends, colleagues and loved ones?
How good do we think to know someone else?

The heart of another is a dark forest, always, no matter how close it has been to one’s own. 
Wilella Sibert Cather
better known as Willa Cather [1873-1947]

I know for sure that in the past I have been more than once presumptuous enough to believe that I knew people very well and that I would have been able to understand the reasons of their behavior or their statements without them having to talk to me or to explain to me why they were doing or saying certain things or why they were...
not doing and saying anything at all, while being somehow missing in action even if officially nothing bad has happened between us.

[How dark and scary is your own forest?]

Over the years I had to learn the hard way that the heart and the feelings of others are, like in this touching quote by Willa Cather, a dark and unknown forest that one can decide to go through, at her own risk and yet without the absolute certainty of getting through with it. And without the absolute certainty of not getting crashed and burned in the process.

People can be incredible and warm and welcoming and helpful and friendly and charming and open and funny.
And they can also lie, cheat, mislead, mistreat, hurt, let one down, disappear without a word. Without their forest being lighten up by a ray of light, by compassion, by empathy. And yet, it is their own forest and it is impossible for someone else to really know why or to change the situation from the outside.
Are we brave enough to try anyway to deal with people, to let them in, to be all in even if that dark forest is maybe waiting for us already and we are worried and afraid, like Little Red Riding Hood in the famous folktale published, among others, by Charles Perrault and the Grimm Brothers?

I wonder how many people I've looked at all my life and never seen.
John Steinbeck [1902-1968]

[Little Red Riding Hood in the forest 
by Marceline Danousha]

Entering a dark forest is a fundamental quest present in a lot of classical faibles and fairy tales, like Vladimir Propp showed for the first time over eighty years ago in his books Morphology of the tale and later on also in Historical Roots of the wonder tale.
The hero, in order to succeed in his initiation journey, has to leave a safe and familiar environment and to enter the forest, where he will eventually find something or someone, for either completing a specific task or acquiring a new skill and then... he will have to come back, as proof of his talents, his courage, his survival and at the same time his metaphorical rebirth.

In that perspective, the forest represents our fears, our insecurities, our doubts, and what I like to call our "demons".

[Little Red Riding Hood... reloaded: 
Bryce Dallas Howard as Ivy Walker 
in The Village (2004) by M. Night Shyamalan, 
original and underrated movie about love, fear and courage]

What could one meet, in that dark forest?
The bad feelings that we try to avoid and to deny.
The painful emotions that we would love to forget and to talk down.
The sad memories that could torment us.
The not so perfect sides of ourselves that we prefer to ignore.
The things we are not proud of. The failures, the mistakes, the false steps.
The situations that we are not able to handle in the way we would like to.
And so on.

We’re all so afraid of being judged. Part of being civilized is that we’re supposed to be grown-ups and be in control of our emotions, but we’re not. We’re children. We’re selfish children, and we’re socialized and conditioned to act like responsible adults.
Ben Dickinson


Accepting the challenge of entering a dark forest and completing the related tasks - going for the danger and being able to survive and to take advantage of the experience and of the new skills acquired through the process, like in the metaphors used in the fairy tales - represents one difficult and therefore so important and necessary step that one should take, in order to conquer her own fears and weak spots. 
In order to become an adult not only from a physical point of view, but also from an emotional one. 

Being vulnerable, letting someone in, accepting that the other will partially remain a mystery and that she could leave and fail us is not easy. And very often it hurts like hell. 
But I am afraid that there is no other way. At least not another one worth it.

How about your own dark forest?

Tags: Morphology of the tale, Initiation journey, Dark forest, Being vulnerable, Relationships, Quotes, The Village, Little Red Riding Hood

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