Lynn Cox

Which would you rather be blind or deaf?

Lynn Cox and her guide dog.

Lynn Cox is part of Sync Intensives 2011/12, and an artist, trainer and coach in the creative sector. Her article here is on the power of darkness.

I’ve always found it fascinating how non-disabled people are disturbed by the question “Which would you rather be blind or deaf?”.

Personally, I think there are fabulous advantages to either because both blind and deaf people have their own unique ways of perceiving and sensing the world around them.

Being visually impaired has been a privilege for me. I’ve learn to recognise the size of a room by the echo, learnt not to worry if I’ve just missed the bus which I couldn’t see waiting at the stop, I can still mentally picture any scene and not worry if I have some details wrong, and I can definitely smell out any cuisine of food from 3 metres away.

So why do sighted people hate the idea of blindness - or as they naively believe darkness?

The definition of Dark doesn’t just mean without light, or much light, but also as the additional meanings of gloomy, concealed or secretive, stemming from evil characteristics or forces (sinister), without knowledge or culture (ignorant), sullen or threatening, and difficult to understand (obscure). None of these additional meanings are positive; all have become synonymous to fear, evil and death.

The dark, the dark

cartoon eyes in the dark.

However, these idioms for darkness have not just miraculously manifested themselves from nowhere. The origins relating to the fear of darkness go right back to prehistory when anything uncertain could be considered as a threat to survival and had to be appeased (one of the original forces creating religion; good and evil). Over the millennia, these notions of good and evil were adopted by all religions, therefore, reinforcing our negative idea of darkness.

Our cultural references have also been filtered through the adverse imagery of darkness. In western culture authors such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Conrad, Tolkein and Golding varyingly dwell on notions of Satan, darkness and evil

In addition, these emotionally in-built fears of darkness are heightened by our post-enlightenment thrill produced from anything gothic. My personal favourites date from ‘The Castle of Otranto’ (1764), through to the classics of ‘Frankenstein’ (1818) and ‘Dracula’ (1897) through to the more modern cult horror Film series such as ‘Halloween’, ‘Friday 13’ and ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’.

Therefore, it is no surprise that our natural psychological response to darkness is highly emotional with cerebral fears that scare us on a conscious and unconscious level.

Using the dark

a candle in the dark

However, I have discovered that darkness can be utilised as a positive element to enable people to get out of their comfort zones and experience events and activities anew. Perhaps, darkness can even acquaint people with an aspect of themselves that they didn’t realise existed.

For the past 18 months, I’ve been employed on a freelance basis by Dialogue in the Dark, a German Social Enterprise company, who utilise the positive attributes that darkness can produce in the form of environmental exhibitions (replicating outdoor and indoor scenes in the dark) and by running executive business workshops (where darkness is used as a tool within communication, diversity, leadership and adapting to change exercises).

From working in over 20 of these workshops with approximately 250 people entering the dark, I’ve only had 2 people have to leave the completely dark room. I was initially amazed that so many people could overcome their original instincts to get back into the familiar world of light. This only goes to show how many of us can cope in unusual situations when we are required to do so.

Feel the wobble - and do it any way

a cartoon weeble - an egg shaped creature that wobbles but doesn't fall down.

About 30% of people really enjoy the dark and find it liberating. Possibly, having more confidence to undertake tasks and take control of altering circumstances because they don’t feel they are being observed. The other 70% are nervous but learn to live with the discomfort; some people adapt very quickly in reducing their uneasiness, the majority operate very well in the slightly stressful situation, and a few people go quiet not wanting a voice.

What I have observed though, is that many people go through a ‘psychological wobble’, where they start to perform more effectively once the traumatic incidence of going into the darkness has been concord!

My own Vision for the Power of Darkness is to introduce exhibitions, coaching, co-coaching and professional development training packages in totally dark rooms to the UK arts and commercial sectors.

So if anyone knows of any rooms that can be easily made completely dark, maybe windowless rooms, then please let me know!

My premise is that by embracing the power of darkness, it allows us all to overcome some of our conscious, and unconscious, bête noir’s and to give them a big cuddle! Releasing us to adapt and adopt change within our lives as the norm, not the exception.

I know that the original question at the top of this article “Which would you rather be blind or deaf?”, is complete nonsense, because our lives are what they are, and what we make of our experiences enriches ourselves and those around us.

So why not take a plunge into darkness?

To contact Lynn Cox

Phone: 07818 437 651