Exploring the dark side.
The time has come to bring a close to this trilogy series. It has been a wild ride, a heart searing exploration, a healing journey and a deeply enlivening collaboration.
My final interview with Michaela Boehm on The Dark Side of Eroticism, which you’ll find below, really sparked a lot for me. I loved this dialogue, and so loved the depth and transparency that Michaela brought to our discussion on sex, death, polarity and intimacy.
Discussions of sex and eroticism in a postmodern world are always difficult, complex and they can often feel a bit like walking through a mine field in regards trying to integrate and discriminate the many perspectives on these issues in a skillful and compassionate way.
I’ve written extensively on the topic of sexuality and eroticism in many other publications, most notably in my recently published article, Undressing Sex: Re-Imagining the Art of Female Eroticism, which was both a vulnerable exploration into my own shadows around sexuality, as well as an inquiry into what empowered eroticism might mean in our contemporary times.
Since I delved very deeply into these topics for that recent article, I won’t be going in-depth into another exploration of eroticism here, but rather will point people to that article for further in-depth exploration on some of these issues if they are interested.
I will say that my dialogue with Michaela also did take the inquiry a step deeper for me, by speaking to the unique engaged relationship between Eros and Thanatos—the interaction of our life force and death drive.
In thinking of my own journey, the interplay and pull of these two poles of Eros and Thanatos have certainly been very powerful and potent in my life. I’m an intensely creatively driven person, and being in relationship with what I experience as a deeply erotic, artistic and ever innovative energy (what some call Eros) is the anchor of my existence.
It’s what gets me up in the morning; it’s what I live for, and its what turns me on at the deepest level. When in the creative flow, my art becomes me. I merge with the art process much like the feeling of losing boundaries that can occur in the act of full-bodied, hot-blooded and heart-surrendering sexual intimacy.
I’ve also always been deeply attracted to the dark side and carried a fascination with death as a counterpoint to my creative passionate drive toward life, and that darker side has always carried its own erotic element.
Bringing together these two poles of Eros and Thanatos, both the creative erotic and the dark chaotic and destructive elements of existence, has been an ongoing life practice for me as an artist, filled with shadows, fuck ups and deep dives into the unknown. But I do know that my life would not be as full as it is if it weren’t for my engagement with the extremes of this light and dark polarity in my life.
As Michaela so eloquently points out in our dialogue, our capacity for light is intertwined and dependent on how much darkness we can touch. Like an artistic bandwidth, our ability to engage all the musical notes of existence makes us a fuller and more conscious human being. I would also argue that our ability to see and embody the full spectrum of energy from light to dark makes us a lot more flexible, compassionate and fearless in how we can show up in the world and with others.
Of course, I’m not advocating that we play out our dark energies in unconscious or naive ways. That is the edge that must be attended to through this entire inquiry. As was reiterated in my dialogues with all three of my guests for this series, we need to pay attention to our foundations, build strong boundaries for ourselves, and do the healing work necessary so that our deeper explorations into the dark side can be as conscious, sober and transformative as possible.
I also acknowledge that there is always the potential of risk involved in this inquiry no matter how much we try to “prepare” or frame or contain it with consciousness. Because there is always an element of the dark side that is uncontrollable, chaotic and unpredictable—that is both it’s danger and it’s gift. Thus why supportive friends and communities that know the territory of these depths well are always of service to us if we choose to expand our conscious reach into the darker realms.
I hope that my writings and my interviews thus far have offered some new food for thought on the multifaceted nature of the dark side within culture, and that they have also supported and encouraged others to engage more deeply with all aspects of who we are as both spiritual and full-bodied human beings, and I hope you enjoy this final interview on the Dark Side of Eroticism as much as I did.
The Dark Side of Eroticism: An Exploration of Sex, Death & The Polarity of Intimacy
With Michaela Boehm
In the following dialogue, Michaela Boehm and I explore a rich and intimate discussion on the complex territory of death and eroticism.
We engage a provocative and illuminating inquiry into the darker sides of sexuality and eroticism, as they show up in the form of pathology and provocation in our personal lives as well as in the larger collective culture. We also explore how we can recognize and work with the energetic polarities of both Eros and Thanatos in a skillful and discerning way.
Michaela Boehm is among one of the most gifted counselors and teachers to be found globally today. Dedicated to Women’s expression and growth, she has been leading Women’s Groups for the last 13 years.
Born and raised in Austria, Michaela received two degrees in Psychology from the University of Vienna and received further extensive training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Hypnosis, NLP, and Yoga. Michaela began studying with David Deida in 1997, and in 2007 began co-teaching with him, focusing on Women’s practices and empowerment in the 21st Century. Michaela is currently the only counselor in the world personally trained and authorized by David Deida. For more information about Michaela and her work, visit her website.
You can listen to this dialogue here.
Editor: Carolyn Gilligan