It’s only by spotting your shadow when you see the direction of light.
(anonymous internet quote)
We’re human beings, and our structure is made from both light and dark. This is one of the most important things we need to accept about our own nature. Each part plays its role and ignoring any of them could lead to unpredictable results (metaphorically speaking). This is why accepting your dark side, as counterintuitive as it seems, may be more useful than you think.
What Is Your Dark Side?
We all know what is light in your life. Even if it takes different names or is described in different concepts, we all actually know when something is making us shine. Those are the things we thrive for our entire life. But what is the dark side in you? It’s the opposite of the stuff you like? Not really. In fact, the dark side of your persona is often a rejected and ignored pile of emotions, situations and phobias that you try to forget with all your power.
Your dark side is what you hate the most in yourself. It’s your fear of failure, it’s your extreme shyness or your sexual compulsion. Or maybe a drug or alcohol addiction or an aggressive way of dealing with your closest family and friends.
The dark side is also what you hate most in others. Every time a person is making you nuts, it’s because that person touched a very delicate part of your dark side. If somebody suddenly puts you in a depressed state by talking about his parents, it’s because you have a very bad situation with your own parents. If you spot a beggar walking in front of you with an image of poverty and suddenly you start to feel the chill about your bank account it’s because that person revealed in you the fear from scarcity.
At some level, your dark side is also the general conception about ugliness. If you’re bald, for instance, and you feel somehow guilty and rejected because of this, it’s because the general opinion is that baldness is something really ugly. The same goes for overweight people or for extremely tall or short persons.
Why Accepting Your Dark Side?
The general approach toward the darkside is to “fight it”. From older religion to modern counseling techniques, you are supposed to “kill the anxiety”, to “destroy the enemy within” or to “have a victory upon yourself”. This is strange. Because, if you really think at it, it’s a destructive approach. It makes you split your persona in two: the right and the wrong. You can’t really be mentally or spiritually split, unless you suffer from severe schizophrenia.
The acceptance, on the other hand, has some really interesting advantages.
First of all, when you accept that you do have a dark side and that is part of you, all the energy that you spent fighting it, will suddenly be available for other purposes. You can start to build on your shiny part if you want, because you have an extra energy boost. You don’t need to fight anymore, just by accepting that you are who you are, you will have access to a new source of personal power. You just took some raw power from your regular “I am not this person, I can’t be that bad” sentences that you say to yourself, and used it in another part of your life. Like taking a walk, for example.
Second, when you totally accept yourself, you make a big step toward inner completion, or integrity. I don’t use the term integrity in its moral sense, but in the sense of “whole”-ness. Acting with integrity means acting with all your being, not necessarily following some moral code. Following a specific moral code should be a personal decision, but you can make that decision with integrity, with all your being. Keeping yourself mentally separated in images like: “I am a good person for doing this, but I am a bad person because I have this shopping compulsion” will lead you to a state of constant fatigue, if not illness. We’re not designed to act in a fragmented way, we’re supposed to act as a whole unique person, with good and bad parts.
And third, if you start accepting your dark side, you set a fresh starting point, a baseline. Now I know: “I’m not only this nice, respectable person, but I am also this shy and sad person who fears social contacts. So? This is me, and I know now where I start and where I end. I established my whole territory now. You can accept me or not, but I know that I accepted myself, and that’s ok.”
How Can You Accept Your Dark Side?
Of course, in real life, it’s not that easy. You can’t just wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and say to yourself: “ok, I do have a dark side, I will just have a nice day now”. It never happens like this. To accept your dark side, well, it takes courage and energy. It takes time also. And it takes more than one try, that’s for sure.
How can you start it? A good insertion point would be to start identifying your reactions to the stuff you don’t like. Let’s say you watch a movie and suddenly you feel depressed. Identify the context: was because the main character in the movie was left by his girlfriend? Ok, so it was fear of being abandoned. Try to observe each situation in which your emotions are running crazy and give a name to that situation. It’s difficult in the beginning because emotions are so power-hungry that you will have so little energy left for observation. But it can be done, it only takes some discipline.
Soon you’ll realize that you have a limited number of really bad situations. Using those names you will start to actually depict each and every situation in its own words: “now I have a shopping compulsion, now I have an aggressive impulse”. Following that impulse or stopping it is not the question at this stage. But naming it and observing it, is. As a matter of fact, following or not the impulse is strictly a personal choice.
After this stage, try to prepend the word “accept” to those situations. You are probably now in the position to accurately identify all your “dark” contexts and use appropriate names for them, so all you have to do is to put “accept” before the names. So, the situation: “shopping compulsion” becomes “accept shopping compulsion”. I am sure that everybody got the idea now.
This is not an all-in-one technique for accepting your dark side, not even the most efficient one. I’m sure everybody may come with variations or even better techniques for starting to accept the inner dark side. I only try to describe what worked for me.
When Do I Know I Succeeded?
Basically, there isn’t such a moment. Like I already said, you can’t wake up in the morning and say: “aye, this is my dark side and I accept it”. Maybe the results will come in a different form. You may feel some sort of relaxation and some increase in the energy level. Or maybe you will start to feel relaxed in contexts were you used to be tensed.
One other symptom that you really started to accept yourself will be the “linearity” in your manifestations. Being it anger or joy, if you could sustain that feeling for longer periods than before, that is a sign that your person is starting to re-conciliate with itself.
And that is your real victory, and it was obtained only by consciously accepting yourself.
Feel free to share your opinions on this.