By Melba Black, PhD
FINDING WHERE OUR DARK SIDE LIVES
What if you knew that the way to access the very best in yourself—the light side of your humanity—was to face your darkness? What if you knew that your greatest power could be found in the parts of yourself that you believed to be the most shameful or powerless?
One of the most powerful turning points in becoming conscious comes when we begin to understand the shadow as a great teacher, one that serves as an integral part of our psyche rather than an enemy to outrun. No matter how fast we try to run, our shadow not only follows us but is a part of us that we always carry within. In darkness, it waits for the light of our own awareness—to be seen, heard, understood, and embraced.
To start the process of integrating with your darker side, you must first understand where it lives. The road to the shadow is found by discovering your (its) projections, and learning how these projections are working to manifest the reality you experience. The reality is the same for us all, but how you experience it is unique to you.
According to Jungian John Conger, projections come from the “character armor” generated from the body and heart as a protection mechanism to defend those parts of you that have been hurt, unloved, and judged. This armor is something that has been built around you due to specific programming during childhood and carries over to adulthood. You are defending something that has already happened in the past or something you project into the future based on past events. These projections are outgrowths of unintegrated events or feelings from the past and they will remain your story as long as your past hurts remain unhealed.
BECOMING CONSCIOUSLY AWARE OF OUR SHADOW SELF
How do you recognize when you are projecting? Pay attention to when you are comparing yourself to others competitively and judgmentally. Codependency is another way you project, along with the need to control everything in your life, especially in relationships. It is so much easier to project your fears and negative traits onto others than to work on those inner aspects of yourself that are scary and painful. However, in doing so, you become free of those parts that no longer have a hold on you.
As you learn to accept and care for the once-rejected parts of yourself, an extraordinary thing happens: they become your allies. It is attending to difficult or darker aspects that allows you to grow and evolve into your best self. Learning to dialogue with the shadow helps to diminish its power. Making peace with the shadow gives you access to the wisdom that it holds for you at its core.
Accepting your shadow allows you to take responsibility for yourself. Acknowledging these dark traits instead of avoiding them stops them from having control over you. A whole and balanced self is a reconciliation of all parts, an inner unification. It is not an indulgence of the darker parts of your nature, but an acceptance and direct experience of them in the light of mindful awareness and deep honesty.
TRY THIS EXERCISE
- List the qualities that you dislike in others.
- Take each quality and see if you have demonstrated that
quality. Be honest.
- Just by bringing these traits to your awareness and owning these parts of yourself, integration will begin.
- Ask spirit and/or your Higher self to assist you in recognizing when the traits manifest in reality.
- Love and forgive those aspects of you, which will allow love, peace, joy, and lightness to come into your innermost self.
As you do this for yourself, you will find it easier to forgive and love others.
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.
“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he represents anger, envy, sorry, regret, greed, arrogance, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, kindness, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside of you, and inside of every other person too.”
The grandson asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replies, “The one you feed.”