Today I want to talk about our dark sides. You know what I'm talking about, that side of you that you try to hide, pretend it's not there, don't dare show to other people. Ring any bells? This can run the gamut from hiding a bad habit or a specific part of our personality to repressing a traumatic past or an addiction we're struggling with, maybe ways we've hurt others. Either way, the issue here is that we refuse to put our guard down, allowing others to see us for who we truly are and sometimes, we actually hide these parts of ourselves so well that we don't even see them ourselves.
So, why is this a bad thing? We all hide things from people and show them only the parts that we choose, right? While I think many people do this to some extent, the shame in hiding part of yourself is the message behind it. What you're telling yourself while hiding is that your entire being isn't worthy enough to be accepted or loved by others. The bigger meaning underlying hiding our dark side is the problem here. It ends up leading to shame and a cycle of lying to others and ourselves.
Personally, I used to be in this deep. I had quite a few things about my past and the state of my mental health that I didn't even want to accept myself, and I certainly refused to let people in to those parts of me. I even pushed them out of my own consciousness, because it was too painful to face. But, here's what I've come to learn throughout the years:
First, everyone is capable of both good and bad. We all have skeletons in our closets and have had moments where we look back and know that wasn't our best selves.
Second, the definition of good and bad is subjective. What I mean by this is that each person defines good and bad differently. We think that there is a universal moral code, but really there's not. It's defined by each persons own moral compass and life experiences. What might be considered absolutely shameful and disgusting to me might actually be considered a good thing to someone else.
To make this concept easier to understand, take this example: Let's say someone comes up to me and starts yelling at me, cursing, spitting in my face. I feel threatened and angry, so I punch them in the face. One person might think that was the wrong thing to do, that I should have just walked away or called for help. However, someone else might interpret this as being a good way to handle it, that I stood up for myself and showed others they can't disrespect me. It's all relative to my own experiences and interpretations of good and bad.
Lastly, when I show my whole self to others, it immediately shows me who is worthy of being in my life. If someone decides to shame me or not be a part of my life because of something that has happened in the past or for something I'm struggling with, they weren't meant to be in my life in the first place. Showing your whole self to others will quickly show you who is going to stick by your side for the long haul and who will love you no matter what. Those are the people I want to hold onto.
When you open yourself up to both others and yourself, it will likely be challenging in the beginning as you'll need to weed through the shame you've built up around your dark side. But, once you've worked through it, you'll likely experience a heightened sense of compassion and love for both yourself and others. When you're capable of truly loving yourself, regardless of your past or future, you open yourself up to being able to fully love and understand others. And, who doesn't want that!? Making friends with your dark side actually frees you up for love, compassion, and understanding...how amazing is that!?
So, how do you do this? Since this might be a really challenging experience and take some time, I highly recommend finding someone who you can open up with and work through the shame and any other emotions tied to your dark side.
For me, that was a therapist. Therapy is beautiful in the sense that this person is separated from your daily life, and their job is to be an objective, non-judgmental mirror for you to explore yourself. Once I opened up in therapy and worked through the deep emotions tied to my past, I was able to grapple with my demons, heal, and begin to come out of the shadow I had been hiding behind. Once I truly understood and loved myself, I could start opening up to my loved ones and friends. This quickly showed me who I could trust to be understanding and non-judgmental, which is the type of people I want most in my life.
Keep in mind that this is not a quick process. It took me a long time, as in years, to work through a lot of the things I hid most from myself, and it's always a work in progress. Once you've found your person, then comes the really hard part of beginning to work through what all lives in your dark side. This is going to require you to dig deep, open yourself up completely, and be totally honest with yourself and this other person.
It's so much more than recognizing your dark side, seeing it, then requiring it to heal itself and be gone from your life. Oh no, that's just remaining stuck and refusing to accept what all lives there. That's actually just continuing the pattern of denial. You're going to have to actually welcome that part of you into your space, give it its own special corner, and begin to fully understand what makes that part of you tick. We call this befriending in therapy, and it's all about exploring this part of you in order to truly understand it...only then can the healing begin.
One of the exercises I did during my time in therapy was to make a list of all the things that I hid in my dark side, list out all the things I kept locked away. With my list in hand, I read it out loud to my therapist, then later to myself, over and over until it didn't seem as scary and horrible as I once thought it was. That was probably one of the most difficult things I've ever done, but it was absolutely what I needed to open myself up and start healing.
If you decide to take this on, take time for yourself throughout the process. Find time each day to journal about the process, your thoughts, emotions. Make yourself a priority and practice some serious self-care. Make time for the things that help you feel good during this challenging time, and any challenging time for that matter. It'll be incredibly tough and know that there is love and acceptance waiting for you on the other side of the mountain. Keep trekking, have your people by your side, and take breaks when you get tired.
You have everything you need to heal already inside you. You've been what you needed all along.