The Power of Darkness and How to Face Your Own Shadow

Your darkest place is where your treasure is buried. What do I mean by that? We all have a positive side and a negative side, our light and our darkness. That duality is a force of nature. Look at nature, there is death from which comes rebirth. There is destruction, always followed by rebuilding. The tides go up and down, the poles are positive and negative, what goes up must come down. Neither is better or worse, neither is good or evil. We all live in duality, and to be balanced we all have to accept all of our nature, our positive and negative side, our male and female energies, the lightness and the darkness of our being.

People who can come to terms with their duality are considered to be balanced. Those who cannot accept, or those who reject one aspect of themselves pretending they only have a feminine side, or only a positive side are out of balance. By rejecting their masculine energy, or pretending to be always enlightened, refusing to face the duality of their nature, they are killing an aspect of themselves, or coming out of balance. Balance and imbalance are two states of being we are all always in. When we feel balanced, we feel healthy, we feel flow, things are progressing, we are meshing with other balanced people. And when we are imbalanced, our behavior shows it. Even when we can’t admit it, other people know it, something about that person’s flow appears to be constipated :).

Most of us are taught to reject our opposite side. Women are taught to reject their masculine side to appear more attractive and favorable to men, and males are taught to reject their feminine side, so they don’t get labeled as gay, metrosexual, weak. When each sex has rejected their opposite side, both partners are imbalanced, each person is only a half of their wholeness, and they connect from a place where they now have to complete each other. That woman who cannot take charge of herself, cannot figure out how to pay her bills, will invest heavily into her femininity, become docile, passive, dependent on a man who has rejected his feminine side. He has suppressed his emotions in order to appear dominant, aggressive, a bread-winner, a successful male. They own each other. He owns her livelihood, while she owns his masculinity. They feed each other whatever the other needs, and that is called codependence or a traditional relationship. Each wants to fulfill a role, and they trade based on meeting each other’s needs, playing an appropriate part. As long as they play along perfectly without ever disappointing the other, the relationship appears to be working. They are in a contract: you always make me feel like a real man, and I will give you whatever it takes to make you feel like a real woman. They trade emotions, security, jewelry, assets, narcissistic supply, social standing, flattery etc. Their arrangement can only go on as long as they are pleasing each other.

But how long can one person be at constant service to the other? At a certain point one fails to deliver, one falls a bit short, age happens, one person is more drained than the other, and the whole house of cards falls apart.

People who are in balance do their best to accept both of their sides. It isn’t easy, facing one’s darkness is a very painful process, most people manage to ignore it for a big chunk of their lives. Why explore my darkness when life is treating me well? Why do that painful work, why face my negativity? For most people, they only come face to face with their darkness when they have lost everything, or when mid-life crisis slaps them in the face, or an illness or depression plunges them into that place. No one wants to look at their shadow, no one wants to deal with those aspects of themselves they have suppressed, erased, swept under the rug, until dealing with it is a matter of survival. In that moment you only have three choices: Deal with it by facing it, take drugs to make the bad feelings go away, or end it all, which is unfortunately how a lot of people deal with having to face themselves.

I don’t want to write about depression. I have been in it, faced it, but it is a loaded subject almost always critiqued by those who have never experienced it. Let’s leave the subject on the side and talk about facing our dark side. We all have it, it is that side of us we refuse to acknowledge, we hide from others, it is our negative reactions, our fears, our hate, or jealousy, our rage, our pain, all those blows to our ego, that wounded animal, that icky place no one wants to look at. That is our dark side, and it is responsible for at least half of our reality and the results we get in life. If you don’t deal with it, shit will continue to happen, and you will continue to not be responsible for it. How does that serve you?

There are countless ways to deal with those aspects of us. Choose the method that you believe in the most. If you like therapy, work with a qualified professional. If you are spiritual, you could meditate, talk to a spiritual advisor, or work on yourself. But you must explore your own depths, understand your own patterns, motives, self-destruction, find the source of your rage, who are you really angry at? I’ll give you a clue: the answer is always you. If you come out of your process concluding that other people have hurt you, and that you are the victim of unfortunate circumstances, I assure you, you have not faced yourself, you saw what you wanted to see. You have only found a person or a circumstance to blame. When life starts to go on, your pattern will repeat itself, you will still sabotage your own life, the cycle will go on and on until there is no one left to blame. 

What treasure lies in your darkness?  You buried it there decades ago. It is those aspects of yourself you couldn’t face, your ego would not allow you to admit, your guilt, your shame, your lies, your mask, and all those things have been stuffed carefully and locked in your mental abyss. Why would you want to open that ugly Pandora’s box?

I found that answer a few years ago, when I got triggered into a situation with a man, and I couldn’t understand my own automatic behavior. I was responding to his toxic trigger by self sabotage, rage, self-deprecation, approval seeking- all those things I warn women never to do, I was doing to myself. I was on auto-pilot acting out feelings I had buried thirty years ago. It took repeated patters with this man to make me realize that I had dug a deep hole decades ago, and buried that experience, those horrible feelings and those memories because I never wanted to look at them again. But, had I faced them, I could have learned how to effectively work with those feelings like an adult today. This man simply made me remember an issue I had refused to deal with in my youth, and our continuing pattern of toxic behavior was calling my attention it.

Thirty years ago I had a very painful experience. I wasn’t mature enough to deal with. It was horrible, agonizing, gross, icky, so I killed it. I pulled the trigger and I was never going to deal with that bad feeling again. What I didn’t realize is that I killed one aspect of myself. Now there was a dead body on the floor, a rotten corpse I didn’t want to acknowledge, so I dug a deep hole in the ground. The hole was deep enough that no one could ever see that version of me, especially not me. In my darkest hour I would still not be able to find it. I filled the hole with dirt, a heavy pile of rocks, and topped it off with a boulder, just to make sure that corpse will never move.

There I was a few years ago, wondering how this man managed to trigger me into seemingly out of character behavior, making me act out my darkest fears. I asked myself in meditation, what is this fear? What am I really afraid of? What part of me hurts? What am I acting out really? What am I trying to prove to this man? The clues lied in that dead version of me I buried years ago. Yes, I buried a version of me that was not okay, that was deeply flawed, that was weak, that was dependant on approval, that was ashamed of being who she is, that was embarrassed of her own feelings, that was not good enough, that was highly imbalanced. I didn’t like that me, so I killed her and hid her in a dark grave. The only way I could learn how to deal with this man and the situation I was in now, was to study my own corpse. I had to go back to that old version of me, understand all her weaknesses, motives, all that pain had to be dug up because I never bothered to deal with it nor understand it before.

It was a painful process, but there is a lot of power in our darkness. All our answers lie in graves we dug for ourselves a long time ago. We have to be willing to go there, to talk to those old versions of ourselves, face the bad feelings we couldn’t deal with before, because our power is becoming okay with that person we rejected. In analyzing that old version of me, I understood that at that age I did the best that I could under the circumstances. Those rotten feelings were natural for an animal that has been wounded. We all have more sympathy for a wounded animal than we have for ourselves. Give yourself some sympathy. I started to understand that past version of me, I started to like her, I saw strength in her.

She was young and inexperienced but she still had courage to do what was necessary to protect herself at the time. She did the best she could. Those icky feelings she buried were a mix of sharp stabbing pain, fear, guilt, shame, self-loathing. I faced all those bad feelings, and became okay with them. They were appropriate for the situation, just left undealt. Now was my time to work with them. I talked to myself the way I would talk to any woman in need: with sympathy, kindness, understanding, encouragement, wisdom, and then empowerment. I sat with her in that darkness for months, it was a hideous place to be, but I held her hand and I knew that she will be okay.

The longer I stayed in that painful, ugly place, the less threatening it seemed. There is nothing here that I haven’t seen before. Darkness is a comfortable place when you start to accept your own flawed company. I also became okay with those rotten feelings. As I worked through them, and gained an understanding, they seemed to dissipate. Over time, I saw the real me, that actual version of me that I refused to look at for years. She was looking more okay each day. In fact there was nothing ugly there at all. She just accepted bad feelings and carried them with her until she could no longer stand under her own weight.

My power came the day I realized that I in all versions of me are totally okay with me. I am actually awesome, intelligent, powerful, logical, balanced, super strong, assertive, dominant, kind, empathic, and I have the ability to see. This is something I hid for many years, but I see beyond what is not there, I read people like an open book, I can smell your cancer. I have been suppressing that most powerful aspect of me, because other people hated my ability to see them as they are, so I felt hideous for mirroring aspects of themselves they refused to look at. I am okay with my opinions of you, I am okay with speaking out, I am okay expressing myself, I am okay with you not liking me for it, I am okay being dominant and bigger than weak people, I won’t apologize for it. I am okay, I am okay, I am okay with all aspects of me. It was like lighting struck me, and light lit up my whole world. This is what I have been hiding? My strength? I will never feel ashamed for it again!

Don’t be fooled. As powerful as this experience was for me, there is always more work to be done. Your work on your darkness is never over. If you are balanced, you will always be in duality. Darkness is not a mess you have to clean up, it is your shadow, it doesn’t go away when you start scrubbing. Accept it, and learn how to work in that place. Your power is at the bottom of that abyss you are so afraid to look into. All your answers are right there for you to uncover. There are many flawed versions that you have buried. There are many graves in your abyss. If you operate from a place of ego, you have an entire graveyard to dig up because you haven’t found acceptance for even one version of yourself. Okay, accept that, roll up your sleeves and start digging.

Treasure is always buried in the darkest place. You want personal power? You have to face your own darkness, conquer your own fears, and slay your own dragons. What you’ll find in that darkest place is that fear doesn’t exist at all, it is just how you feel about your own shadow. And monsters don’t exist, what you have been afraid of is facing yourself. The most powerful lesson I learned in that place is what Machiavelli said: fear nothing. Fear is nothing, there is nothing to fear. Fear doesn’t exist at all.

S

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