Embracing your dark side will make you happier
By Jordan Myska Allen, who knows how to be happy. You can read more about him here.
At this point in history almost all educated westerners are aware of the fact that human beings have subconscious motivations affecting our decisions. We recognize that humans often repress negative emotions, thereby splitting off a piece of ourselves and creating a “dark side.” Yet the public knowledge of what this unconscious shadow is, and how to deal with it, is sorely lacking.
The Lie of Whole Humans (or, Human Developmental Lines)
First, we make the mistake of believing that a person is one whole being. We see someone who’s a physics whiz and are confused as to why they’re not socially adept. We’re surprised when a skilled political leader is caught in a sex scandal. I’m not longer surprised: Humans are a complex jumble of different lines of intelligence, from cognitive, emotional, kinesthetic, sexual, moral, interpersonal, spiritual, and everything in between. Science shows us these developmental lines follow general patterns but do not necessarily influence each other—therefore it’s not unusual to be a highly evolved person in some areas of life and not in others.
It’s not such a big deal if we’re surprised by the news of another political scandal by a gifted orator (high interpersonal development, low moral development), but it IS a big deal if we fail to recognize the imbalances within ourselves. Without acknowledging different intelligences, we’re blind to the possibility of evolving the less developed aspects of our selves. Oftentimes, these lines are what we think of as our “Dark Side.”
Instead, if we recognize that despite our college education (high cognitive development) or ability to connect with God/Enlightenment (high spiritual development), we still have repressed our sexual self-expression, we’ll find a solution in the sexual line instead of in our analytical thinking (cognitive) or spiritual practices. Try to solve sexual problems with the mind or spirit just won’t do the trick—look at the political and religious scandals and you’ll know what I mean. (These are just examples, and you could trade out any of the lines for any of the others and see the same imbalances).
It’s Impossible to Get Rid of Your Dark Side
The second mistake we make about the dark side is thinking that we have to get rid of it. The problem with this type of thinking is that it’s impossible.
Developmental psychology has shown us that every time we move to a more complex stage, we transcend but also INCLUDE the previous development stage. When you learn to run, you never forget how to walk or crawl. Even though you may spend most of your life running, the capacity for crawling is always there and waiting for the right moment to be utilized.
Similarly, what we in Western Society call “the Dark Side” is often just sheer self-expression. Pure egotism. The desire for power and dominion. This is a part of each person’s development, and can be expressed in healthy or unhealthy ways. For example—conquering and killing another group of people through war versus conquering another group of people through sports. For example, getting wasted at work and driving home versus getting wasted at Mardi Gras and taking a cab.
When we try to solely repress this aspect of ourselves—an aspect which will NEVER go away—we hide it and let it determine when, where, and how it will be expressed. Instead we need to create safe spaces for healthy expression of this egotism, so that we have control over when, where, and how they come to light. I think that contact sports, Mardi Gras, legal pornography, bloody horror movies, punk rock, and tailgating are all examples of healthy ways to express this part of our humanity. I think street fights, drinking until you black out, child or torture pornography, drug abuse, domestic violence, and short-term self-interest only financial power moves that end up screwing over a lot of people are examples of unhealthy ways to express this aspect of ourselves. But in order to stop these, we have to give ourselves more space to healthily express our egos. We need times, places, and structure where people can be total assholes without hurting anyone else, including themselves, whether it’s through art, partying (Vegas anyone?), or wrestling.
Invite Your Dark Side to Play
The point here is that the dark side is not going away, and trying to make it go away just forces it into the deep recesses of our mind where we have no say in how it comes to light. Instead, shine a purposeful light on it and invite your dark side to play. Carl Jung apparently locked himself in his room for an hour or so every night and let himself be entirely crazy. He wrote it all down in a red book. No one could interrupt, no matter how mad he seemed to be. At the same time, when that hour was over he was back to normal, no matter what. He knew that whenever something arose throughout the day, he’d have a safe space to express it, and he knew it wouldn’t take over his life because that space had a finite limit of time.
I recommend that we all create this in our own lives. It doesn’t have to be as extreme as Carl Jung—in fact it should be specifically tailored to our own personal lines of development and personal preferences. I’m happy to help readers figure out what that is for themselves, given their own psychological state and history, in a consultation (click over to jordanallen.net for more info), but the point is to find healthy, non-harmful ways to let yourself be YOU, to let yourself feel your emotions, regardless of how eccentric, shameful, or unjustified those emotions are.
Try Jung’s practice. If you deal with anger, once a day lock your door and set a timer for 30 minutes. You get to be fully angry during this time. Punch pillows, write angry letters, scream and yell, whatever. But you have to stop when the 30 minutes is up. If you get angry later that night, save it for the next day’s 30 minutes. Creating this safe space will give you permission to fully feel what you feel, and give yourself permission not to feel it when it’s inappropriate (at work, at a little league game).
Experiment with a couple practices, and let us know how it goes. Embrace your Dark Side—it’s not ever going away. Just do it in a healthy way, making sure it causes no harm.