Spiritual Study Series: Session #5 An Introduction to Personal Darkness
Everyone has a dark side. It's the part of us that rears it's ugly head when we've been hurt or frightened. It's the part of us that manipulates and coerces others into doing what we want them to do. It's the part of us that recognizes the differences in others and relishes in our superiority over them. It's the part of us that no one likes to admit to.
Renowned psychologist Carl Jung named this part of us 'the shadow'. He said 'to confront a person with his own shadow is to show him his own light. Once one has experienced a few times what it is like to stand judgingly between opposites, one begins to understand what is meant by the self. Anyone who perceives his shadow and his light simultaneously sees himself from two sides and thus gets in the middle'.
Psychologist Gerhard Adler said in his response to Erich Neumann's work in Depth Psychology: Thus what modern man needs most is an awareness of evil, and first of all evil within himself; of his own 'dark' inferior personality, his own shadow. This side has only too often and too easily been seen in 'projected' into, the other person - one way of satisfying the well-known need to find a scapegoat for one's own shortcomings. As a result we have split the world into 'good' and 'bad', superior and inferior nations, races, or individuals, with catastrophic consequences.
Dr. Neumann himself said: The shadow is the other side. It is our expression of our own imperfection and earthliness, the negative which is incompatible with the absolute values; it is our inferior corporeality in contradistinction to the absoluteness and eternity of a soul which 'does not belong to this world'. But it can also appear in the opposite capacity as 'spirit', for instance when the conscious mind only recognizes the material values of this life. The shadow represents the uniqueness and transitoriness of of our nature; it is our own state of limitation and subjection to the conditions of space and time. At the same time, however, it forms a part of the nuclear structure of our individuality.
Everyone wants to be understood; to be accepted and to know that they have a place in this world. No one wants to be left out or worse yet - singled out. No one wants to be the' black sheep' of the family or tribe, so people choose do whatever it takes to be accepted and be a part of the crowd.
There's a very famous experiment conducted at Yale University back in 1961 that revealed a person's willingness to inflict harm on another when that person believed what they were doing was for the greater good. Dr. Stanley Milgram, social psychologist and the author of the study, was astonished to learn how many people willingly went against their own conscious - their personal moral code - and inflicted pain on people they were told needed to 'learn something'. Of course there were a few who refused, but these folks - the ones who would challenge authority - the black sheep of the herd - are often ostracized, shamed and treated with incredible disrespect.
Sometimes, the majority are wrong.
Admitting to one's faults and imperfections isn't easy, but it honestly does lead to the light that Dr. Jung referred to. The fourth section of the fist chapter in A Course in Miracles is entitled: The Escape from Darkness. It states:
The escape from darkness involves two stages: First, the recognition that darkness cannot hide. This step usually entails fear. Second, the recognition that there is nothing you want to hide even if you could. This step brings escape from fear. When you have become willing to hide nothing, you will not only be willing to enter into communion but will also understand peace and joy.
Venturing into your own 'darkness' is really a journey into understanding your own self. If you aren't able to accept and then forgive the horrible things that you've said and done, how do you expect to accept and then forgive the horrible things others have said and done to you? One cannot give away what they don't first possess for themselves.
Empathy, compassion and understanding are the glue that holds everything together, but if these things are not in their purest form, they are empty illusions disguised as altruistic acts.
In Matthew verse 7, Jesus says: Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, Let me take the speck out of your eye, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye.
Confession really is good for the soul and it ultimately will lead to genuine heart-felt understanding if you are willing to receive it. It's a good idea to speak with a person you can completely trust and be in a private setting when you are discussing personal matters of this nature, because the mind's process will always justify itself to itself. Working with a trusted therapist, advisor, or coach is an important part of self-care.
Do not be afraid to learn why you do the things you do. Focus on yourself - the good, the bad and the downright ugly - and you will discover who you really are, and best of all, you will discover your true power.
The next several blogs in the darkness part of the series will take you deep into your FEAR cabinet. Each blog will introduce ideas as to the how's and why's of particular behavior. Remember, these ideas are designed to get you thinking and are not intended to give you concrete reasons for any kind of behavior. Your personal files are unique to your personal experiences. If you want help going through your FEAR cabinet, don't be afraid to reach out and ask.
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