Coming to terms with the darker aspect of our natures has always been one of the most challenging things a human being can do. No one likes to admit or acknowledge their dark side or their ‘shadow self’ in psychology terms. The majority of humans spend most of the there lives trying to run away from or disavow the dark self within them. The “shadow” is a concept first termed by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung that describes aspects of the personality that humans choose to reject and repress.
Humans try to deny their‘ shadow self’ because of all the base instincts/desires, emotions and impulses that hide there. Perverse sexual lust, unethical and ego-driven power strivings, pure selfishness, greed, envy, anger or rage and so all stem from, and reside in, our lower natures or shadow self. Some people describe this part of our nature, with all it contains, as primitive or animalistic. Society has taught us to deny, push down, and reject this part of our nature as its negativity directly opposes a healthy community.
- Do you find that most of your day is taken up with a mental tug of war between what you feel is the good you against the bad you?
- Do you constantly chastise yourself for having ‘evil thoughts/feelings?
- Are you constantly trying to tear out the negative aspects of who you are and only accepting of the good elements yourself?
All these and more are ways in which many human beings spend their mental day. Being in a state of war with oneself will only lead to anxiousness and dis-ease. There is an old saying which states:
“If you cannot accept hell, you cannot accept heaven.”
Accepting the darker side of you, your thoughts, your impulses and your emotions does NOT mean acting out on them. By accepting the shadow self, you acknowledge the darker, more primitive side of yourself. You can reclaim the energy one usually spends in self-denial, fighting off bad thoughts and running from negative feelings. All this shadow-self-denial takes energy and destroys any chance of attaining peace of mind, self-contentment and inner personal freedom. Trying to split yourself in half, which is phycology, mentally and emotionally impossible, is seriously detrimental to your wellbeing.
Self Acceptance Is An Everyday Process
The self-accepting process is not a one-time thing. It’s not something you do one day and then you never have to revisit it again. Self-acceptance is a fluid daily journey that lasts as long as you are alive. You may accept one aspect of yourself one day and the next day another defect of character or negative aspect of self appears and you have to go through the whole process again. As new layers of the onion-of-self are revealed, the entire process of denial, defense and exertion of self-will will happen again till we finally, mentally and emotionally exhausted by our rejection, admit and then accept what we see, feel and think. To work on ourselves, we first have to accept ourselves as we are. We cannot improve or move ahead until this self-acceptance happens.
The Id Sigmund Freud
All human beings have the worst and the best of humanity within them. Sigmund Freud, the prominent psychologist who first mapped the human personality, believed the personality was made up of the Id, Ego, and Super Ego. He suggested that the Id is the primitive and instinctual part of the mind that contains sexual and aggressive drives and hidden memories.
“The id contains all of the life and death instincts, which Freud believed help compel behavior. This aspect of personality does not change as people grow older. It continues to be infantile, instinctive, and primal. It isn’t in touch with reality or logic or social norms. It strives only to satisfy an individual’s most basic urges and needs”. Verywellmind.com
Befriend The Dark Side
So when you next imagine running over the next-door neighbor with a steamroller because his music is too loud or imagine assassinating the slow-serving shop assistant with a sniper rifle. Try not to chastise yourself too harshly for having these thoughts or feelings. We don’t enact them into the physical world, and they are a natural aspect of being a human being. We all get dark thoughts, feelings and impulses, which is a normal part of being human.
Try to befriend this darker part of yourself. A brilliant way to do this is with humour. Try to think and act on some of the below ideas:
- Learn to laugh at the primitive thought solutions that come to mind to solve a modern-day problem.
- When you experience a negative impulse or feeling instead of running and trying to deny it.
- Stop and look at the impulse/feeling recognise where it comes from – the primitive you.
- See its destructiveness while also accepting that it’s part of the human psyche you are made of.
- Humans are not all bad or all good, and what determines us is our actions, not our thoughts and feelings.
- As long as we are not running around acting out every negative thought or urge we have, we are okay. It’s ok to be nutty, and it’s ok to be dark and light, bad and good, right and wrong.
- Self-talking to your dark side is another great way to befriend and accept the whole you. Chat to your darker side in whatever way feels comfortable; as I mentioned, humour is a great way to defeat any blockages within the self.
- Tell your shadow-self you recognise and accept it as a part of you. There is a lot of personal power, drive and energy in this part of ourselves that can help us in our lives.