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I often hear people say “he really has a dark side.” A better way of saying this might be “he has a really dark side.” Because the truth is….we all have a dark side.
Most of us would love to live in a world of good, light, warm, grand and happy, but right now, where we are in our human evolution, we must still navigate through life’s great challenges and an array of dark emotions.
Emotions, in and of themselves, are not dark. They are not negative! It is that there are emotions we don’t like to feel, because they don’t feel good. We like to feel good! We want to be happy all the time. But this is not the reality we live in.
All of our emotions need to be embraced and welcomed. Emotions themselves are not bad or destructive. It is what we do with our emotions that make them bad or destructive. When we suppress or repress emotions they come out in unconscious ways, but when we develop awareness of our darker emotions, we can learn how to be with them in healthy ways.
Our dark side, otherwise known as “the shadow,” is our emotional aspect that remains hidden in our subconscious mind. It contains everything we have ever seen, heard or experienced in our lifetime, as early as “in the womb” and this includes both the happy and the sad, the traumatic and the blissful.
The happy and the blissful memories usually don’t get stuffed away, because they aren’t painful to feel. As children we have this coping mechanism where when something is really painful and we don’t have the emotional support to deal with it, we “check out” or “dissociate” from the feelings.
Where do they go when we “dissociate?” Into the subconscious “painful memory” storage facility, also known as “the pain body.”
The more painful memories get stored in the subconscious, the more this aspect takes on a life of its own. We may not be aware why we lash out at others, why we are angry and frustrated all the time, why we judge others harshly, why we feel so small and insignificant, why our confidence is so low, why we have so much fear, why we continue to make destructive choices, self-sabotage or pick one bad relationship after another.
Many people don’t even question the why. They are simply angry, destructive and/or insecure. Some may realize there is a problem and even decide to go to a counselor to figure out why they are so unhappy and insecure. Often the counselor will ask about your childhood and if you actually remember it accurately you may make a connection between certain life events from your formative years and the way you are feeling now. But making the connection is not enough to change how you feel.
The only way to truly change how you feel is to set out on a journey to embrace your darker emotions and allow them to show you what remains hidden in your shadow. This is a path of embracing your dark side, loving it and not judging it as bad or wrong.
When we judge our dark side as bad or wrong, we naturally try to push it away and when we do this it just gets stronger. I like to think of it as pushing a beach ball under water and holding it there. It takes a whole lot more energy to hold a beach ball under water then allowing it to pop up. When it rises to the surface you can deal with it and it loses power. But when you spend an enormous amount of energy pushing uncomfortable or painful feelings down, it becomes a full-time job holding those “taboo” emotions or dark memories, under water.
It can be challenging, at first, when we make the commitment to face our shadow, or allowing what is hidden to come to light. Because all the pain we have been sitting on for ages, begins to rise up, as it naturally wants to do, to be felt and then released.
We get into the habit of pushing painful emotions down so we don’t have to feel them. We don’t want to feel them because they don’t feel good.
Tony Robbins always talks about how it is our human nature to avoid pain and seek pleasure. This means it is our nature to run from the shadow. And we have all kinds of sophisticated coping mechanisms and addictions that help us repress the darkness within us.
Since it is our nature to avoid pain, it goes against our nature to invite that pain to come to the surface so we can feel it and thereby heal it. We must be able to feel the feelings in order to heal them. But most people don’t know how to feel their feelings. They are conditioned to avoid feeling them.
The dark night of the soul happens when all your former coping mechanisms and addictions don’t work anymore and in spite of your best efforts to avoid pain, it still comes flooding to the surface. Notice I used the word flood. When we enter the dark night of the soul, our emotions don’t trickle to the surface. They don’t flow to the surface. They flood.
There is an overwhelming barrage of emotions that are rising up so quickly they can’t be pushed back down. Most people who experience this sort of thing feel completely overwhelmed by their emotions and are in the worse pain of their lives. Or at least the worse pain they remember ever being in.
My specialty, is not really narcissistic abuse, it is helping people to navigate through the dark night of the soul. When people come to me in the worse pain of their lives, unable to cope or function in the world, I help them to understand what is happening and give them tools on how to move through the pain.
But when people come to me the first thing they are looking for me to help them with is to get out of pain. I used to believe, when I first started doing this work that I wasn’t very good at my job if I couldn’t help people out of pain. I was looking for the magic methods or techniques I could use to pull people out of their pain, the same way I might pull someone out of a pond. I judged myself based on my ability to make people feel better. But after going through a dark night of the soul consciously, I realized that pain is something we need to learn how to move through, rather than get out of.
There is no magic pill that is going to get us out of pain. It is rising up so we can feel it and release it. If there are many layers of old repressed pain rising to the surface at once, you will be busy for a while.
If you are going through such a thing, you may not be able to function in the world in the same way. Some people come to me and say “Kaleah I need to work! I have to function! I can’t be like this! Help me!”
I will often compare their situation to being in a hit and run car accident and being in critical condition in the hospital. I paint a picture for them. You have multiple fractures, your arms and legs are in a cast, your head is bandaged, you are hooked up to an IV. And the first thing on your mind is “I have to get back to work, I can’t afford to be here.”
Unfortunately, the Dark Night of the Soul, doesn’t really care about all your obligations. Just as major accidents and illness don’t care about your obligations. So, you will have to make adjustments, whether or not you like it.
The Dark Night is an emotional crisis and will require a lot of down time to navigate through it. But it doesn’t have to be a continual dismal path.
The dark night is both a death and a rebirth. It is the death of the old you, the one who spent an enormous amount of energy shoving that old pain down through the use of distractions and addictions.
The new you is the rebirth. It is the butterfly emerging from the cocoon, where it just underwent a dissolution of the old caterpillar body and the formation of the new butterfly body. The Dark Night of the Soul is a metamorphosis, and when you come out the other end you will not be the same as you were before you went in.
Not everyone will go through a dark night of the soul. The dark night is a soul’s calling to leave behind the old ways and search the deepest aspects of oneself, so one can be more in alignment with the souls purpose.
Some people are so disconnected from their soul and their soul’s purpose that they will never be called to such a dark night. There are many people whose addictions and distractions continue to work for them. They continue to stay medicated from their repressed pain and have absolutely no interest in personal or spiritual growth. Extreme narcissists are in this category.
What happens with extreme narcissists, is that they are so emotionally detached from their pain that they are not aware how they project their shadow onto others. Whenever anyone triggers their pain and they feel it, even just a little bit, they lash out at the one triggering it and blame them for what they are feeling. They are so disconnected that they can’t imagine that they themselves might be the cause of their problems.
Projection is a human response and doesn’t just belong to the narcissists of the world, however narcissists are masters at projection. Every uncomfortable or painful thing that happens in their world is someone else’s fault. They take no responsibility and are always blaming others. Narcissists basically deny their dark side, so they can believe they are “good.”
There is a big investment in being seen as “good” and since personality disordered people usually see the world through a lens of “all good or all bad” there is no room for grey and no understanding that we are all both bad and good, so to speak.
Seeing the world through the lens of “all bad/all good” is common with all dysfunctional family systems. When we are seen as “bad” we are rejected and denied love, acceptance and approval. As a young child this can feel like death. When a child hears a parent say “you are a bad girl or bad boy” it is a rejection to that child. That child feels shamed, and it may feel it will be abandoned because of its badness. So being “bad” is death to that child. “How can I survive without Mommy or Daddy?”
Children have a need to be seen as “good” and receive attention, approval, acceptance and love. So that child works really hard to be on its parents “good side.” If a parent is abusive, the child will split the parent into “good parent/bad parent.” Since its survival depends on the child being accepted and loved, and so it must also love that parent, it rejects the “bad parent” so it can still love the “good parent.”
It is ironic how those who are in relationship with narcissistic people and addicts do the same thing. They split the narcissist into good person/bad person so they can continue to be “in love” with the person. Except now the codependent fixer/rescuer/healer comes in and tries to rehabilitate the “bad” or “dark side.”
Often times in order to deny our own dark side we find people who are “darker” to surround ourselves with. This way, in comparison, we can see ourselves as good and the other as bad. If we haven’t faced our own dark side we may not be able to be with people who are genuinely “good” people because we may feel bad or inadequate in comparison.
When I say everybody has a dark side, I am not saying everybody is dark or bad. But that we all live in a world of what we would consider both light and dark emotions and we all have a full repertoire of these emotions.
When we cut off from our darker emotions in order to see ourselves as “good” we have cut off half of who we are. If we are to be authentic, we need to embrace both the light and the dark emotions. Remember, I said there are really no bad or dark emotions, but we perceive that there are and so for the sake of explanation I will call feelings like anger, rage, frustration, jealousy, sadness, guilt, shame, despair, and the like, our darker emotions. I will call them dark because they are the emotions we don’t like, we don’t want and we do anything within our power to get rid of.
When we try to get rid of these darker emotions we try to cut off from them, rather than to feel them and embrace them. One might ask “why would I embrace these emotions? They don’t feel good.
We assume that life is always supposed to “feel good.” Well this is the great lie. Life is a full spectrum of feelings and as human beings, living in a world of duality, we feel both hot and cold, light and dark, summer and winter, hungry and full, love and hatred, joy and pain. This is life and the sooner we accept all of our emotions, including the ones that don’t feel good, the sooner we become real and the sooner we can have a greater acceptance of life itself.
Most of you have probably heard the saying “what you resist persists.” When you resist the dark side of life, and the darker emotions, they seem to get stronger and stronger. We try and push them away and they boomerang back stronger then ever. When we embrace all of our emotions, we open our arms to them and say “I accept that you are here and I will love you.”
Loving your darker emotions is the same as loving yourself when you are feeling pain and anger. You may have learned as a child that it is wrong or bad to express pain or anger and you may have felt rejected for any qualities you learned were “bad.” And so, you learned to reject yourself for any qualities you learned were “bad.” The more you reject yourself, the worse you feel. You may end up feeling like you are walking a tight rope trying to stay “good” and avoid being “bad.” Your worse fear may be being perceived as a “bad” person.
When I work with people who have been in relationship with narcissists, their worse fear is often that the narcissist is doing a smear campaign and telling everyone how “bad” they are. Their worse fear is that others will perceive them as “bad” and see the narcissist as “good.” Well, of course this is what the narcissist wants because the narcissist’s worst fear is also being perceived as “bad.” So he or she must manipulate everyone around them to believe he or she is good and the other is bad.
It’s child’s play really. Both the narcissist and the one who is being targeted by the narcissist fear the same things. We all fear being perceived as a bad person. Because if we are perceived as a “bad” person we fear we will be rejected, abandoned, and unloved. We will feel our shame very deeply and may reject and abandon ourselves.
What makes the narcissist different from the average person is the coping mechanisms used to control his or her reality. The narcissist will easily use lies, manipulation, projection and gaslighting to control how they are perceived.
Although the average person may lie a little bit and manipulate somewhat, they just aren’t that good at it. Narcissists are masters at deception. They learn it at an early age and practice it like an art form. The average person is kept in line by something we call a guilty conscience. If we are aware we are lying or manipulating, we feel guilty.
Guilt is our moral barometer that informs us when we are doing something wrong, or out of integrity. Narcissists lack a guilty conscience. They have no problem deceiving others as long as it meets their need to be seen as good, which in the mind of the narcissist, will bring them the love, admiration and approval they desperately need in order to feel okay.
Embracing our dark side does not mean that we act out our aggression’s and take our pain out on others. We must also practice responsibility and accountability. It is okay to feel rage but not okay to be violent. It is okay to feel anger but not okay to take your anger out on others. It is okay to feel jealousy but not okay to take out the competition.
If we can all recognize and accept that we have a dark side and feel dark emotions, we can learn how to embrace this aspect of ourselves and this results in much greater self-acceptance. This idea we have of ourselves that we should always “be nice” is a really warped idea. Being nice is extremely over rated. Nice is an exterior quality that may or may not accompany being honest. Honesty is a much more authentic quality, but most would rather lie to themselves and others rather than risk the rejection of being perceived as “mean” or “bad.”
The average person is not good at setting boundaries because setting boundaries involves risking rejection from the one you are setting a boundary with. Boundaries involve saying “no” and setting your limits. When you wish to be perceived as being “nice” you always invest yourself in the response that you believe will give you the most love and approval.
We become masters at excuses because we believe that excuses let us off the hook. We might say “I can’t go with you because I am not feeling well” rather than say “you know I don’t really want to do that.” We might say “I have out of town guests that weekend so it won’t work for you to stay with me, rather than “No, I’m really not comfortable with your staying at my house this weekend.” We might come up with all kinds of excuses why we can’t go out with someone rather than saying “I really am not interested in dating you.”
Learning how to be honest is a real challenge and yet being honest is what makes us authentic. The deeper truth is the more real and authentic we are, the more people will genuinely like us and trust us. The more we lie to ourselves and others, the less authentic relationships we will have.
Those who get involved with narcissists are distraught when they realize they have been living a lie. But the lie is usually on both sides of the coin.
The narcissist may be a pathological liar, but the one who keeps ignoring his or her intuition in order to stay in the relationship is creating their own lie. You may say “I don’t want to face the truth because it will hurt and I don’t want to feel the pain.” But if you keep lying to yourself the pain will get stronger and stronger.
The truth will eventually set us free, but it may disassemble our reality first. Because it is the truth that exposes the lie and the lie is what really hurts. It is the lie that hurts, not the truth, just the same as it is the lack of love that hurts, not the love.
Confronting our own dark side means being really honest with what we are feeling and learning to embrace all of our emotions. It means loving and accepting the child within who feels he or she is “bad.” We have to learn to say to our inner child “It is okay that you feel that way, I love you anyway.” We learn to say “I love you and I approve of you, no matter what.”
We have to stop rejecting ourselves and we have to stop abandoning ourselves when we are in pain. We have to stop making our pain wrong and judging our feelings as right or wrong.
We need to learn to welcome all of our feelings, both the ones we judge as being good and the ones we judge as being bad. All feelings are welcome here.
We need to learn to embrace our dark side and love it. We need to learn to stop fearing the judgments, opinions and projections of others. These things say a lot more about the one judging and projecting then it does about you.
We need to truly learn to be our own best friend and the best parent ever to our inner child. We need to stop shaming and guilting ourselves and remind our inner child “you are good” regardless of what you are feeling, what kind of day you are having, or what mistakes you have made.
Your dark side is beautiful. It is precious. It is what make you whole. Embracing your dark side may very well be the wholeness you are seeking. Your wholeness is not to be found in another person, but in embracing the part of yourself you have cut off from. Your other half is not a person, it is the part of you that you have rejected.
Practice acceptance of your own dark side and you will find that you much more easily accept the dark side of others. The more you stop expecting yourself to be perfect the more you stop expecting everyone around you to be perfect. The more you practice self acceptance, the more you accept others.
Love all that you are! Embrace all of you! Be your real Self. Be true to your Self. Do this and you will discover that you no longer have to run away from yourself and find fault with yourself. You will finally find the peace you have been seeking.