Everyone has a darkside to them, we all have weaknesses and vices that impact us. Some affect us more than others, and some are more visible than others. Your darkside is the part of you that you have learned to filter and hide from others and even yourself, but when you see these traits in others it can cause you to lash out against them depending on the severity of how you have repressed that trait in yourself.
Carl Jung was one of the pioneers in describing and exploring this idea. He called it it the “shadow”.
Imagine being back in second grade:
The class is all quietly working, the teacher going over homework assignments, and the class hamster is snoozing. Then a familiar pressure starts to build in you… you have to fart. You try your best to hold it in but it only seems to worsen the problem. Then it finally sneaks out, and you desperately hope that nobody hears it or worse smells it. Imagine the shame of someone breaking the fragile silence with “who farted?!”. Your palms start to sweat as you imagine the humiliation that only an elementary school classroom can bring fear grips you. But this time you’re lucky, nobody says anything.
A few days later, in the same setting, you are quietly chipping away at a math quiz. You are at a relative peace because your intestines seem to be behaving properly today. Then it happens… a subtle smell crosses under your nose… that stink… somebody farted. In a blaze of conviction you exclaim “ewww who farted!?” and attempt seek out the fiend that interrupted your academics.
How can we extrapolate this other elements of life?
Lazy and messy roommates? overly dramatic friends? That goddamn liar of a
best friend that you have not spoke with in years? The coworker that is so full of him/herself? That significant other that just might be cheating? Is there something about you that makes these people irritate you? Where is your darkside? Let’s get darker what about those people with a different religion, different race, what is it that causes your stomach to turn?
When you feel the discomfort of anger or some other sort of conviction towards another person, when you see something flawed, incorrect, or downright evil about them. Take pause, explore this feeling. Ask yourself why you feel this way, it is likely that there is something about yourself that is bothering you, that you are trying to hide that you are starting to see in another person that is causing these emotions. If you didn’t have this problem with yourself, this discomfort, this repressed shadow, then whatever this other person was doing would not bother you so much. Letting these emotions control you damages relationships, makes you miserable, and keeps you from becoming who you want to be.
Let’s go back to second grade again:
This time you are quite the self actualized little kid, sitting at your desk taking your math quiz again, and that pungent smell arises again. You realize everybody farts, it’s just a natural thing. You imagine how you felt the other day when you were the one who had “dealt it” and smile at the all the stress you put yourself through because of such a trivial thing. Instead of conviction you feel empathy, instead of an outburst you simply smile and continue with your work.
Into the Darkside:
I challenge you to explore what it is about other people that bothers you, to find if there is possibly something about you that is the root of this. This is a difficult and slow process. You have been hard at work burying these parts of you far away in the corners of your mind, the harder you have tried to suppress them and the longer you have spent doing it the harder it will become and the more difficult it will be. Accept the discomfort and know that you are working to better yourself.
Once you have identified some of these dark elements to yourself, accept them, love them. they contribute to you in the same way that manure contributes to the scent of a rose. This wont make the fiend inside of you go away, you will alyways have a darkside. But recognizing it and embracing it will enable you to control it, instead of it controlling you, and maybe, just maybe, other people won’t bother you as much.
Seeing through the game.
If you have some extra time on your hands. I would highly recommend listening to this lecture by Alan Watts, he discusses Jung’s philosophies on the “shadow” and discusses it’s incredibly destructive potential (See: the holocaust) and how liberating it can be to be free of it. This changed my life.