Your scary emotions are valid, too.
In life, it's important to be a nice, positive person, right?
When people ask how your day was, how a recent experience was, our how life is going in general, you're expected to reply: "Great!" or, at least "Fine."
Being nice is a good thing most of the time. But at any given time, we often have tons of stressful stuff going on in our life (or things from our past that haunt us). What are we supposed to do with that honest part of the human experience? We think just focusing on the positive makes us a nicer, happier, healthier person.
But the truth is — healthy people express all of their emotions and embrace the wisdom that come from the darker ones like: anger, disgust, jealousy, etc.
When we don't acknowledge our darker emotions, and, instead, try to deny them or repress them, they often build up and either turn inward on us (making us self-destructive) or turn outward (resulting in us lashing out).
In psychology, 'the shadow' side of ourselves is what we hide in our secret internal closet. But 'the shadow' of our personality is also where we hide our dreams and aspirations that we've felt afraid to share out loud. Other human experiences that made us feel shame, regret, or embarrassment are also stored there.
But the shadow doesn't have to remain a dark, bottomless storage unit. Once light shines on those parts of us, we can deal with those emotions and experiences, removing their hold on us.
There is a time and place (with a trusted listener) for getting things off our chest and sharing our naked truth. Doing so usually brings a sense of relief and an understanding that, dragging your truth out into the light, changes how you feel and what you can accomplish in the present.
Instead of the concept of a 'process of elimination,' consider it more of a 'process of illumination.'
Think about times you've said something to a friend or co-worker, only to have your head chewed off. You think, what the f*ck?, at the intensity of their reaction. Or, consider times when your own buttons got pushed. What happened? Where did those dark emotions rush in from? Your 'buttons' are a coded reaction to someone saying or doing something that triggered your dark side.
And here’s the truth: either you own your shadow, or it owns you.
You can try to ignore, hide, or deny it, but until you embrace and make friends with it, you'll miss the key to optimal living. There is truth and wisdom in your shadow that must be unlocked and freed. Doing so liberates you from what's currently holding you back and helps propel you forward to a more fulfilling existence.
Jung wrote in 1963: "The shadow is that hidden, repressed, for the most part inferior and guilt-laden personality whose ultimate ramifications reach back into the realm of our animal ancestors and so comprise the whole historical aspect of the unconscious (Diamond, 96). The shadow is a primordial part of our human inheritance, which, try as we might, can never be eluded."
But my dark side is scary! you're probably thinking. I know. You worry that if you acknowledge it at all, you'll become a terrible person in the world.
But the view I want you to consider is that what's hidden in the dark parts of you are the uniquely creative parts yet to be revealed. It is a yin/yang relationship of good and bad, powerful and scary. But it is just a shadow … an archetype that is not real. It's simply a useful metaphor rather than a label.
What greatness in you remains unspoken, undiscovered?
Human development, in my view, is more about discovering than it is uncovering and recovering. Too often we accept a view that we must have something wrong with us. We engage in personal archeology to dig up and then rebury any deep secret that don’t fit the narrative of us being a perfectly nice, perfectly happy person very minute.
Instead, I want to shed light on the positive and unrealized aspects of your dark side. I want you to consider that acknowledging; your angry feelings when you first feel them (versus stuffing them down only to have them intensify and come shooting out sideways at someone later) is the healthier way to approach hard emotions. And that you're actually being a nicer person when you're honest about the whole of who you are. And it fact, if you consider the word e-motion as energy in motion, when we acknowledge and express the darker ones, our energy will then shift to a more desirable feeling.
Come out into the light. Your shadow is with you all the time anyway, even when the sun is not shining.
Friends who are always nice, always positive, and never come unraveled are not honest human beings.
We all have dark things in our personal storage closet that need to see the light of day. Truthful sharing with the right person, at the right time, in the right place is needed to live with more courageous vulnerability and to have more meaningful relationships. This is what it means to be fully human.
When we deny the validity of our dark emotions, we become passive-aggressive, belligerent or even downright abusive. Human spirits thrive best when they live in honest balance. Just like a lifetime in total darkness would be unappealing, think, too, about how unpleasant nonstop time in the light can feel.
Sometimes it feels like amazing relief to stand in the shade.
Dr. Patrick Williams is a Life and Wellness Coach. Get a free chapter from his upcoming book: Getting Naked: On Emotional Transparency at the Right Time, in the Right Place, with the Right Person at DrPatWilliams.com.