As humans, we instinctively recoil from the darkness. We know that danger lurks out there. There might be wild animals, waiting to tear us apart, or a deep hole we might unwittingly fall into, or a robber or marauder or rapist waiting to attack us. The darkness is unpredictable, unknowable, uncontrollable. To be avoided.
The natural extension of this aversion to the darkness is try to sort out the good and the bad, what we should stay away from, what it’s safe to move towards. Then our lives turn into this sorting process. We know it’s better to be generous and kind; bad to be stingy and mean. Then we can walk around with our lists: Strong–good! Weak, oh, definitely bad. Smart/stupid; beautiful/ugly. Helpful–good, right? and the ultimate in bad (especially for women): SELFISH.
Our sorting continues with each other. That person is really a wonderful person; the one over there–awful, terrible. Maybe this one could be redeemed; oh, whoops, we were wrong. Which leads to being convinced of this other’s true badness, and knowing that they deserve the very worst we can muster: shunning, vitriol, public shaming. Ultimately, imprisonment, solitary confinement, death. And all very righteously justifiable.
By the time the sorting gets to us, well, that’s tough, isn’t it? Sometimes we can stay in the “good” column, but, inevitable we falter, slip up. We try hard, but then our intimate relationships sour and we think and say hateful and toxic things. Or we get tired of giving, preserving our own energy and resources by turning away from others. Maybe our anger builds and we snap, sounding like the wild beasts we’ve taken such pains to shield ourselves from. Our own slippage over to the “bad” zone becomes intolerable–how could we be awful? Once we’ve crossed over, we have two choices. One, to sidestep the onslaught of the poison that comes from seeing our own negative qualities, blaming and disconnecting from the other for bringing them out in us. The other–to marinate in self-loathing, punishing ourselves for seeing who we really are: fundamentally bad.
Phew. What a tough way to live.
There is another way. It is the pathway of wholeness. On this path, every quality that you experience–of yourself, of everyone else, just is. There is no good/bad, right/wrong. There is no judgement that one way of being merits approval, the other shaming and shunning. All aspects of being human are part of the glorious whole.
To walk the path of wholeness requires that one be intimate with one’s own darkness. By darkness, I’m not implying wrongness, but simply those qualities we don’t know about, generally because we’ve spent our lives trying to suppress and overcome them. Bringing every aspect of us out of the unknown and into the light, facing into them, accepting them, ultimately loving and appreciating them, allows us to become whole. And to heal.
Where to begin? This is a huge undertaking, as it means understanding in your whole body that you are all of it. Every aspect of humanity that you’ve had the luxury of judging now yours to own. Those out there that you’ve disapproved of in any way–well, they are you.
Here’s one step you can take right now. List every quality you find to be “wrong,” “bad,” and especially “abhorrent.” (Looking at current political figures might help you with this list.) I’ll help you with my own list: Violent, out-of-control, crazy, cold, cruel, insensitive, abusive, racist/sexist/bigoted/homophobic/ageist/classist, narcissistic, untrustworthy, hard-hearted. Keep going: ___________________________________________
Now the interesting part. With each of the words on your list, start with “I accept, appreciate and love my …”. You see, every quality exists in these human bodies of ours. Our survival as a species has relied on them all. Reactive Brain is our survival brain, and it has worked. We’ve had to teach ourselves to go beyond our simple survival instincts, cultivating more socially useful qualities. But rejecting those qualities into being flat our bad or wrong leads to the deep and ongoing suffering that seems to walk with us.
OK, ready? Remember: “I accept, appreciate and love my … ” While you’re saying this, move and breathe with whatever comes up until you can actually experience acceptance, love and appreciation.
I accept, appreciate and love my violence.
I accept, appreciate and love my out-of-controlness.
I accept, appreciate, and love my craziness.
Ultimately, you will welcome having your darkness triggered, as it will give you an opportunity to see, accept, appreciate and love parts of you that were previously unseen. You’ll welcome the gift of bringing you into the light. And you’ll do the rest of us a favor as you will no longer require us to be shunned and shamed for our simple humanity.