The path to inner peace.
Have you ever utter this phrase ‘Oh I just hate it!” Or ‘I just hate him/her’ Or ‘He/She is so annoying’ or ‘He brings out the worst in me’ or ‘I am so irritated with that behaviour’?
Next time you say it, dwell on it a little bit longer and deeper. The qualities you claim to hate, are not out there in other people or in the world. They the attributes that reside within you. Deep inside your sub-conscious. They were perhaps rejected by you at some point. According to Carl Jung, this deep dark part of sub-conscious is our ‘Shadow’.
Everything that we claim to hate in others is what we deny in ourselves—whatever we perceive as inferior, evil, or unacceptable—is what our shadow comprises of.
These disowned qualities of our personality don’t just vanish. Though we deny them to purge them, but they continue to sit in our subconscious.
We can’t eliminate the shadow. It stays with us as our dark sibling. That’s how the phrase ‘my evil twin’ came about. It makes our life troublesome when we fail to see it but it stands right behind us. Even follows us through our journey of life in form of all the hatred we feel towards others.
But this journey of hatred does not start from hatred. It is not a certain dislike that you will feel towards a person or a behaviour or an object that will make you want to disassociate from it.
It starts from the emotion of disgust. Something that is physically or psychologically so repelling that there is a gradual build of anger that something can be so disgusting. When disgust and anger mix and flare up to a high degree, we get hate.
In simple terms, it can be explained as:
Environmental stimulus → Disgust→ Spiralling into rage→ Experience hatred
Until we work on this Shadow of ours, to bring it out and deal with it, it will stay within us and keep showing its ugly head in form of hatred towards people and objects in the world.
Working on our shadow takes courage. It means that we create a very high level of self-awareness on the objects of hatred. More often than not you will find that whatever you hate is in some way liked to some event that may have happened in your life…perhaps way back in the past. You will learn some astounding things about yourself once you start joining these dots.
Once the dots are joined, your attitude will change from taking comfort in the familiar territory of objects of your hatred to an intense awareness of ‘why’ of hatred. Once this profound leap has been made, you can then begin to make some pretty powerful changes in your life.
What happens when we imprison the shadow.
What happens when we see something we don’t like and sweep it under the carpet? Its still very much there, except that we don’t see it.
This is exactly what happens to the emotions that we don’t wish to deal with. We think suppressing it, will make it go away. But as Sigmund Freud said “Whatever we try to repress, comes out at inopportune moments in uglier ways”.
But the bigger point is that the situations and the corresponding emotions do not just go away. We tend to project those feelings and opinions on to others rather than owning up to them.
I have seen this in therapy, especially prominently in a few cases of grown ups with depression and/or anxiety if they were abused as children. They tended to view sexual crimes with hatred and have very sharp reactions to perpetrators of such an event. Homophobia is yet another common example.
A more everyday example came from a corporate client. At work place, a lot of times she felt that her colleagues and subordinates were being rude to her. But the fact was that she had not owned up to her own rudeness which was using as a defence mechanism that she had been using as a child to fight a bully sibling.
Whatever qualities we deny in ourselves, we see in others.
So if rudeness wasn’t in her own shadow, it won’t be bother her as much.
This process doesn’t happen consciously. We aren’t aware of our projections.
Our egos use this mechanism to defend itself. Our false identities of being “good” keep us from connecting to our shadow.
These psychological projections distort reality, creating a thick boundary between how we view ourselves and how we behave in reality.
And so its essential that we work on our shadow or the things we hate. When we embrace and integrate the weaknesses, selfishness, nastiness, rudeness and hatred we can go on to live through our strengths and uniqueness.
Here are some benefits of working on the shadow:
1) Improved Relationships
When we integrate our shadow side, we will clearly see our darker half. Which means that we become more grounded, human, and whole.
As a result, we accept our own darker parts, therefore making it more effortless to accept the shadow/dark side in others.
We stop getting triggered by other’s behavior as much. We will find it easier to communicate with others thereby improving relationships even with those we find difficult to tolerate.
2) Clearer Perception
When we see ourselves as well as others for what we really are, the haze begins to lift off and we view the world more clearly.
Which also means that we are far more self aware and will see our authentic self rather who we thought we wanted to be.
We won’t perceive ourself as being too big (inflated) or too small (deflated).
When you’re self-aware, we just assess the environment more accurately.
3) Enhanced Energy and Physical Health
Lugging this burden of dark side everywhere with us can be exhausting.
Fatigue and lethargy can plague the unexamined life. Mental suppression can also lead to physical pain and disease.
When we work on our shadow, we release all this burden and can unleash this massive reservoir of mental and physical energy. You just begin to feel upbeat all the time.
This new found energy can give us a sense of emotional stability and a sense of balance.
To sum up…
Our dark side is a part of us. When we recognise it and love it, we coalesce into our whole being. Which means that the sense of wholeness and unity which was previously elusive is now right there within the reach. It will work for us rather than again us, make us more mature, calm, physically healthier and definitely more content.
Counselling Psychologist and Trainer in Emotional Intelligence Advisory Board Member – National Network of Depression Centres Shruti Varma | Founder and Principal Psychologist, MindOpeners Shruti Varma is a Counselling Psychologist. She is a Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania Alumnus. Having held several leadership positions in various MNCs, Shruti is a leading Counsellor, Coach and Trainer in Emotions Management and Emotional Intelligence. Having been a practitioner of Yoga, she combines Yogic Sciences in her Counselling practice, Coaching as well as Trainings.