Friday, May 6, 2011

In the shadows

Was it Star Wars that first introduced the idea of the dark side? It names the evil side of the force; something that the good side must fight to control.
We also use that phrase individually, naming the "dark side" of a person. Or another example, "That wasn't me, that was my evil twin." Dark vs. light and evil vs. good is being used to label a dichotomy that we find to potentially exist within each person.

However, many do not find this dark/light language to be sufficient. It continues to play into the dark is evil and light is good paradigm and that paradigm can be seen to feed into racist ideals, of which many in our society struggle to be free.

So, if we're choosing to not use the "dark side" language, what will we replace it with?

Some choose to use "shadow side" as a replacement. Yet, this doesn't resound fully with me as shadows are what we seek when the heat of light overwhelms us and we need a cooler location. Shadows can provide relief. Night is the ultimate shadow, as the earth blocks half of the globe from sunlight. Shadows are necessarily for rest.
I also don't find "shadow side" to be free of the dark/light dichotomy.

Perhaps the most successful way to find new language on this subject is to examine what this side of ourselves really looks like.

I'm familiar with the phrase, "Hurt people, hurt people." In essence, this is trying to communicate that when you are hurt by someone, it is because they have been hurt by someone else and this hurt has remained unresolved. By hurting another, perhaps they are trying to gain control of an experience that they have yet to feel in control of.

A key word has been used: unresolved.
Perhaps the best way to describe our most uncontrollable side is to name it as our "unresolved" side. What are those experiences in your life that are so chaotic feeling, so triggering of overwhelming emotion, that you are most comfortable leaving them unresolved? I don't think it takes very long for each of us to identify those experiences. Whether or not we'll muster enough courage to admit them to another is a different question.
These unresolved experiences of hurt are what forces us to rely on survival instincts. That is why, sometimes, we end up hurting another out of fear of being hurt in that way again. And, our unresolved side has shown. This is the side of our most tender vulnerability, and our most instinctual reaction.

I think that this calls us to create a safe space in our self-reflection for those unresolved experiences. If we can stop pushing them down and trying to insist that they not be relevant, perhaps we can move towards resolution. Perhaps we can find that embracing and caring for this shadow provides us with some much needed rest and relief.

"Whatever comes, reach out to care for it without trying to change or fix it. Tell this part of you that you will come back, another time, to listen to it and care for it some more."

-Don't Forgive too Soon: Extending the Two Hands that Heal