Have you ever spent time with an acquaintance, friend, or family member and come away feeling upset because you thought he was conceited, arrogant, or aggressive or behaving in some other way you judged to be “wrong”?
During a disagreement with someone, has the other person ever asked you why you were so angry and you denied that you were—only to have her show you how angry your words and tone of voice were?
What do these experiences have in common? They’re both gifts with the power to introduce you to aspects of your dark side. Your reaction of being upset with another’s behavior and your blindness to your own anger have their roots in the part of your unconscious mind that pioneer psychoanalyst Carl G. Jung called your dark side or personal unconscious. Your conscious mind (what you think of as “I” or “me”) contains all the parts of yourself—including your actions, words, thoughts, memories, and feelings—that you’re aware of. Your dark side contains the specific parts of yourself that your conscious mind finds intolerable because they clash with your pictures of yourself and it judges them as unacceptable or “bad.” In other words, what your conscious mind cannot “own” is banished to your dark side.
Your conscious mind represses the emotions, thoughts, and memories it judges as bad or finds too difficult or painful to accept. However, these feelings, thoughts, and memories do not go away; they live in the dark side and create self-defeating patterns of behavior—unconscious ways of acting that work against your conscious goals. Traits that remain hidden in your dark side still sabotage your life.
When another person’s actions upset you, it may be because you are reacting to something in your dark side that you’re unaware of and that your conscious mind considers unacceptable. For example, if your conscious mind equates expressing pride in your accomplishments with being boastful and vain, you may be upset when another person talks with pride about his accomplishments and brand him as conceited and arrogant. This doesn’t mean he is conceited and arrogant; it just means an old message in your conscious mind says it’s bad to be prideful. In this case, you judge the other person because of your own issues about expressing pride in your achievements. In fact, you may be so self-critical when it comes to expressing pride that you cannot allow yourself to express any pride in your accomplishments!
If you have negative judgments about asking for what you want, you might be upset when someone else asks for what she wants and judge her negatively as aggressive. Again, this is due to old messages in your conscious mind. The other person may simply be freer than you in expressing herself, and that’s what is upsetting you. Your conscious mind doesn’t believe that you should have permission to express yourself as freely.
If you believe anger is an unacceptable emotion, your anger gets banished to your dark side, where it stays hidden and you can’t consciously and appropriately express it. Unfortunately you’re stuck—because your anger will still come out, but it will come out inappropriately.
According to Jungian therapist Leana Melat, PhD, Jung observed that the less conscious you are of your dark side, the blacker and denser it becomes. As the above examples illustrate, this lack of awareness creates frustration, stress, and confusion. When you act unconsciously, others are likely to react to you—and you’re likely to react to them—in ways you don’t quite understand. As long as parts of yourself are hidden in your dark side, you will deprive yourself of self-knowledge, self-expression, and the ability to feel your appropriate feelings.
That’s why it’s so important to become aware of those parts of yourself that you’ve banished to your dark side and to embrace them. There are two major ways to accomplish this:
1. Look at your interactions with others to see what they tell you about your behavior. Ask yourself if other people react to you in ways that surprise you—and that you’re tempted to deny. What do these reactions tell you about how you’re acting that you’ve been unaware of?
2. Look at your dreams. Keep a dream journal. Dreams can tell you a lot about what you’re hiding from yourself.
Embracing your dark side—integrating the traits that you’ve banished there and beginning to work with them consciously and constructively—helps you live a happier, more fulfilling life. As Jung emphasized, it helps you become whole and authentic; it vitalizes your personality and allows your normal instincts, appropriate reactions, realistic insights, and creative impulses to take their natural place in your behavior. By embracing your dark side, Jung remarked, the carbon turns into a diamond.
- 15 Aug, 2013
- Posted by Steve Fogel
- 0 Comments