Experiencing Our Shadow – and Not Running from the Darkside

Sometimes I hear it.

Like a cellar door creeping open, but only from a distant room.  Like the “schlop” of a tentacled beast mounting the stairs, “slurping” past the door frame, to “slush” its way into the kitchen.  The noise of the monsters of my subconscious creeping out of my basement, ready to engage me.

The thoughts that are so dark and horrible, I generally think they don’t exist within me.

But they do.  And most of the time they stay hidden – and I hardly believe they’re even still in there.

But when they do emerge, I have two choices:

1 – I can grab the broom, shuffle them back down the corridor, down the stairs, and lock/bolt/chain/padlock the basement door so they can never resurface.

2 – gently reach out my hand – and ask why are they there.

When I do the later of the two choices… sometimes the monster’s tentacles fall away, and what is left is a little, eight-year old boy with round glasses and scared eyes.  A boy who’s classmates just tormented him for the umpteenth time that day… and he is all alone, scared, and crying.

That monster was me in an earlier time.

Sometimes it’s a nineteen-year old college junior, so afraid of the world and jealous of his peers’ spontaneity and apparent freedom.  Wishing he could be as uninhibited and open as them: going to parties, laughing, going on dates.  Instead, he’s hiding out in his dorm and pretending that he didn’t want to go out tonight anyways.  He always has way too much work to do.  And he’s terrified to imagine what it might be like to kiss another person.

Sometimes he’s that twenty-four year old, young man – flexing in front the gym mirror, trying to puff out his chest to look more like the models in the fashion books and in the auditions he is forcing himself to go to.   He’s chugging a third protein shake for the morning, with a vat of fat-free yogurt in his bag, and five-thousand more high-protein calories awaiting him later that the day.  All the while, he is pretending that he really doesn’t care all that much about how he looks.

All the trauma, pain, anguish, and denial that I never faced earlier in my life, grows into monsters in my subconscious that I must face… one by one.  And even though they are terrifying to behold, I can either continue to run from these bad feelings, or I can finally listen to them and see what they’re here to teach me.

I feel like deep imbalances can occur when we overly-identify with our bright side and deny our shadow.

We all have our shadow sides.  We all have those dark feelings and thoughts that seemingly emerge randomly.  Thoughts to which we say: “That’s not me!  I’m a good person!  I don’t think those kinds of things.”

But those thoughts ARE us.  And we DO think them.  And it’s okay.

Last week, I had a bunch of feelings pop up about feeling unsuccessful, unattractive, and untalented.

And that’s okay.

Most of my time – I genuinely don’t feel those things.  But by rejecting those contrary thoughts when they arise, I am limiting the healing that can happen in my mind and spirit.

There are times where little, baby Kaelan pops up, needs a desperate hug, and to be told that everything is going to be okay.

And if I just try to shove him back down into the basement again, it’ll just reaffirm his feelings of abandonment, to which I will eventually have to atone.

So I am really striving to let my dark thoughts and feelings surface.  But I neither cling to them – nor worship them.

But I do say to my current-day self: “Huh.  How interesting.  How interesting that part of you feels this way.  And it’s quite alright for you to feel that way.  Keep experiencing it – and let it pass when it’s done.  It’s just another bit of information – another experience to process.”

I feel like deep imbalances can occur when we overly-identify with our bright side and deny our shadow.

For then, we deny the full experience of living.  We deny the important learning that happens through the process of “Death” – when we continuously demand experiences only of “Rebirth.”  Everything in life is cyclical.  Everything in life flows round.  We have to be willing to admit and to stand witness to our Darkside, as well as our Light.

To deny the Netherworld is to ultimately deny the World Up Above.

And just as when water can not flow, so too our emotions and awareness can stagnate.  Fester.  Turn rotten.

I’m continuing to discover that by trudging through both the muck and also the sunshine that we are then able to achieve wholeness.

So, while I am all for positive self-talk, I think it’s equally valid and important to realize that other voices exist within us… and we must listen to them.  They don’t need to become our closest friends nor the voices playing on repeat in our heads… but they must be heard.

Because poor, little, fourteen-year-old Kaelan has spent enough time hiding in the closet – and shoved in the basement.

It’s time to let the light shine in.

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