So, my love.... how old will you be when you decide you’re ready to meet your demons inside?
Each of us are called to their table at one time in our lives or another. Some of us keep getting called back with increasing frequency and persistence until we respond. The calls will become louder as the blessings in our lives become curses, when we begin to feel that the path we’re walking becomes more hazardous and narrow, as the light around us grows darker. We’ll be called to meet them when we begin to act in ways that hurt those we love and cause our own self to suffer. When will you decide to answer the call?
The world we know is obsessed with light and levity and ease. We’re bombarded with messages to be obsessed with optimism and pursuit and implicit trust and to meditate and vacation at turquoise waters and buy the newest phones. As a culture, we’re becoming dangerously obsessed with feeling good all of the time. And it’s leading us gravely astray.
The more deeply we find ourselves obsessed with feeling good, the more detached we become to the realities of darkness in ourselves and the realities of collective human suffering. We think that if we meditate longer and yoga harder we will exhale the demons away. But the truth is that our unprocessed darknesses continue to appear in different forms across our lives. They can seep into our lives slowly, through small cracks of where intimate relationships splintered or where we ignore self-care and self-love… or they can come rushing in like a tsunami in mid-life trauma or through massive loss. Regardless of the catalyst that wakes us up to our shadows, our inner demons, the darkness - we must learn to be grateful - so grateful - that the shadow is coming to light. When it feels like you’ve lost at everything in life, that’s when you’re being called to grow.
It makes sense why some people seem to lose their minds, why others succumb to the tempting pleasures of secret affairs, why some lose everything they’ve ever had - their money, their home, their relationships, themselves. In your darkest periods of deepest despair you are being invited to redirect your life’s path and stare directly into the eyes of the demons you’ve long ignored. RAther than pretending the shadows don’t exist, banishing them to the realms of which we do not speak - we’re being called to slowly, consciously stitch ourselves back together with the parts of ourselves we’ve banished - to expand our nature and more deeply, honestly connect to others along the way.
As we more gradually learn to accept the darkest sides of our own psyche we begin to build compassion and empathy for others. Rather than repress our own sadness, anger, jealousy, and pride we realize that healing comes only from drawing out a map of how deeply into the dark we’re capable of descending. Each of us are made up of two personalities: the pleasant persona we’re expected to lead with in day to day life - the traits that make us likeable, loveable, and successful in the modern world, as well as a darker side of unexpressed rage, anger, jealousy, shame, lying, resentment, lust, greed, suicidal and murderous intentions that lay beneath the surfaces we feel “allowed” to show.
Our shadow grows from our earliest years when we’re taught what’s acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in this world. Children are taught to be polite and generous - so being unabashedly truthful or forward becomes rude and prioritizing one’s own needs becomes selfish. We’re taught who we’re ALLOWED to be and who we’re not - regardless of who we actually are (technically, what we learn is that we’re not allowed to be who we are - the beginning of a lifelong battle of dissonance). Our entire environment lends itself to teaching us what’s allowed and what’s sinful - our parents, our family, our teachers, our societies, our friends. We’re rewarded for being kind, and proper, and moral - and we’re punished for being unkindness, shame, or “sin”. (it’s important to reflect here on how what’s sinful is relative to place, space, or time - an endless moving target in the pursuit of acceptance and praise).
In some families and schools and cultures it’s permitted to be angry, sexual, vulnerable or emotional, for women to be financially independent, for men to be artistic, for children to be considered powerful, intellectual, strong. In others it’s not. These are our earliest, subconscious lessons in suppressing our Self for the needs of everyone else. As we augment ourselves to fit what’s expected by everyone else, we repress what’s actually there - and it’s the beginning of our ego, and our shadow - our two most detrimental personality traits. It’s so important to recognize that not all traits of the darkest sides of our human nature are negative at all… they’re just silenced and secreted and suppressed, outside the grasps of collective consciousness - to be aware of them could become disorderly, and dangerous as it could lead to tremendous amounts of power.
And that’s why we study it. But to study it is difficult and elusive… it’s like observing the craters on the dark side of the moon - not impossible to do but requires a tremendous amount of tools, strategy, and commitment.
Look for your shadows in any spaces that cause you to suffer… if you’re suffering with no reprieve, there’s a shadow there. Look for your shadows in any exaggerated feelings - both positive and negative: obsessive fatuous love or deeply-rooted criticism. Your shadows lurk in negative feedback others give you about your behaviour and how they feel in your midst. There are shadows to be seen in any patterns of relationship sabotage - various connections playing out in similar ways over time. Anywhere that you struggle with impulse or inadvertent lack of control over behaviour - there are shadows. Any circumstances in which you feel embarrassed. Any circumstances in which you feel an exaggerated amount of anger or obsession about someone else’s faults deserves a deeper dive into the shadows as well.
Our shadow is most easily observed indirectly, when it’s cast onto someone else, and it’s usually the mystical, magical awakening time of mid life when the shadow comes out to play full-force. This is the time in our lives when our deepest needs and values often make drastic turns and we’re called to break old habits all while tending to an inner garden of hidden talents, passion, and meaningful impact.
Staring into the darkness of your shadows requires three key ingredients: slowing down your frantic pace of life, returning to the messages of your body, and carving out conscious time to be alone with your thoughts in order to make sense of the heavy messages from this psychological underworld.
How old will you be when you decide you’re ready to meet your demons inside? Your struggles have purpose. Are you ready to heed their message?