Self-help media often encourages those who embark on personal growth to focus on positivity. If you do so, you will find looking on the bright side helpful. It can boost your happiness and keep you on track to joy. If you want to gain mental strength and wisdom, though, your aim to stay positive will be a hindrance. Here’s why you must embrace your shadow if you wish to progress.
How avoiding your shadow weakens you
Many people fear their dark side and pretend it doesn’t exist. Abandoning this crucial part of their nature leads to the blaming of mental suffering on circumstances outside them. Grief, anger, jealousy, addiction, and hate are attributed to events while personal responsibility is not considered.
When you push away your shadow rather than seek to know it inside and out, you give away your power to change circumstances and how you feel. After all, if someone else is to blame for your suffering, they control your emotional state and there’s nothing you can do to improve matters.
What is your dark side?
To embrace your shadow, you must first identify its nature. Your shadow stems from areas of your psyche out of alignment with your truest illusion-free self. It springs from your ego and works to keep you separate, isolating you from the connectedness that brings freedom and happiness.
You’ll know when your shadow takes the stage because you’ll feel off-balance mentally. A sense of emotional turmoil will arise. At this stage, you have a choice. You can look inside yourself for the cause of angst. Or, you might look outside for someone or something to blame. If you choose the latter, your shadow will grow and you’ll feel worse.
When someone says unkind words about you, for instance, your shadow will tell you the individual is bad and you have every right to be angry and hate them. You might then seek revenge or demand compensation.
A wiser way to behave would be to recognize your shadow nudging you to blame outside circumstances for your mindset. By noting your shadow exists, you are empowered to take charge of your emotions and thoughts. You can look at what, inside you, makes you affronted by the individual’s words.
Are you insecure? Has that person hit a nerve, an old wound? Do you long to be liked? Perhaps your need for acceptance hasn’t been met?
Your shadow is the key to your evolution
Only when you face your shadow and acknowledge pain can your wisdom grow. First, you must be willing to uncover your darkness without recoiling. Learn to see it as a development tool and it will be a friend rather than nemesis.
Where to begin?
Buddhist philosophy can help you get the most from your shadow. It suggests people have three main weaknesses; craving, aversion, and ignorance. If you examine the former example of the shadow at work, you might recognize them.
If someone upsets you, you might crave acceptance, have an aversion to not being thought of well, and be ignorant of the intentions of the individual involved.
When you identify signs your shadow is rising, pause. Rather than lash out–blaming outside circumstances and people–detect weakness. Is craving, aversion, or ignorance activated? Then again, they might all be at work.
Acknowledge and accept the darkest part of your nature and your emotional intelligence will expand. Embracing your shadow might be uncomfortable, but doing so will make you wiser and stronger.