Originally published on MindBodyGreen.com
Reaching for light, positivity and affirmations is wonderful, but tends to be overemphasized in popular culture. Learning to connect to your "dark side" is equally essential for an even fuller, juicier life experience.
Darkness, or our "shadow," encompasses the parts of us we don't want to see: the painful, sticky, murky stuff; shame, wounds and disowned pieces. Understandably, our instinct is to avoid these aspects of ourselves, but when we do, we dim our chances for joy.
Why? Because light and dark are opposing ends of the same stick. They only exist in relationship to each other. Embracing your dark side then, paradoxically supports you to being a lighter, brighter and more authentic YOU.
But don't plunge into an abyss just yet. Meeting your shadow is a skill to be developed. Not all darkness is productive to hang with. Learning how to trust your discomfort is different from strapping yourself into a stagnant depression.
If you're willing to gently experiment and put intention toward befriending ALL of your parts, you stand to gain a lot. Here are five reasons why you should connect to your dark side:
1. You will feel more whole.
When you let yourself have access to the full range of your humanness, you will have a more authentic and satisfying life experience. You will take greater pleasure in the vast complexities of being you.
2. You will become more mindful.
Mindfulness and self-awareness are the psychic muscles that get sculpted when studying and tolerating a range of feelings and uncomfortable sensations. Mindfulness practices have been shown to thicken the pre-frontal cortex of the brain — our highest seat of reason.
3. Your relationships will improve.
What we are not aware of tends to get projected onto the people around us. As you clean up your side of the street, you will be more clear about what is "yours," which makes for better contact with others.
4. Your physical health will improve.
What you are afraid to know about yourself continues to exist. The body finds creative ways of moving that energy elsewhere, which can cause headaches, shoulder tension, a bleeding ulcer or even more serious health issues. The body and the mind are not separate. When you safely touch into pain and shame, your body softens and becomes revitalized.
5. You will evolve.
"Going dark" requires drawing on an inner capacity, bringing you out of child and into adult consciousness. Choosing to navigate that murky inner terrain strengthens the will and spurs growth and self-development.
Next time you are home alone and feeling something stirring inside, try not to distract yourself with snacking, screen, or substances. Instead try an exercise called "shuttling." Take 1-3 minutes to sit with yourself and gently notice what's going on. "Shuttle" or, mindfully go into and away from the feeling several times.
It's OK if you feel uncomfortable, confused or unclear about what you are feeling. Take a moment to journal about what came up. This practice will help you gain more awareness and control of your feelings.
Not so bad, right? Try to embrace the rhythms of life, the expansion and contraction, the light and the dark, the joy and the pain.
You can't cling to light at all costs. Well, you can, but you'll be missing out.
Trust your complexity. Trust your shadows. Have fun being fully human!