We all want to be seen and experienced as good people. We want to be liked and appreciated. We hope our best intentions are usually on display. But we’re also human, and humans have “shadow selves.” Maybe your temper flares in traffic and your horn makes you heard. Or, maybe you snap at your spouse over things you know don’t really matter. Or even worse, sometimes you descend to a truly dark place and lose sight of the light.
“I hate this part of myself,” said my client Mary. “I don’t want to be like this. I just want it gone.” Mary, like many (myself included), anguished over the parts of herself she didn’t like. She admitted she could be childish, selfish, petty, angry and sometimes downright cruel. She hoped I could help her get rid of those parts—the shadow or dark side of herself.
“Mythologically, having no shadow means being of another world, not being fully human.”Author David Whyte Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words
Mary went on to tell me she tried to be her best self, but when she became frustrated, her mean streak showed itself and she acted out in anger. “It’s as if the dark side of me just overwhelms me and grabs control.” Her angst was visible as anxiety and depression.
As I listened to her I asked, “If you were able to banish your shadow side, what would take its place?”
After a few moments of silence, she replied, “Peace …. grace.”
Then I asked, “If this shadow side has a positive side, a beneficial purpose, what might that be?”
At first Mary replied, “Nothing! Absolutely nothing.” So, in our hypnotherapy session, I asked her to close her eyes and check with her unconscious mind to see if there might be some way this shadow side could serve her in a beneficial way.
It took about two minutes and then her eyes popped open, she laughed and said, “It’s to remind me how I do not want to be, and to remind me to treat myself with grace so I can be at peace.”
I noticed Mary’s face and shoulders were more relaxed and her breathing had slowed and moved deeper into her body. When I asked her what was different, what had changed, she thought for a moment and said, “The dark side no longer has such a hold on me.”
I shared with Mary a quote by August Wilson about confronting the dark parts of yourself with illumination and forgiveness. Wilson said that when you wrestle with your demons, you cause your angels to sing. She understood and got excited. “It takes so much less energy to illuminate my shadow side than it did to stuff it and deny it.”
I smiled and asked if she still wanted to gid rid of her shadow self. Without hesitation she replied, “No, I think I need it, and it can help me be a better version of me.”
Mary and I met online four more times over a couple of months. In these sessions, she learned a variety of mindfulness hypnosis techniques to help her create a future that is greater than her past.
You, too, have a shadow side or dark side. We all do. But rather than embracing this shadow side with illumination, most people try to bury it deep within and never learn to express the totality of who they are.
If you’re ready to face this aspect of yourself, here are some suggestions:
- Seek stress reduction and mindfulness skills.
- Study self-hypnosis and how to use hypnotic suggestions.
- Practice self-forgiveness.
- Recognize negative thoughts and emotions and where you feel them in your body. Then use those as a reminder that you have the power to do your life differently.
- Learn how to memorize joyful moments and mentally rehearse being your most joyful self throughout the day.
- Ask yourself how your worst traits can serve to guide you towards being your best self.
I’ve often described the darkness within as a scary cavern where we trip over unknown items that block our path. But when we illuminate the darkness within, we discover instead a beautiful cathedral filled with all the gifts and talents and resources we need to fully live our lives.
I invite you to acknowledge and embrace all of who you are with love — and don’t be afraid of the dark.
Roger Moore is a certified counselor and medical hypnotherapist with Palm Desert Hypnosis. For more on this topic, visit www.HypnosisHealthInfo.com or email [email protected] (760) 219.8079. All sessions are online telehealth. Becoming the Greatest Expression of You is now available on Amazon.com.