We live in this physical world of opposites, yet somehow we expect that one day we will embody only the qualities we label as good, finally having cleansed ourselves of all the traits we label as bad. But as long as we are human, as long as we are spirit appearing in a body, we will live in a world of duality, where day is as real as night, light is as real as shadow and hot is as real as cold. To fight the night for the sake of the day, or chase away the shadow for the sake of the light, is ridiculous and completely unnecessary since they both exist in harmony with each other, regardless of our opinion of them.
Can you bring the qualities you label as bad and undesirable in yourself in harmony with the traits you see as good and worthy? Can you embrace your shadow side and make peace with all the seemingly contradictory aspects of your humanness?
Let’s start this process of accepting our wholeness rather than striving for perfection by remembering that we live in a world of opposites. Let’s forgive ourselves for being human, and let’s make peace with all the beauty and ugliness that being human brings with it.
From early childhood, we are taught that certain behavior is good or bad. We learn to do this, and never to do that, if we are to be liked. We learn that these traits are worthy and desirable, while those traits are bad and shameful. And over the course of growing up, we flaunt the good qualities and suppress the bad qualities. But the bad qualities we suppress don’t just disappear into nothingness. They remain locked in the scary basement of our subconscious. And like an infection that you never healed but just covered up, these repressed fears flare up from time to time, maybe ever regularly. Someone says something potentially critical, and your old fear of being not good enough gets activated. Before you even know why you feel angry, sad or unworthy, you’ve completely wrapped yourself up in an emotional tornado. And it’s all because you repressed a part of your humanness, denying it space it needs to be.
But whatever it is that you don’t let be, will never let you be. Whatever qualities you decided needed to be hidden and disowned will keep owning you. Just like it’s impossible to run away from your literal shadow, it’s impossible to run away from your figurative shadow. Why? Because the effort you use to suppress something just gives it more life.
In her book “The Dark Side of the Light Chasers,” Debbie Ford gives this example: Imagine trying to hold a giant beach ball under water. The ball will stay under water as long as you’re using great amounts of energy to keep it down. But as soon as you let go, even a little bit, the ball will pop back up. Forces of nature shoot the ball back up onto the surface. So it is with the qualities we repress: we will be successful in hiding these aspects of ourselves from the world, maybe even for most of our lives, but we will live with a great amount of exhaustion and dread. And one day, forces of human nature will push these traits back onto the surface, no matter how hard we try to keep them under the surface.
Carl Jung said: “I’d rather be whole than good.” Even if you could manage to be “good” all the time, which is not even possible in this world of duality, you’re denying your completeness. Just like a year has four seasons, and a 24-hour period has a day and a night, so do you have a right mind and a wrong mind. That’s it. There’s no big drama about it. Both are part of the experience of being human. Just accept the fact that you will have the wrong mind, or ego, as long as you are human. The beautiful thing is that as soon as you accept your ego, you’ve disarmed it because you stopped resisting it and therefore stopped giving it power. Your goal in this incarnated life is not to kill your ego, but to see it for what it is: a fear-based thought that’s part of your wrong mind. If you can just accept that, you would truly be happy and free.
Our problem is not the ego, but the value we place on the ego. We value the ego not only when we are lost in it, but also when we fight against it or feel guilty about it.
We live under the impression that in order for something to be divine it has to be perfect. We are mistaken. In fact, the opposite is true. To be divine is to be whole and to be whole is to be everything…we push back all the ugliness, and then can’t experience ourselves as beautiful. (Debbie Ford)
In reality, we are perfect because we are as God created us. But this physical world is not our reality because it’s not our true home. We chose to come into this world of opposites to experience the full spectrum of emotion that this experience can offer us. So why are we cutting ourselves short? Go for all of it because you chose all of it! Allow yourself to feel all the feelings you are longing to express, no matter how ugly, shameful or immoral you think these feelings are. Once you own those feelings, they won’t control you and you’ll see that they were only a part of your identity because you believed they were.
One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. (Carl Jung)
The darkness, the shadow, doesn’t need to be repressed, but accepted. And accepting it means shining the light of awareness on it. It’s just like with the literal shadow: when you close your eyes, you don’t see the shadow, but that doesn’t mean the shadow is no longer there. But when you shine light onto the shadow, it disappears on its own. Everything that’s brought to light itself becomes light.
This letter by Courtney A. Walsh is a beautiful reminder to not just forgive yourself for being human, but to celebrate it every moment:
You’ve got it all wrong. You didn’t come here to master unconditional love. That is where you came from and where you’ll return. You came here to learn personal love. Universal love. Messy love. Sweaty love. Crazy love. Broken love. Whole love. Infused with divinity. Lived through the grace of stumbling.
Demonstrated through the beauty of… messing up. Often. You didn’t come here to be perfect. You already are. You came here to be gorgeously human. Flawed and fabulous. And then to rise again into remembering. But unconditional love? Stop telling that story. Love, in truth, doesn’t need any other adjectives. It doesn’t require modifiers. It doesn’t require the condition of perfection. It only asks that you show up. And do your best. That you stay present and feel fully. That you shine and fly and laugh and cry and hurt and heal and fall and get back up and play and work and live and die as you. It’s enough. It’s plenty. (Courtney A. Walsh)