23 Apr Embrace Your Demons
What are your positive traits? Maybe you’re artistic, conscientious, precise or pragmatic; empathic, goal-driven, enthusiastic or independent. Now think about how these very traits have caused you trouble in the past.
With a little reflection, it becomes clear that the qualities we are praised for, often have a dark side. Your confidence may have earned you the badge of being ‘bossy’; your action-driven mentality could be linked to your impatience. More often than not, our weaknesses are merely inverted strengths.
This relationship between dark and light sets up an interesting process in our developmental journeys. Below, I’d like to share how this journey usually unfolds, so you can plot your own course with awareness and clarity.
Chapter 1: Exorcise this foul spirit!
When first confronted with the less pleasing aspect of ourselves, it’s quite natural to recoil. We demonise the parts that limit us, hurt others or gets in the way of our potential. The immediate thought is usually: “how do I get rid of this?”
Someone at this point in their journey usually says:
“I just need to get this temper under control,”
“If only I was a bit more organised, it would be much better,”
“I should be stricter with myself, and say no to others.”
“I just need to get rid of this bad habit,”
The problem with this stance, is that we don’t always see how the bad habit or negative trait has served us in the past. Anger, for example, can be a great way to assert yourself, command authority and set boundaries. Disorganisation can be linked to a creative mind, with a limitless capacity for new, fresh ideas. Emotional sensitivity attunes you to the needs of others, while emotional insensitivity can give you a more objective perspective.
It is only when we start making the connections between our best and worst qualities, that we can move to the next chapter.
Chapter 2: Accepting the rough edges
This response may feel counter-intuitive: how will acceptance bring about change? If I just accept my anger, anxiety, low self-esteem, fear of commitment, phobias – won’t things get worse?
There is an important distinction between acceptance and resignation:
Acceptance allows me to take responsibility. I can only work on something once I accept it is mine to work on. It moves me from dissociation and denial, to responsibility and ownership.
Resignation results in victimhood, and I abdicate any responsibility for my actions. This results in the very common excuse: “It’s just the way I am.”
As we learn to accept our rough edges with awareness, gentleness an intention, we can move onto the next phase:
Chapter 3: Befriend yourself
When an angry dog shows its teeth, snarling and foaming at the mouth, the last thing you want to do is get closer. If it’s your dog, you don’t really have a choice.
We can only tame wild animals with a careful, gentle approach, skilful attention, patience and love. In the same way, we can only master the wild and unruly parts of ourselves, with a careful, gentle approach, skilful attention, patience and love.
You can see why this transition can only happen once you have learnt to accept your rough edges. Until you do, you will only get angry with yourself for losing your temper, become anxious about your anxiety, or drown your disappointment with a tub of ice cream when you don’t hit your targeted weight-loss.
Chapter 4: Mastery and integration
When you reach this stage, the most challenging part of the work is behind you.
It takes courage to face your dark side.
It takes humility to accept yourself.
It requires vulnerability and compassion to befriend yourself.
It is only by going through these stages, that you can truly become a master of your own life.
- What are the traits within myself I dislike the most?
- What are the positive qualities hidden within these?
- What chapter am I at, on the journey towards mastery?
- How can I engage this part of the journey with awareness and intention, so I can grow towards the next stage?
Read more on how we apply this process to anger: How to train anger into a power for good
Do you struggle to face your dark side and accept yourself?
We all need some help to do this kind of work well. Schedule a free discovery call to learn more about how I can help.