Skinny Dipping in the Dark End of the Pool

Successful self care embraces the whole self and strives for balance.

shadow

Taking care of the whole…

I’m all about balance. For me, self care has to embrace all aspects of myself. Otherwise I’m neglecting some part of me and well, neglect is not caring. To put it simply.

I try to steer away from too much positive thinking stuff. It has a place in the world. It’s a great motivator. It helps change your perception.

But to truly accept yourself. To truly thrive in this world. To love and care for yourself, you must find peace with all of you. That includes your dark side … or shadow self as Carl Jung called it.

In some ways I’m just getting into what is called shadow work. But in other ways, when I think about it, I’ve always done it. I just didn’t realize I was doing it.

I’m a big fan of Edgar Allen Poe. Horror stories in general. Big fan. Growing up, Poe was kind of my idol. I didn’t look up to too many people to be honest. But Poe I did.

Why would I look up to some alcoholic, opioid-addicted writer? Because he made the dark side of human nature OK. Or at least worthy of acknowledging. And, unfortunately, his addictions were the unhealthy solution for dealing with his dark side.

Even as a child I knew I wasn’t the only one who ever had a terrible thought. We all have them. It’s part of being human. To deny that is to deny yourself. So when I discovered Poe … well, the world opened up.

Poe took his dark side, the evil parts, the hidden and taboo and put them out there for the world to see. I appreciated that. In fact, as I got older maybe I appreciated it a little too much.

You could say I went skinny dipping in the dark side of the mind. I dove in, buck naked and didn’t come out for a while.

I studied psychology in college. Most of my college life was as a psych major. Part of my interest was wanting to help others, of course. But the other part of it was wanting to understand the dark side of human nature. I particularly wanted to work with serial killers and child abusers and the like.

I had a unique ability, I felt, to dive deep down into the dark side of myself and of others. To understand their motivations. People felt comfortable talking to me because they could be honest – dark side and all.

I try not to judge anyone for having feelings — good or bad — because we all have them. Like I said in my last post, people’s change of fear is their dark side. And if they don’t cope with it, then the begin to hate and threaten. So I think too many people are letting their dark sides rule them and not finding the proper balance.

But anyway, back to my swim in the dark end of the pool. My theory was that I could use my skill to help catch and profile serial killers. And, that weird, undyingly hopeful side of me thought I could help “cure” them, as well. I thought I could make them feel more understood and therefore I could actually work with them.

For some reason I’ve always felt that I could fix the unfixable. A bit of arrogance on my part, I suppose.

So my trip to the dark side was strange. I realize that. But it was my thing.

Even after college and after changing majors, I still had a fascination with it. I began writing a novel about the “making of” a serial killer. I really dug deep in the research. I tried to think like a serial killer. I kind of lost balance a bit. I started having nightmares. I was skittish all the time. So, I had to step away from that for a while.

Funny fact, though, I turned in a story idea in college for a script writing course I took. My idea was to tell the story of a likable serial killer. Hello, Dexter. Why didn’t I act on that idea?

But that’s the thing about your dark side. A lot of creativity comes from the dark side. Whether you’re coping with pain or you have fascinations with or fears of taboo topics or whatever it is, when you face it and challenge it in a healthy way, you open up creatively.

Think about it. How many songs or novels or poems do you love that are purely, straight up sunshine? There are a few, of course. But most of them, come from a world of hurt. A world of darkness. A world of pain. A place of dealing with the negative. The longing. The disappointment. The unworthiness. And it’s quite beautiful, don’t you think?

Poe. I still friggin’ love Poe. People can say he was a hack writer. I don’t care. He told a good story. Stories with real human qualities. I love Poe.

But the dark side, for many, is the reason they struggle with the “positive thinking” movement. It’s not realistic. The world is not all sunshine and rainbows. And that is absolutely correct. It isn’t. And it never will be and it shouldn’t be. If it were, we would be off balance. And, quite honestly, we would be kind of boring.

I’ve always fell into that line of thinking of “the weather is better in heaven but the company is better in hell.” So, 100% behind that.

So self care means embracing both sides of yourself. Embracing your whole self. Working with the dark and light sides to reach a balance.

In fact, I didn’t get into meditation and journaling (well, I’ve always journaled but…) to be positive, per se. I got into it to not be too negative. I told myself, “Your are your problem. You have to deal with your worry and constant chatter in your head.”

In other words, I let my dark side, my demons, guide me to improving myself. For me it was to strike a balance within myself. Not to be Mary Poppins.

There’s nothing wrong with striving to be Mary Poppins, but life is more fulfilling when it’s in the middle. Not one extreme of the emotional spectrum or the other.

By accepting your fears or your demons, as well as your strengths, you find yourself more able to cope with the world. You’re not denying any aspect of yourself. You begin to look at yourself, your life, the world as a whole. It’s a much more centered and grounded place to live from.

You see, mindfulness and self care are all about striking a balance. Not being something you’re not. But being entirely you. All you and nothing but you. The whole you.

So, take a walk on the dark side. Start to understand the fears and weaknesses that motivate the negative aspects of your life. I think you’ll find it beneficial.

 

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