We all hold light and darkness within our self. Light can only exist because of darkness. Both light and dark experiences are teachers, but it is usually the dark that pushes us to radical revelation and significant change.
"When light is made, so is the shadow” – Carl Jung
It is easy to want to choose the light over the dark. The light is easy, it feels good and, in many cases, it better serves us to lean into the lighter side of life. With the influence of new age spirituality pushing ‘Good Vibes Only!’ we lose focus on actual growth in exchange for toxic positivity.
We must not ignore the darkness. When we resist darkness, it festers, like cancer, taking deeper root and spreading. The only way to eliminate darkness is by illuminating it. By shining a light on the areas of ourselves that are the most uncomfortable the more we are able to discover, accept and heal. This is where Carl Jung’s concept of ‘shadow work’ comes from. The shadow comprises the parts of our self/personality that we don’t want to admit to having. It's not about 'evil' parts, more the kind of things we're embarrassed by like anger, apathy, addictions, sexual preferences, judgment, shame, or guilt.
Humans are dualistic by nature. To deny any element of oneself can introduce dis-ease (disease). True peace comes from embracing all parts of self.
Keeping Balance Between Dark and Light
Don’t Run From It – Our darkness exists to teach us. Feeling the full spectrum of our emotions as they present allows us to be more in tune with our true selves. There is the old adage, ‘What you resist, persists.' When we no longer suppress hidden parts of ourselves, we release inner turbulence to find peace. Taking responsibility for the dark parts, even if they are fueled by trauma, can give a great sense of responsibility and control. Running from the darkness sends us into a tailspin, spiraling out of control, feeling like we have no government over what happens to us, or to our emotional state. Facing these uncomfortable areas restores a sense of self-control, which gives us the power to direct our energy into things to are fulfilling and rewarding.
Express Gratitude – We can not have light without darkness. All the wonderful joyous parts of life would lose their significance if we didn’t have the pain to contrast them with. A focus on gratitude can help bring light even to the darkest areas. One of my favorite techniques to use when I’m having a very difficult experience with ayahuasca is to repeat ‘Thank you’ as a mantra in my head. I thank the medicine for sharing the expanse of the universe and I remind myself that even though, at that moment, I may be feeling/seeing something terrifying and painful, I am fortunate to have the ability to look at myself in such a raw and authentic way, an experience that the majority of the world will never have the opportunity to have. Many times, even just that little shift from resistance to appreciation, despite the pain, can initiate a transition from darkness to light. The same principle can be applied to everyday life. When we get too caught up in the negative, we can remind ourselves of the many things we have to be grateful for on a daily basis. This practice can help keep the darkness in check, so we can explore it while finding the balance with light.
Drink Ayahuasca - Ayahuasca experiences can reveal a lot about the darkness and the light. An ayahuasca retreat can help highlight the duality of life and the necessity of dark and light as teachers for growth. Many blissful and euphoric ayahuasca experiences have offered great guidance, but more often we hear of the brutally honest, painful, gut-wrenching, soul-crushing, self-reflective, and authentic experiences being the catalyst for profound healing and growth. This is because ayahuasca shows us the truth of all things, in the world and in the self.
Get Help – Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Suffering is a part of the human experience and is something that everyone, no matter what their background, can relate to. If you’re struggling or feeling consumed by the darkness, reach out to friends, family, or a therapist. Exploring the shadow self can be painful, you may be forced to confront emotions related to traumas or shame. If you’re uncomfortable sharing these intimate parts with family or friends, a therapist can be a great source of support as you navigate and explore the darkness. Having a safe place to be vulnerable and an environment that encourages examination, backed by the peace of confidentiality, can accelerate the healing process. Remember, no matter the situation, there are always resources. You don’t have to go through it alone.