The first time I heard Dexter describe his Dark Passenger I was mesmerized, identifying with every word. Then the scene changed and I thought, “What the fuck? Did I just come to another level of understanding about myself by watching an HBO series about a serial killer? A Sociopath? Yes, yes I did. And although I discovered this years ago and the verdict on what exactly this means to me is still out, the truth remains that I live my life somewhere in the middle. The thing is everyone has a dark side, it is human nature, but experiences this truth about themselves differently. For some it might never grow to be more than the temptation to eat a second piece of cake even though you’re already full, when for others it is an all consuming battle that wages within. It may have taken years of events and experiences before you even noticed it was there, or it may have happened instantly. Whatever your experience with this, the fact is, it doesn’t just disappear and if understood can be quiet helpful.
I wrote that last Sunday, fully expecting to then move into a lighthearted and wildly useful 6 Tips for Embracing Your Dark Passenger post, but when I hit tab it hit me back. And with the cursor blinking I was overcome with the realization, swift and unexpected that, “This is my own deepest struggle, and wildly personal. So please excuse my absence, I’ve been digging deep. And as I said in the intro, everyone experiences their darkness differently and for different reasons, so just take what you need and leave the rest for someone else.
1. Accept that it Exists:
As much as I try to steer clear of the traditional 12 step models, the theory that admitting you have a problem as a starting place is pretty relevant. The difference here, and for me was to stop calling it a problem, or talking so much about powerlessness. This starts you off in the red right away and only makes the process more difficult. Instead just acknowledging that it exists gives you access to it. It makes it just as real as anything else about you. For it has been in my personal experience that, just like renting an apartment vs owning a home. You can’t alter it until it’s yours. Two major things can happen by doing just this. The first being that, despite how hard or ugly it is, you will feel some relief instantly, no longer having to skirt around the truth. The second being that you might actually find that there are some things you have no desire or intention to change, but they are all tangled up with other things that you would like to rid yourself of that you feel too divided to know where to begin. Now that you’re looking at it, you can get organized.
2. Don’t let it define you.
“sometimes feeling trapped is less about the walls on the outside”
This is the chaser for the shot of truth you just took in the first tip and a commonly over looked step in the process. It’s easy when you are putting your efforts towards something to narrow your focus on it, but it is really important to keep a wide view of yourself while digging in the muck. Not to mention no matter how small it starts, the deeper you keep it locked up or hidden the more it grows to feel like it holds more stock in your character then it actually does. Without having an accurate perspective of ALL that you are, the outcome of your work can backfire. It helps if you have someone who knows you well to help keep you clear headed and give you a little boost, but ultimately the goal is to be able to self correct one sided thinking. You are never just good or bad.
3. Know Your Limits
Temptations are strong, but once you’ve established a direct link to your intuition you hold the power of discerning their value. This understanding comes more from
trial and error experience than from analysis, but if there are things you know will trigger you then be smart. Keep mental notes and apply them when the situations arise. The goal is to understand yourself so that you may always be in charge of your choices.
4. Learn From It
My favorite friend/reader comment on the subject was from my friend Rhea, who said, “my darker side’s name is Bertha. She comes out to defend me. I used to think she was just bitchy. Now I know someone has stepped on my toes.”
In most cases our “darker sides” are born for our protection. Out of pain, fear, or instinct there is much you can learn from the moments you are driven to move from the light into your shadow. It can be like a warning, or a guide to keep you from harm, and in many cases can help to open you up to a more balanced self. For it is in my personal opinion that much of what today’s mainstream society deems “bad” bares a close resemblance to that which makes us alive. With so much emphasis on “being a good person” we’ve lost sight of being a “real” person.
5. Get on the Same Side.
So how can you use your dark side constructively to achieve your goals? It takes having common interests. The common interest is you. Once you are no longer at odds within, the obstacles of life seem far less daunting.
6. Create a Code
A personal code, or creed is a thing of great value when working to live with your whole self. It can aid as a reminder of your intentions, desires and purpose as well as a reference to check in with when you feel yourself getting off course, in either direction. A system of accountability and inspiration. It can be long and detailed or consist of just a few words, either way it should ignite you, all of you, every time you read it.