Don’t ignore your dark side

the dark side mental health personality

Making an ally of your dark side is essential to mental health.

Surely one of the most vivid and memorable metaphors in psychology is Carl Jung’s shadow. Similar in many ways to Freud’s “Id,” the term shadow helps us to visualize the way in which troublesome human instincts and impulses may be consigned to darkness within the psyche.

Much of child-rearing is an attempt to imprison socially undesirable behaviors, and even thoughts, within the shadow, where they cannot cause havoc. Some degree of suppression is needed, if people are to live together in relative civility.

Yet, despite its dangers, shadow-energy is vital not only to survival but also to happiness. Shadow -energy is life-energy in its most potent form. A person with no shadow would be a weak, pathetic thing. And attempts to shove too many impulses too completely into the shadow can have a whack-a-mole effect.

To be mentally healthy, individuals must find ways to integrate shadow-energy into their personalities without becoming psychopaths. Stories – novels, movies, podcasts, whatever – offer one good way to do this. By empathizing with the characters in stories, people can experience even the most destructive parts of shadow-energy vicariously and claim some of that energy for their own.

It’s axiomatic among writers that great stories require great antagonists. Such antagonists are often full of shadow-energy. Shakespeare’s plays are full of shadow-energy—Iago, Richard the Third, Lady Macbeth, and on and on.

Yet shadow-energy is not confined to antagonists. Well-rounded protagonists possess it too. There’s nothing more boring and less realistic than a morally perfect character. As we identify with a story’s protagonist, we experience vicariously the struggle to tap shadow-energy without being ruled by it.

In our neo-puritanical, “cancel-culture” world, more and more material is being shoved into the shadow, from which it may emerge in destructive ways. By integrating some of that energy into our conscious selves, we become stronger, more capable, more compassionate, and more fully human.

Source: Psychology Today