Embracing the Dark Side

I was en route to the bank when had to pull over and send a tweet to the Kojo Namdi Show when I heard what today’s guest, Todd Kashdan, had to say.

At first I thought it was a strange show topic – a guy against positive thinking! But then I realized where he was going with it.  Kashdan is the Director of the Laboratory for the Study of Social Anxiety, Character Strengths, and Related Phenomena at George Mason University, was there to discuss his new book, The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self–Not Just Your “Good” Self–Drives Success and Fulfillment.

The book takes on the pop culture trend of positivity and challenges the way it reinforces our habit of denying the truth of our painful experiences.

The key is in the title– be your whole self, not just your good self, and it brought to mind my remarkable journey through pop culture fandom that has done so much to help heal my creative blocks. (unfortunately it has not healed my tendency to tweet before spellchecking.)

I was socialized in the 50’s as a nicey-nice girl, a role where there was no room for loud or angry. The more life piled experiences on me, which of course included pain and anger, there was no outlet for that energy. If these experiences are always negative expressions, they have no way to exist without creating more shame and disappointment.

If we hide away more and more of our true experience of life, we inevitably become less and less authentic. Less real, even to ourselves. There are many versions of this in our mainstream culture – ‘John Wayne’ who can do everything on his own and never sheds a tear, that ‘Nicey-nice’ woman who never loses her temper, ‘Pollyanna’ who is always looking on the bright side.

I’m still very much a work in progress. It took until my 50s for me to truly embrace the inner Dark, to begin the dance with my Shadow and accept it as an integral and essential part of me.  I have become more prickly, less polite in recent years, it’s true. And the world has not ended. I have stood on my priorities, not someone else’s. I appreciate myself so much more as a result.

Do my friends? Hmmm, you’ll have to ask them. I might be a little more difficult to live with!

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