I am reading The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford and it is an amazing body of work. In this, her first of many books, Ford describes how she overcame drug addiction and experienced a slew of therapies that spanned eleven years and included a twenty-eight day treatment program, twelve step meetings, co-dependency therapy, acupuncture, rebirthing, Buddhist retreats and jumping off mountains. She had read hundreds of books, listened to hours of tapes and yet she knew she was still not done.
Then one day when she was at a retreat something clicked for her. She describes it this way, "Suddenly this part of myself which I'd tried desperately to hide, deny, and suppress--was set free." What she is describing was an exercise she had been lead through by the facilitator of a workshop she was attending. The teacher challenged her to embrace a dark part of herself. In spite of years of therapy, recovery, and steps to healing, this was a new concept to her. She says, "After that day, my life was never the same. Another piece of the healing puzzle had fallen into place. 'What you resist persists.'"
She also said her whole body felt different after the experience. She proceeded on a journey of teaching hundreds of thousands of people what would become her technique, the Shadow Process: embracing the very parts of yourself that you disowned in an attempt to be a 'better person.'
Ford uses the analogy of our self being like a castle. When we are young we roam the castle exploring every nook and cranny without judgment, in awe of it all. Then, our first teachers, in an effort to teach us how to fit in, teach us to hide or deny undesirable aspects of our personality. Slowly, room by room, we close the doors until our castle becomes a tiny, manageable, two room house. And then we forget about the other rooms altogether--those once expressive, now silenced, aspects of our self--for a time anyway.
Until they surface. These aspects surface as shadows, scary sometimes, dark sometimes, lurking, threatening, so we do our very best to hold them at bay. Sometimes it feels too scary to look at them. We keep the doors closed--until a crisis occurs--and we must look it straight in the eye. Maybe the crisis is we become depressed, because holding back parts of our true nature is depressing. It takes all of our energy.
But, there is a gift in this, because looking at the dark side is really nothing more than embracing your whole self, the parts you had shut down, locked away. Who wouldn't want to discover they had a whole castle full of rooms and possibilities? Maybe when we do discover them the timing is exactly as it was meant to be because we are at a time in our life when we are ready for full expression once more.