Dealing With Our Shadows

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
– Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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When tragedy happens, we ask why. The reporters and social media flood us with various theories and responses. Why did it happen? How can someone commit such inhumane acts. We attribute the cause to religion, prejudice, advanced weaponry… looking for any and every external factor that could have culminated in the horrific events. But, I feel like there is one factor that we are afraid to really look into – our own human nature.  

Even in recent history, there are many horrific tragedies by the hands of men (and women)… the Holocaust, Khmer Rouge, just to name a few. The many scientific progress and discovery we’ve made in the last century didn’t translate into less violence. Perhaps that is what’s been truly weighing on my heart.  As much as human beings have the potential to do great good, we also have the potential to do great evil.  The same passion that enables us to great love can also drive us into deep violence and rage.  However, while we gladly embraced our capability to love, we have conveniently forgotten our propensity for evil.

In Star Wars, the hero, Anakin Skywalker, transforms from a knight skilled in self-control into someone who is overwhelmed by his anger and fear, his “dark side.” Eventually, Anakin gives into his darker emotions, and became the ultimate villain – Darth Vader.  Even though it’s just fiction, it illustrated so perfectly how powerful emotions like anger, fear, and jealousy are, and how we succumb to their influence.

I’m sure this isn’t news to any of us.  We’re all aware of the shadow creature that we lock away in our hearts.What else can we do, when this monster seems to be birthed from the core of our very being?  Perhaps that is the key issue in our struggle – that we must acknowledge the reality that these negative, undesired emotions are simply a part of who we are. And as such, it’s not about banishing or ignoring them, but learning to work with them and understand what these emotions are telling us about our inner state.

Sorting through our feelings and emotions is more of an art than a science. In today’s society which is so focused on expediency and all things material, I would even say it is considered anti-cultural to sort through our feelings. Most emphasize on taking care of their physical bodies but ignores their emotional state. No wonder it always seems easier to distract ourselves with another activity rather than taking the time to reflect on the frustrations we feel.  Nevertheless, distractions don’t bring us resolution.  It’s only when we take the time to acknowledge and ponder through our inner thoughts and feelings, then we can unravel this intricate puzzle and move towards peace.

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