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The Dark Side of the Light Chasers

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The Dark Side of The Light Chasers:
Reclaiming Your Power, Creativity, Brilliance, and Dreams

by Debbie Ford , Neale Donald Walsch

Debbie Ford believes that we each hold within us a trace of every human characteristic that exists, the capacity for every human emotion.

We are born with the ability to express this entire spectrum of characteristics. But, Ford points out, our families and our society send us strong messages about which ones are “good” and “bad.” So when certain impulses arise, we deny them instead of confronting them, giving them a healthy voice, then letting them go.

It is to these feelings that Ford turns our attention, these parts of our selves that don’t fit the personae we have created for the rest of the world. She shows us the effects of living in the dark, of keeping all our supposedly unsavory impulses under wraps. We find ourselves disproportionately frustrated and angry at the selfishness of friends, the laziness of colleagues, the arrogance of siblings. When we are unable to reconcile similar impulses in ourselves, Ford explains, we waste our own energy judging others instead of empathizing. But most important, we deny ourselves the power and freedom of living authentically.

Through the stories and exercises in The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, Debbie Ford shows us not only how to recognize our hidden emotions, but also how to find the gifts they offer us. The very impulses we most fear may be the key to what is lacking in our lives.

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

World Without,
World Within

Most of us set out on the path to personal growth because at some point the burden of our pain becomes too much to bear. The Dark Side of the Light Chasers is about unmasking that aspect of ourselves which destroys our relationships, kills our spirit, and keeps us from fulfilling our dreams. It is what the psychologist Carl Jung called the shadow. It contains all the parts of ourselves that we have tried to hide or deny. It contains those dark aspects that we believe are not acceptable to our family, friends, and most importantly, ourselves. The dark side is stuffed deeply within our consciousness, hidden from ourselves and others. The message we get from this hidden place is simple: there is something wrong with me. I'm not okay. I'm not lovable. I'm not deserving. I'm not worthy.

Many of us believe these messages. We believe that if we look closely enough at what lies deep within us, we will find something horrible. We resist looking long and hard for fear of discovering someone we can't live with. We fear ourselves. We fear every thought and feeling we have ever repressed. Many of us are so disconnected from this fear we can only see it by reflection. We project it onto the world, onto our families and friends, and onto strangers. Our fear is so deep that the only way we can deal with it is either to hide or deny it. We become great imposters who fool ourselves and others. We become so good at this we actually forget that we are wearing masks to hide our authentic selves. We believe we are the persons we see in the mirror. We believe we are our bodies and our minds. Even after years of failed relationships, careers, diets, and dreams, we continue to suppress these disturbing internal messages. We tell ourselves we're okay and that things will get better. We put blinders over our eyes and plugs in our ears to keep the internal stories we create alive. I'm not okay. I'm not lovable. I'm not deserving. I'm not worthy.

Instead of trying to suppress our shadows, we need to unconceal, own and embrace the very things we are most afraid of facing. By "own," I mean acknowledge that a quality belongs to you. "It is the shadow that holds the clues," says the spiritual teacher and author Lazaris. "The shadow also holds the secret of change, change that can affect you on a cellular level, change that can affect your very DNA." Our shadows hold the essence of who we are. They hold our most treasured gifts. By facing these aspects of ourselves, we become free to experience our glorious totality: the good and the bad, the dark and the light. It is by embracing all of who we are that we earn the freedom to choose what we do in this world. As long as we keep hiding, masquerading, and projecting what is inside us, we have no freedom to be and no freedom to choose.

Our shadows exist to teach us, guide us, and give us the blessing of our entire selves. They are resources for us to expose and explore. The feelings that we have suppressed are desperate to be integrated into ourselves. They are only harmful when they are repressed: then they can pop up at the least opportune times. Their sneak attacks will handicap you in the areas of your life that mean the most.

Your life will be transformed when you make peace with your shadow. The caterpillar will become a breathtakingly beautiful butterfly. You will no longer have to pretend to be someone you're not. You will no longer have to prove you're good enough. When you embrace your shadow you will no longer have to live in fear. Find the gifts of your shadow and you will finally revel in all the glory of your true self. Then you will have the freedom to create the life you have always desired.

Every human being is born with a healthy emotional system. We love and accept ourselves when we are born. We don't make judgments about which parts of ourselves are good and which parts are bad. We dwell in the fullness of our being, living in the moment, and expressing ourselves freely. As we grow older, we begin to learn from the people around us. They tell us how to act, when to eat, when to sleep, and we begin to make distinctions. We learn which behaviors bring us acceptance and which bring us rejection. We learn if we get a prompt response or if our cries go unanswered. We learn to trust the people around us or to fear the people around us. We learn consistency or inconsistency. We learn which qualities are acceptable in our environment and which are not. All of this distracts us from living in the moment and keeps us from expressing ourselves freely.

We need to revisit the experience of our innocence that allows us to accept all of who we are at every moment. This is where we need to be in order to have a healthy, happy, complete human existence. This is the path. In Neale Donald Walsch's book Conversations with God, God says:

Perfect love is to feeling what perfect white is to color. Many think that white is the absence of color. It is not. It is the inclusion of all color. White is every other color that exists combined. So, too, is love not the absence of emotion (hatred, anger, lust, jealousy, covertness), but the summation of all feeling? It is the sum total. The aggregate amount. The everything.

Love is inclusive: it accepts the full range of human emotion - the emotions we hide, the emotions we fear. Jung once said, "I'd rather be whole than good." How many of us have sold ourselves out in order to be good, to be liked, to be accepted?

Most of us were raised to believe that people have good qualities and bad qualities. And in order to be accepted we had to get rid of our bad qualities, or at least hide them. This way of thinking happens when we begin to individuate, as we distinguish our fingers from the slats of our crib, and distinguish ourselves from our parents. But as we get older we realize an even greater truth - that spiritually we are all interconnected. We are all part of each other. From this point of view we need to ask whether there really are good parts and bad parts of us. Or are all parts necessary to make a whole? Because how can we know good without knowing bad? How can we know love without knowing hate? How can we know courage without knowing fear?

This holographic model of the universe provides us with a revolutionary view of the connection between the inner and the outer world. According to this theory, every piece of the universe, no matter how we slice it, contains the intelligence of the whole. We, as individual beings, are not isolated and random. Each of us is a microcosm that reflects and contains the macrocosm. "If this is true," says consciousness researcher Stanislav Grof, "then we each hold the potential for having direct and immediate experiential access to virtually every aspect of the universe, extending our capacities well beyond the reach of our senses." We all contain the imprint of the entire universe within ourselves. As Deepak Chopra puts it, "We are not in the world, but the world is within us." Each of us possess every existing human quality. There is nothing we can see or conceive that we are not, and the purpose of our journey is to restore ourselves to this wholeness.

The saintly and the cynical, the divine and the diabolical, the courageous and the cowardly: all these aspects lie dormant in us and will act out if they are not recognized and integrated into our psyches. Many of us are frightened of the light as well as the dark. Many of us are frightened to look within ourselves, and fear has us put up walls so thick we no longer remember who we really are.

The Dark Side of the Light Chasers is about working through those walls and taking down the barriers we've constructed and looking, maybe for the first time, at who we are and what we're doing here. This book will take you on a journey that will change the way you see yourself, others, and the world. It will lead you to open your heart and fill it with awe and compassion for your own humanity. The Persian poet Rumi said, "By God, when you see your beauty, you'll be the idol of yourself." In these pages, I offer a process for discovering the beauty of your authentic self.

Jung first gave us the term "shadow" to refer to those parts of our personality that have been rejected out of fear, ignorance, shame, or lack of love. His basic notion of the shadow was simple: "the shadow is the person you would rather not be." He believed that integrating the shadow would have a profound impact, enabling us to rediscover a deeper source of our own spiritual life. "To do this," Jung said, "we are obliged to struggle with evil, confront the shadow, to integrate the devil. There is no other choice."

You must go into the dark in order to bring forth your light. When we suppress any feeling or impulse, we are also suppressing its polar opposite. If we deny our ugliness, we lessen our beauty. If we deny our fear, we minimize our courage. If we deny our greed, we also reduce our generosity. Our full magnitude is more than most of us can ever imagine. If you believe that we have the imprint of all humanity within us, as I do, then you must be capable of being the greatest person you ever admired, and at the same time capable of being the worst person you ever imagined. This book is about making peace with all these sometimes contradictory aspects of your self.

My friend Bill Spinoza, a seminar leader for Landmark Education, says, "What you can't be with won't let you be." You've got to learn how to give all of who you are permission to exist. If you want to be free you must be able "to be." This means we must stop judging ourselves. We must forgive ourselves for being human. We must forgive ourselves for being imperfect. Because when we judge ourselves we automatically judge others. And what we do to others, we also do to ourselves. The world is a mirror of our internal selves. When we can accept ourselves, and forgive ourselves, we automatically accept and forgive others. This was a hard lesson for me to learn.

Thirteen years ago I woke up on the cold marble floor of my bathroom. My body ached and my breath stank. It had been another night of parties and drugs and then, of course, being sick. When I stood up and looked in the mirror, I knew I couldn't go on this way. I was twenty-eight and still waiting for someone to come and make me okay. But that morning I realized that no one was coming. My mother wasn't coming, my father wasn't coming, and my prince on the big white horse wasn't coming. I was at a crossroads in my drug addiction. I knew that very soon I would have to choose between life and death. No one else could make this choice for me. No one else could take away my pain. No one could help me until I helped myself. The woman standing in the mirror shocked me. I realized I had no idea who she was. It was as if I were seeing her for the first time. Tired and scared, I reached for a phone and called for help.

My life changed drastically. That morning I made the decision to get well, no matter how long it would take. After finishing a twenty-eight-day treatment program I set out on an odyssey to heal myself inside and out. It seemed like an enormous task but I knew I had no choice. Five years and approximately $50,000 later, I was a different person. I had healed my addictions, changed my friends, and altered my values. But when I got quiet in my meditations, there were still parts of myself that were not okay with me, parts that I wanted to get rid of. My problem was that I still hated myself.

It seems unbelievable that for eleven years someone could go to group therapy, codependency treatment, and twelve-step meetings, visit hypnotists and acupuncturists, experience rebirth, jump off mountains, attend transformational seminars, Buddhist retreats, and Sufi retreats, read hundreds of books, listen to visualization and meditation tapes, and still hate part of who she is. All that time, all that money, and I knew my work was still not done.

Then finally, something clicked. I was at a Leadership Intensive seminar led by a woman named Jan Smith. In the middle of the seminar, I was standing up in front of the group speaking when suddenly Jan looked at me and said, "You're a bitch." My heart sank. How did she know? I knew I was a bitch, but I had been trying desperately to get rid of this part of myself. I had worked hard to be sweet and generous to compensate for this awful trait. Then, dispassionately, Jan asked me why I hated this part of myself. Feeling small and stupid, I told her it was the part of me that caused me the most shame. I said that being a bitch had only brought myself and others pain. Then Jan said: "What you don't own, owns you."

I could see how being a bitch owned me, I worried about it all the time, but I still didn't want to own it. "What is good about being a bitch?" she asked. As far as I could see there was nothing good about it. But then she said, "If you were building a house, and the contractors were running over budget and were three weeks late, do you think it would help to be a little bitchy?" Of course, I said yes. "When you need to return merchandise in your business, does it help to be a bitch at times?" Of course, I said yes. Jan asked me if I could see now that being a bitch at certain times was not only useful but a great quality to possess if you wanted to get things done in the world. Suddenly this part of myself - which I'd tried desperately to hide, deny, and suppress - was set free. My whole body felt different. It was as if I had just dropped a hundred-pound weight from around my neck. Jan had taken this aspect of myself and showed me that it was a gift, that it was not something to feel shameful about. If I allowed it to exist, I wouldn't have to act it out. I would be able to use it, instead of it using me.

After that day, my life was never the same. Another piece of the healing puzzle had fallen into place. "What you resist, persists." I had heard it so many times, but I never fully understood the depth of the statement. By resisting the "bitch" in myself, I had kept it locked into place. The minute I accepted it and saw its gift, I relaxed my resistance, and it became a non-issue for me. It became a natural healthy part of who I was. Now I don't ever have to be a bitch, but if it is appropriate, which in this world it sometimes is, I can use that quality to take care of myself.

This process seemed miraculous to me. So I made a list of all the parts of myself I didn't like, and worked on finding the gifts in them. As soon as I was able to see the positive and the negative value of each aspect of myself, I was able to drop my defensiveness and allow these parts to exist freely. It became clear that the process was not about getting rid of things we dislike in ourselves, but about finding the positive side of these aspects and integrating it into our lives.

This book is a guide for your journey. It contains the essential ideas from a course I developed over the years to help unconceal, own, and embrace your shadow. I'll begin by defining the shadow in detail and exploring its nature and its effects. Then I'll examine the essential shadow phenomenon, projection, whereby we deny crucial parts of ourselves by giving them away. After we consider a new paradigm for understanding our inner and outer life-the holographic model of the universe-we can begin taking action, applying what we have learned to unconceal the hidden faces of our dark side. We will then embark on the process of owning and taking responsibility for our shadow qualities, learning specific tools for embracing the shadow and discovering its gifts, as well as how to take back the power over parts of ourselves that we have given to others. Finally, we will explore the ways in which we can love and nourish ourselves and the practical tools to manifest our dreams and to create a life worth living.

Many of us have spent too much time chasing the light only to find more darkness. "One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light," said Jung, "but by making the darkness conscious." 

The Dark Side of the Light Chasers will guide you on your way to unconcealing, owning, and embracing your shadow. It will give you the knowledge and the tools to bring forth that which lies within you. It will guide you in reclaiming your power, your creativity, your brilliance, and your dreams. It will open up your heart to yourself and others, and alter your relationship with the world forever.

More from "Light Chasers": Projection of Our Shadows

Reprinted from The Dark Side of the Light Chaser by Debbie Ford and Neale Donald Walsch Copyright (c) 2000 by Debbie Ford and Neale Donald Walsch. All rights reserved.

The book at Amazon: The Dark Side of the Light Chasers

      


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