“Every part of you that you do not love will regress and become hostile toward you.”
~ Robert Bly
It took me a really, really long time and a lot of hard work to even get to a place where I could begin to accept the many darker aspects of myself: the shameful, the angry and rageful, the fearful, the protective, the hider, the avoider, and the list goes on.
It has been a lifelong path and practice to learn to love myself and be comfortable in my own skin. But I haven’t arrived anywhere. There is no endpoint. There is no completion.
Being free from your unhealthy negative shadow aspects is a fantasy; it won’t happen. There is no way of perfection in loving every part of yourself.
But what I’ve learned is to stay committed to the practice of shadow work. Because when I think I’ve done all the work and become complacent, it inevitably rears its ugly head.
As Robert Bly says, all these different aspects of yourself that you do not love, recognize or attend to do not just magically go away. They lie in the shadow. They fester and become toxic and poisonous.
We have to be courageous enough to face our inner darkness. The parts of ourselves we have shunned, shamed and hidden away.
This is a radical path for men, but so worth it.
The darker aspects I’m talking about could be:
- Anger (not aggression) with heart
- Your inner killer (figurative) with heart
- A fierceness with heart
- Your inner badass with heart
- Or the edgier “I don’t give a FUCK” energy with heart
Many spiritual men avoid this and want to only live in the idea of light, Love, and “it’s all good.”
Yes, light and especially Love is crucial, but a man on the path must learn to expand into the darker range of his emotional life.
Some religious traditions personify the dark side as something “outside of us,” such as in the idea of the devil or evil. Some mystic and wisdom traditions speak about our darker aspects as part of humanity, and in the Buddhist tradition, one frame is through befriending our demons.
Your darker aspects must be accessed, expressed, and tempered with Love. I am not suggesting allowing reactive, destructive anger to be unleashed.
If you are a classic nice guy and can’t access darker aspects like anger or killer energy, it leaves you cut off from an essential range of emotions.
These darker aspects are a hugely important ingredient in developing true confidence.
For men with nice guy habits, repressing and ignoring your darker aspects keeps you trapped in the prison of the diminished pleaser.
And…very often, in intimate relationships with women (or a feminine partner), the partner may have to take a more directive role in the relationship, neither of which they enjoy after a while.
Men with unhealthy emotional habits (like reactive anger or hyper-masculinity) most likely carry shame about it, which can cause them to repress any darker emotional expressions further.
You might have been taught that anger or darker directive energy is unacceptable. I’ve heard many men say, “I don’t really have any anger.”
But the disowned darker emotions are always under the surface and can come out in unhealthy emotional explosions, or maybe you shut down emotionally.
If you’ve never expressed anger or if you have unhealthy reactive anger, this will feel like newfound freedom and lifting of a veil from your blindspots.
Open through the density of your darker emotions, to not let your wounds limit your functionality-your desire- your expression- your ability to love.
It’s time to do the work, brothers. As the saying goes, “what you don’t own owns you.”
As you liberate your unexpressed darker aspects, it will allow you more easily access and use these traits and expressions in leadership and Love!
GET SUPPORT – Find a man trained in facilitating this work. There needs to be a deep trust to do this.
Dip your toe into the work: take some time alone in nature to feel and express the darker aspects of who you are. Feel and move your body, get physical, allow, express, and always approach it with empathy and self-compassion.