Our Shadow and Doing Dark Things

“My definition of a devil is a god who has not been recognized. That is to say, it is a power in you to which you have not given expression, and you push it back. And then, like all repressed energy, it builds up and becomes completely dangerous to the position you’re trying to hold.”

Joseph Campbell, An Open Life,  pages 28-29

Like Martha Graham told Agnes de Mille, darling, “…keep the channel open“.

For good or bad, both sides of that symbol of yin yang, which represents duality and is within each of us, needs to be given air to breath, expression, a walk about, lest they morph and come out at inappropriate and sometimes shattering times.

Ever experienced something like this? You bottle up your feelings on something or someone. You suppress your anger for maybe even years and then one day, triggered by something trivial, you vomit your anger and it all comes out–every nasty bit of it. Uh oh. Socially awkward moment.

Most of us try to live in the light. By this, I mean that we try to be good people ourselves and with others. However, all of us have the potential to change, to follow our darker impulses. The hit show Dexter is about this very notion. Dexter, a serial killer in the Miami police department, constantly wrestles with his “dark passenger”. This show is so hot, for we, as people, can identify with the main character. We may not follow through on impulses to have a “kill room” or actually kill some person, but we each have dark impulses.

In myth and fairy tales, this is the shadow. Of course, we each have a shadow–both outwardly and inwardly.

Ever felt self-destructive impulses? Ever wanted to jump off of a cliff that you stood on the edge of? Every wanted to suddenly turn your steering wheel while driving fast? Ever been so angry that you could just wanted to hit someone really hard? Ever wish someone were dead? Ever felt the feeling of rage? Rage is a scary thing, as our cognitive abilities shut off. Our brains cease to operate at full capacity and we are acting purely out of primordial instinct. The body is acting, but the lights are off. Each of us has the potential to do very dark things, indeed. The thoughts surface now and then and most of us, push them down, down, down out of sight and out of mind.

Carl Jung, the famed Swiss psychoanalyst, believed it is good to engage your dark side, as that is part of you. They are natural energies and to give expression to such energies, is to release the energy from potentially controlling our actions. We give it expression in a healthy way.

Creativity and art, in general, are fantastic ways to release our energies, whatever they may be. When one is creating, one is releasing one’s energies…dark or light.

I do not believe in censorship, especially when the red pen is aimed at oneself. To censor oneself, is to deny potential impulses from being realized. What new perspectives, what new depth might your creation have had, if you had followed that impulse?

The beauty of following such impulses in artistry is that if they are well realized and put outward, others might even applaud you for your expression.

Jim Hart is the founder of The International Theatre Academy Norway.

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