Depression Hack: Embrace Your Shadow

You have probably heard at some point in your life that it is important to keep balance in all things such as a balanced diet, a balanced budget, a well-rounded (balanced) education, and a stable (balanced) family life to name a few. This is good advice because balance in our lives creates peace in our lives.

Our bodies are great at self-regulating to keep balance/homeostasis in order to function properly. We breathe, digest, fight off disease, maintain the right body temperature etc., all without even thinking about it. Unfortunately, our minds are not so talented. In fact, our psyche’s are intrinsically unbalanced. Have you ever seen the animation of the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other whispering into each ear?  That is essentially what we are dealing with on a day to day basis.

We all (without exception) have a good side and a bad side. This makes it very difficult to maintain balance sometimes. Not only do we wage a war within to do the right thing, but we also fight against our own side as we beat ourselves up over lost battles. This sort of self-sabotage is what we’d like to focus on as it pertains to hacking depression. 

Most of you strive to be good people. You work to be accepted, constructive members of society, and good role models for others. You take great pride in your efforts to stick to your moral code and follow the rules, and wouldn’t compromise your values for anyone or anything. Those are all admirable qualities, but they are not the only qualities you possess. You also have a dark side. We all do. Psychologists refer to it as our shadow.

According to Jungian analyst Aniela Jaffe, the shadow is the ‘‘sum of all personal and collective psychic elements which, because of their incompatibility with the chosen conscious attitude, are denied expression in life’’ (cited in Diamond, p. 96).

In other words, the shadow is all the things the devil is whispering into our ear on a daily basis. No one wants to admit they have a dark side. We hide it, repress it or even deny it. The self-righteous among us swear it doesn’t exist, but it is there, deep in our unconscious minds. You may have mastered the task of ignoring the devil on your shoulder most of the time, but no one is perfect. There will be instances when you falter, lose your temper, react before thinking, cuss, develop a bit of road rage or give in to temptation. This can cause a great deal of guilt and shame, especially amongst those of you who identify with being a good person the majority of the time. This cognitive dissonance disrupts your inner balance. The imbalance can then lead to negative self-talk, self-loathing, and ultimately depression.

Therefore, the depression hack we would like to suggest is that you “embrace your shadow.” We are not advising you to give in to your dark side, but rather accept it as a part of you. Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes. Learn from them. You are going to falter. It is normal to err. Humans are not perfect. You can’t hate yourself for what you are. You are both good and bad. To be balanced is to acknowledge our whole selves, the good, the bad, and the ugly . . . the angel and the devil.

Don’t sabotage yourself from achieving the balance you deserve by giving yourself a standard to live up to that you can never attain. Unless you are actually canonized as a saint or a messiah, no one expects you to be perfect. In her book, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, author Debbie Ford states it eloquently, saying, “We live under the impression that in order for something to be divine it has to be perfect. We are mistaken. In fact, the exact opposite is true. To be divine is to be whole and to be whole is to be everything: the positive and the negative, the good and the bad, the holy man and the devil.” Just as we have to take the good and the bad with life in all of its’ unfairness, we have to accept the good and the bad in ourselves.

Fortunately, there are many people who actually do live relatively balanced lives by making the right choices. If you adhere to the old adage, “all things in moderation” you can keep things on a fairly even plane. However, there is a great deal of darkness in our world that we have to contend with. Continue to strive for the best and understand that life is a learning process. When you do falter, be kind to yourself. You have enough battles to fight without fighting within yourself. As we always say, be authentic, and accept both the good and the bad . . . your light and your shadow.


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