Come over to the dark side, we have growth: why accepting rather than resisting your 'darkness' helps you find your light

I love Star Wars. I love its sci-fi theme; I love how it seamlessly interweaves everyday concepts of good, evil, and political power into something so 'out of this world.' (Literally.) I love its characters, and more importantly, I love how it develops ideas of moral philosophy into something easily accessible for nerds across the world.

I do, however, have some scepticism about its dealing with the nature of 'darkness'.

Basically, I think that maybe Anakin Skywalker was dealt a bit too harsh a card by the writers - and just needed a little self-introspection on the ins and outs of his mindset. Then perhaps that whole messy ordeal with that pesky Death Star could have been avoided.

Trust me, I'm going somewhere here with this Star Wars analogy - I'm talking about the trope that is as old as time: a person struggles with (very human) concepts of self-doubt, jealousy, anger, sadness and impulsiveness; said person gets disillusioned by those who neglect their own wellbeing or fail to understand them; said person then turns to less-than-meniable groups in order to fulfil their goal of self-actualisation. 

Whilst there are a fair few issues here - ones that I need not mention in this post for fear of boring you - the one that sticks out the most to me is the idea of repressing one's deeper, hidden thoughts in an effort to please people and avoid trouble. In a real life scenario, longterm flat-out denial of your 'shadow' so to speak can result in messy, nasty consequences; self-harm, depression, bouts of anger and rage, detachment from who you are, running into the run crowd...I could go on. Many people assume that others who follow this 'path of destruction' are bad people - how dare they have complex human emotions and their own life journey to embark upon?! i believe this stems from the fact that the idea of 'darkness' has always been attached to something weird, terrifying - and unknown.

Anakin totally should have read this blog post before going full 'self-denial' on us.

Anakin totally should have read this blog post before going full 'self-denial' on us.

As children, it was pretty common for us to be afraid of the dark. Our imaginations had the potential to twist that subtle murky shadow of our curtain into a robe of a demon; or transmogrified our once beloved teddy bear into a devious creature of the night. We were never taught to question this fear - instead, we learnt that upon switching on the light, these scenes were just figments of our imagination. We learned to associated 'darkness' with terror, fear, unknown, and, to a certain extent, mental hysteria - ghosts aren't real, there's nothing under your bed, it's just a myth - and instead of confronting our fears like the Ghost Busters we were born to be, we simply made them vanish at a flick of a switch. That's it - gone. We took the superficial route rather than addressing it from the root core of our fear. And this is what happens now, as adults - but instead of fearing the monsters in our cupboard and denying its existence, we become terrified of the depth of what it means to be human, moreover, the consequences of our actions, and choose to switch our happy selves 'on' rather than diving deep. 

Poor Anakin didn't try to question or understand why he was feeling the way he did - nor did he harness the strengths that the shadows of our character can give us - and instead took the easy route of gaining fulfilment which he could not quite achieve before - because he had never attempted to address it with depth. The truth is, darkness isn't inherently good or bad - we think of things like selfishness, cruelty, jealousy, but in reality, these are just distortions of who we are when we neglect our full self, which includes our 'shadow'. Darkness can also mean mystery, creativity, deep thought, introspection, resilience and cunning. It's no surprise that many studies link 'dark triad' characteristics having a greater tendency to creative types.

And thus brings in the problem of repressing who you really are. The more we ignore, deny, and even oppress those dark corners of our being, the more we face chaos in our character. This can manifest as addiction, anxiety, intentionally failed relationships and/or jobs, or other behaviours that cause destruction to ourselves and others.

When we are ashamed of who we are and our emotions, thoughts, and personality flaws, we can never carry with us the self-awareness to grow and heal. We become stagnant; fixated in shame, self-hatred and fear; locked into the shadow realm rather than being able to flow and flit effortlessly between light and dark. There is a reason why Yin and Yang is so popular a concept - the balance between light and dark is calming, empowering, and allows us to fully express our range of humanity.

The human condition is about balance, not perfection.

The human condition is about balance, not perfection.

To become aware of our shadow is to shed light on our wounds and to give ourselves a chance for healing and mental transformation. When we own our vulnerability, beautiful things happen - and we transform our sense of being, mental health, and lives around us. But as long as we choose to close our eyes to our entire self, the wounds will continue to putrefy while slowly spewing poison into our lives.

And, yeah...maybe you'll grow up to be one of the most feared leading figures of the Empire.