We wear two faces: the “light” and the “dark.” As well as everything in between. What face we choose to show to the world matters, as well as what face we show to ourselves. What we refuse to show, or repress also matters.
I’ve been thinking about the Jekyll and Hyde inside of myself, and inside of others, a lot these days. We are living in triggering times, and both the “light” and the “dark” side of ourselves, and humanity as a whole, are being exposed. Our extremes are rising to the surface to show their faces, whether we label them as “good” or “bad.” Sometimes the terms “good” and “bad” are subjective, or filled with layers that deserve to be unpacked.
The other day I found myself remembering the first moment the Hyde inside reared its ugly face and shocked me into a deeper knowing of my shadow-side. I must have been around thirteen-years-old. I was babysitting two little girls that day, and we were playing a game of hide-and-seek. It was my turn to seek, and as I approached the youngest child, I decided I’d scare her a bit. Now here’s the thing. I’d never done anything like that before. People in town often sought me out for babysitting services, and I was known as a responsible and kind sitter. In that moment, though, as I approached that little girl, an unfamiliar, and dare I say, evil delight filled me.
“Boo!” I yelled, watching as her little body shook with a genuine fear.
Tears steamed down her face.
And in the seconds before regret took over, a feeling of grotesque power took hold of me.
It is one of those moments one never forgets, even tough it was mere seconds in length. The light inside took over that monster of darkness soon after I realized the ramifications of what I had done and I consoled my fearful charge, but the shock of the appearance of my shadow-self temporarily taking hold of me left its imprint.
I’m not sure I knew at the time what it meant, except that I had the capacity to do harm, as well as good, and there was a feeling of euphoric power in that moment of knowing. It scared the heck out of me.
It’s hard to admit that we all have the extremes inside of us, and it is also easy, sometimes to shun or condemn those extremes in others. Anger is often frowned upon or feared. Aggression seen as unkind. And, directed in harmful ways to the self or others, there’s few who would argue the truth in these judgements. Yet, what is the essence of these displays of self?
When I think of that thirteen-year-old babysitter now I feel empathy for her shadow-self’s reaction. She had inside of her a team of repressed “demons” waiting to be heard. Her voice, used to being silenced, felt in that moment its power.
Today, on her blog Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore, Sally Cronin featured her post “#NewAuthor Marketing Tips – Making the most of Twitter,” and I found myself thinking once again about the Jekyll and Hyde inside of us. I will confess I don’t care for Twitter, just as I don’t care all that much for GoodReads, even though as an author I should be using them both as a marketing tool. There is kindness and light to be found on each platform, but also a full exploration of the shadow-self.
It takes nearly no time at all to Tweet kindness, just as it does to Tweet hate, and inevitably when I, on the rare occasion, scroll through my Twitter feed, I find a both. But somehow, my eye tends to linger on the various faces of hate, anger, and fear. Any political post is rife with responses that make me recoil and reaffirm my unhappiness with social media’s darker side.
Herein lies the dilemma for me. It is okay to feel. In fact, it is a healthy aspect of knowing the self — this feeling into our emotional responses— but is it healthy to stream vitriol, unchecked? When we react with anger and hostility on a regular basis, we are feeding the shadow-self without actually listening to what it has to say to us.
So what does my reaction to these forms of social media say about me? It’s probably quite obvious to the reader. I tend to crave harmony and have conflict aversion. Although I can be a tough critic, I don’t like to be judged, especially when it feels “unfair.” This tells me if I want to explore the benefits of these writer’s resources, I also need to explore and unravel that shadowed self inside of me. Although these aspects of self, in essence, can be traced back to the wounded inner child. I think the same can safely be said for most of our “inner demons.”
In this time of pandemic challenges combined with political strife the likes of which many of us have never experienced before these last four years, it is not surprising that we are facing a battle with our inner Jekyll and Hydes. I know I often find myself lying in bed on restless nights examining the subconscious mind through my dreams and analyzing the wounded self instead of sleeping peacefully through the dark night.
Who am I, really? I ask myself. What do I want? What do I need? What can I give to others? What can I not give right now? How can I heal the wounds that shout to be heard?
The Hyde inside does not, by nature, turn us into criminals. Instead, it offers us perspectives of self to examine, hopefully inwardly, before we cast that “darker” side of our face out to the world. It is as much of a gift, albeit usually an uncomfortable one, as much as it can be a curse.
The choice is always ours as to what we repress, what we “face,” and what we choose to express outwardly.