Friday, August 31, 2018

Masking our Dark Side

How many versions of "You" are there?

It may sound like a strange questions, but no matter how hard we try to think ourselves as "One" as "I", or "Me", we hold within us many different versions of ourselves.

Most of the time we do this for expediency, or to go with the flow at work, or to manage our way within whatever environment we find ourselves.

Here are a few of mine;

There is the "Work Me" who is very polite, who doesn't curse (much, or only in front of the right people) and is known to be one the reliable people who gets things done. This me is always early, and helps diffuse conflicts between various factions in our workplace.

There is the "Church Me" who is basically the same guy as the "Work Me", but with less cussing.

There is the "Home me" who gets into his recliner after pretending to be "Work Me" all day and watches sports or movies or some terribly boring show about the perils of Keynesian Economic Theory in the post Cold War world. He may have a Bourbon with dinner, tries to help out around the house, and does most of the cooking and shopping.

There is the "Up the Valley Me" who officiates all the weddings and funerals for my friends and neighbors. He's the guy who plays bass and sings classic country songs in Tommy Covington's shop gathered around the wood-burning stove in the winter. He's the guy who loves shooting and teaching people how to shoot. He's also the guy who can ride horses, rope calves, and brand cattle, although I don't get much chance these days.

There is the "Drinking Me" who only escapes from his inner bondage once every few years.  (I think it's been over a decade since his last sighting, so that guy may be gone for good, but you never can be sure) He's responsible for all my good stories. Stories about challenging everyone in The Palomino Room in Red Bluff to a fight at the Bull Sale, and "borrowing" a police car out behind The Stag in Woodland.

There must be a few more versions of me that exist, but I can't think any that I put on for public consumption.

Now, which one is the "Real Me"?

I can't be certain. Maybe none of them. Maybe all of them.

There is one part of me that no one knows, and I don't talk about. The dark part of me.

If we are honest, we would all admit to having a dark side. It is inside every single one of us. How do I know? We are all human beings.

We all have the capacity for true evil inside us. Yes, I said evil.

Now, I don't care if you are atheist, agnostic, or a rattlesnake-handling Pentecostal Preacher, you know deep down its true. You might call it by a different name, but there is a darkness in the human heart capable of doing horrible things to other human beings.

You might scoff, but evil is never far away. In fact, we are surrounded by it. We catch a glimpse of it in the mirror each morning. Yes, it's you. I am talking about you.

You might say, "Whoa, whoa, pump the brakes. I'm one of the good guys!" No.  No you're not. Neither am I.

To quote Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn,
"If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” 
The fact that we are capable of evil is a universal truth. It's so true, it frightens us to even acknowledge it even exists.

We like to think we are all "Good" people. Yeah, we have a few rough edges, but deep down we would never do anything really bad. Well, maybe and maybe not.

We all think we would have been the German citizens who stood up to the Nazis and fought in the resistance. The overwhelming odds are you would have been standing right next to your neighbors in the Wehrmacht goose-stepping into Poland, or working at the Henschel and Sohn factory turning out Tiger tanks.

Again, Solzhenitsyn knew this all too well.
"Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person."
If you don't, or won't, acknowledge that dark side of yourself, that evil within, you can't recognize it when it starts creeping into your thoughts, and then into your actions, and then into your daily being.

This is one of the things that's really harming our kids today. They have these terrible thoughts, they have these dark desires, especially in their teen years, and they think they are the only ones.

They think they are broken. They think everyone else is "normal" and they are screwed up. It would be better if we all had a new kind of talk with our kids when they hit puberty. 

We need to change the Birds and the Bees talk to include this darkness.

"Son/ Daughter now that have these hormones running around in your body, you are going to start thinking some things, and if you're not careful, doing some things, you never imagined a year ago. You are going to be dealing with some crazy stuff. You might think there's something wrong with you, but it's probably just your body and your brain trying to regulate all this new stimulus."

We need to have some very weird conversations with our kids. If we don't, we risk letting them deal with these intense emotions using a brain that will not be fully formed until they reach their mid twenties. 

However, no matter if you're fourteen or forty, the same fist step is realization and recognition. Being self-aware is crucial. Understanding what makes you who you are is a skill you must develop.  

Can you look at yourself as an outside observer? Can you step back and see yourself for who you truly are?

It's a hard thing to do, looking honestly within ourselves. So, we hide that dark side from the outside world. We hide it behind polished, and varnished versions of ourselves; Our masks.

One look at our online profiles shows how we create these masks.

We only post the very best pictures ourselves. We touch up, filter, and crop to present the best version of us. Heck I know I do it. I've deleted a few pictures where my gut was hanging out, or my bald spot was showing.

I mostly post picture of me doing fun things, or eating delicious looking food. My online life looks pretty damn good. In fact, it looks a little too good. It's not that my online life is not real, it is. It's just not true. It's not the "Real Me". Who would want to look at that? 

Pretending to be someone else all the time is exhausting work, and over time, it creates tension.

That tension between who we pretend to be and who we really are, especially if that dark side has control of us, is a ticking time bomb. That struggle between who we want to be, and the dark side we are fighting against can be a life or death struggle.

We know we want to act a certain way, or get control over a destructive habit or vice, but when we fail, we usually fail in private or inside our own homes. This creates shame, self loathing and usually misplaced blame on others or just the world in general.

This cycle will grow worse until one of two things happens; the situation blows up in a public setting where you can't hide it any longer, or you get professional help to deal seriously with that evil that has taken over more and more of your life.

If you have that dark side tamped down in your life; good for you. Keep it there.

If you see it growing, or showing up in places and relationships where it had not surfaced before, take action. Today.

You must be brutally honest with yourself. Honest about your past, how you see the world, and how you see yourself in it.

A great tool I found for this was a website

It's only $30 and it gives you a structured setting to write about your past, present and future. It was set up by Dr. Jordan B. Peterson who is one of my favorite authors and has thousands of hours of his Psychology lectures on Youtube.

If you don't have the cash, take out a 99 cent notebook and start writing about your past. The things you did right, the things you did wrong. Then, how are doing today? Again, the things you do right, the things you do wrong. Finally, take a look into the future.

Those things you can control, those dozens of daily choices you make, if you make the right choice, where would you be in 2 years, or 5, or 10? Conversely, if you fall back to those bad habits, into letting that dark side of you take control, where will you be in 2 years, 5, or 10?

This gives you two very different scenarios. Two alternative paths to go down. Each one of them is within your control. One is a heaven, a better place to be in the future. The other is a hell. A terrible place you know you could easily be if you don't start making the right decisions. 

It all starts by admitting you have a dark side. The bad news is that dark side real, and it is dangerous. The good news is, once you can recognize it, you can start defeating it. You can gain control. You can keep in it's place.

It may pop up once in a while with an inappropriate thought, or some crazy desire or fantasy, or even a dark, brooding scheme of revenge. However, this time you will be in control.

If you've done your homework, you will know where this thought came from, and what made it pop up. You will recognize it for what it is. You will see it as a choice. A step closer to the heaven you are trying to reach, or a step closer to the hell you know you must avoid. You must make the right choice.

If you've read this far and you are in a very dark place, reach out for help. 

If it's three in the morning and there's no one to talk to, call a local suicide hotline. Yolo County has one. or call 530-666-7778 you can even send a text.

I had the opportunity to meet with them at a fundraiser. They are great people. Reach out. Get help. Start your journey towards your heaven and away from your hell.

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