When I announced this month’s theme of cultivating my alter ego, my friend Chamber Stevens messaged me, saying “good luck with your shadow self.”
Huh? My shadow side, what’s that? That’s how non-shadowy I can be. The symbol that I adopted as my name in April wasn’t sunshine surrounding a heart for nothing.
But then I reflected on the photo shoot I did as part of this month’s challenge, and how a sort of “evil twin” had emerged — although “evil” isn’t fair. My alter ego was fierce, confident and mischievous. Perhaps calling her my psychic twin would be more accurate. What my psychic twin brought to the table was power. Giving the camera those sexy stares was a little intoxicating, I won’t lie. Maybe Chambers had a point. He warned that I must be careful lest the shadow side of me knock me down.
I got scared. Maybe I want too much out of life, I thought. Did I want to open this particular Pandora’s box? Because even thought I know that my fear is keeping me away from some of the things I desire, I’m afraid of messing up the order of my life.
My shadow self had fun coming out to play, and in the weeks since then, she’s wanted to come out and play again, and again. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to play at my age and station in life.
You see, I’m a suburban mom. My husband and I have kids, we pay bills, we have responsibilities. Like many women, after marrying and becoming a mom some 16 years ago, I had divided my life into parcels. I had shoved what I had deemed unacceptable characteristics into a dark corner and went about my life.
The problem is, like water rushing down a hill during a rainstorm, the shadow self will find an outlet. The dark side will seep out in unexpected ways. And best that you be ahead of that rushing water and give it a outlet. If you don’t, it’s very possible that you might wind up dumping that dark energy on others in the form of anger or other negative emotions. Look at the news: It’s war and chaos. That’s the shadow side run amuck. That’s people projecting their darkness on whoever they deem “the enemy” to be. Men project their shadow on women, who then have that burden to bear. White people project their shadow on black people.
According to Robert A. Johnson, author of Owning Your Own Shadow (Harper SanFrancisco, 1994), “No one can escape the dark side of life, but we can pay out that dark side intelligently.”
Paying out the dark side in an intelligent way seems to be a key to satisfaction. Could my alter ego Aurora be a way to pay out that dark side intelligently?
I think she could be. I love Aurora. She’s necessary.
No one can be reduced to one side — dark or light — and it’s a mistake to try to ignore one in favor of the other. The universe requires balance. Or, as Johnson writes, “This is one of (psychologist Carl) Jung’s greatest insights: that the ego and the shadow come from the same source and exactly balance each other.”
Interestingly, to bring Prince into this discussion (and how can we not), Johnson touches on the nature of artists, positing that the more you build up the light side of the equation, the stronger your shadow will grow to match it. As an artist, when you create, you build up the light side of the equation. That is the right side of the scale. To balance it, on the left side of the scale, is destruction.
“To make a work of art, to say something kind to help others, to beautify the house, to protect the family — all these acts will have an equal weight on the opposite side of the scale and can lead us into sin,” Johnson writes.
When Prince died, his shadow side was exposed. His dark side was manifested in womanizing and addiction. Johnson attributes this imbalance in darkness and light to the difficulty that many artists experience in their private lives. All that dark has to go somewhere. However, he adds, “Broader talents call up a greater portion of the dark” thus using it in their creation. That, he posits, is the definition of genius.
Prince certainly could call up the dark, to the point that he once frightened himself, at least in the case of the Black Album, which he abandoned in favor of Lovesexy.
Excuse me while I go and listen to Prince’s “Dark.”