Thursday, 9 May 2013

Why Good People Do Bad Things: Understanding our Darker selves.. an amazing book

Let this blog find you handling all thoughts with power & poise.

During my mentoring sessions, my mentor pointed out about an inherent duality. I denied it all the time. She pointed that at conscious level I may be a well wisher for others, but the subconscious has something else stored. My mind revolted against such a suggestion.

In Jan 2013, I took a break from delivering workshops to discover a new depth within myself. It dawned on me that yes, there is a darker side to people. I was many times jealous and envious of those who accomplished what I could not, but desperately wanted to. That I assumed was normal. I was appalled to discover in my subconscious, another layer:  ‘Ill will’, wishing for failure of that person. And if that person actually failed, “Glee” showed up in me: “Very well, this guy was showing off so much, now he has learnt a lesson.” This was accompanied by “Guilt” about such “Ill will” & “Glee”.

I started coming to terms with such thoughts as I realized that denial magnifies them. Acceptance is the first stage. It is quite critical to recognize, acknowledge & handle the subconscious thoughts. I had read somewhere:  “Our subconscious self drives our walk while our conscious mind drives our talk.”

I came across a book “Why Good People Do Bad Things” by James Hollis. It is quite an eye opener. It helped me understand what my mentor was pointing out.

From the back cover of the book:

 “[ it ] provides a penetrating understanding of the discrepancies that lie between our professed values and our frequently destructive actions, and offers wisdom to help us acquire a new level of awareness in our daily actions and choices. Exploring the SHADOW is important to our growth because it helps us repair inner fractures and explore what forces are working against us and why...”

Here is an excerpt from the book. I have omitted some parts to make it a simple read...


Sooner or later we are obliged to face this paradox: Since the Shadow is composed of what I do not wish to be, my deepest, most refractory Shadow will be found in what I most wish to avoid, namely, becoming me. That which I seek to avoid is me, for that enterprise feels too risky, obliges tasks too deep for comfort. We find, then, that all our difficulties with the Other begin with and include the Other that is within ourselves. As Jung notes, “This process of coming to terms with the Other in us is well worthwhile, because in this way we get to know aspects of our nature which we would not allow anybody else to show us and which we would never have admitted.”

… consider the temptations of Gautama, who became the Buddha. First, he is tempted by Kama, the Lord of Lust, which is an invitation to cling to the tender tendrils of desire. Being fully human we desire, and then are owned by that which we desire, as modern materialism makes so clear for us. Then he is tempted by the Lord of Fear, Mara. Much of our lives, for sure our reflexive defenses, are driven by Fear. Fear calls the shots, governs our lives – much of the time. Then he is summoned to the most subtle temptation of all: duty and responsibility towards others. Gautama became the Buddha, the one who saw through the snares of the senses, the false promises of security, and the summons to power. He transcended his Shadow, not by repressing it or projecting it onto others, but by knowing it fully, and he was therefore not owned by it…

… We may not be thrilled with what we find in this Shadowy struggle, with all its spectral seductions, we can see now that working with the Shadow is not working with evil, per se. It is working toward the possibility of greater wholeness. Wholeness cannot be, by definition, partial, so our theologies and our psychologies cannot remain partial either, even if our ego is sorely troubled by holding the tension of opposites that wholeness demands of us.

The apparently shadowless person is either naive and superficial, or profoundly immature and unconscious. Our goal, then, is not goodness, but wholeness, as Jung said. Such wholeness is our chief service to our children, our partners, our society, and to the gods who brought us here for this mission. Thus, our Shadow work is an invocation to us, a calling forth, and carries the germ of our possible wholeness. The first place to look for the Shadow is:
1.     Where our fears are found
2.     Where we are most ugly to ourselves, or
3.     For the many, daily deals we make, the adaptations, and the denials that only deepen the darkness.

This challenging paradox remains: We will never experience healing until we can come to love our unlovable places, for they, too, ask love of us. Our sick places are sick because no one, especially not us, loved them.

Shadow work requires a discipline, an attitude, a consistency of intentionality on the part of each of us. And none of us can avoid the discipline this work will demand, work for which more rigor than technique will be necessary…

Only the na├»ve, or highly defended, will believe that he or she can avoid falling into the Shadow… Sometimes we have to embrace this fractious Shadow, acknowledge these darker selves as part of us, and live them more fully in the world… It is a slippery business to negotiate with the Shadow, and a fool’s progress to attempt to outwit the Shadow, but sometimes we are obliged to do so in service to our fuller humanity, or in service to values higher than our ordinary values…

In the end, the work we do has a direct bearing not only on our well-being but upon those whom we love and the world around us. The well-being of others depend on our work, for the sum of our separate darknesses makes for a very dark world…

When we do this work, we do it for more than ourselves. When we do this work we find, in the end, that the light is in the darkness itself. We will find that no feeling, even the most turbulent, most contradictory, is wrong, although we are wholly responsible for how or whether we enact that feeling, for feeling is not a choice. Feeling arises from the soul, autonomously; ours is the choice to acknowledge and honor that feeling, or not, without literalizing its meaning. So what if our old concept of ourselves has to go? So what if we have to take on a more differentiated, more complex view of the world than makes us comfortable? Shadow work is troubling, you say? Yes… and life without Shadow work is even more troubling. As Shakespeare notes in Twelfth Night, “no prisons are more confining than the ones we know not we are in. Death, life, and other troubles are our constant companions.”

Taken from “Why good people do bad things :  Understanding Our Darker Selves” by James Hollis

May this excerpt and the book (if you read it) inspire you to introspect and find a new level of self-acceptance and surface new insights!

Warm regards,


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