Manipal Monk: Responding to the dark side of human nature

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“I am thankful for the adversaries which have crossed my path and taught me tolerance, perseverance, self-control and some other virtues I might have never known.” — Anonymous

I recently came across an article the shadow side of the human personality, which celebrated Swiss Psychiatrist Carl Jung described as not only consisting of “little weaknesses and foibles”, but “positively demonic dynamism”.

He explained that, for most people, acknowledging and personalizing this dark side of their nature is a Herculean task because over time we have become adept at repressing our negative personality traits while presenting an amiable face to the world – in a sense wearing “a mask that grins and lies”.

Jung asserted that becoming conscious of the shadow takes great moral courage and is a vital step towards self-knowledge.

Recently, the shadow side of my personality threatened to come to the fore, a rare occurrence, because being a naturally peaceful person I am usually content to let my raving lunatic be at rest.Inner Darkness

However, have you ever noticed that there are some people who think they have a monopoly on minimising other persons, especially those who have no wish to take part in their fantasies, erotic or otherwise, or whom they assume they can exercise a measure of power over through vindictive and loud tirades? Unfortunately, sometimes they choose the wrong targets.

On occasion, I have found it hilarious, and perhaps a little sad too, that these purveyors of expletives and venom are left shocked and speechless by an amiable and erudite retort or a magnanimous show of indifference. Renowned author Robert Louis Stevenson a master at trading insults once told a detractor, “I regard you with an indifference bordering on aversion,”; while George Bernard Shaw wrote of a haranguer, “The trouble with her is that she lacks the power of conversation but not of speech.”

And while I admit that the most congenial way to accept an insult is to ignore it, a practice I am still working on, there comes a time when you have to be aggressive with opponents whom no amount of fancy words or polite repartee can pacify. Cultivating the gumption to say “no” to people and situations that are not loving to us and do not image our long-term view of life, is a dynamic tool in the battle for sanity and survival that we fight .

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“At times you have to speak to the person in the language and way they best understand,” I was instructed by an elder. “And you have to end your sentences with an exclamation mark!” Mark Twain would have concurred. He wrote, “If you take the lies out of him he will shrink to the size of your hat; you take the malice out of him, he will disappear.”

Jung, in a thesis on perception and reality, revealed that we tend to believe the world is as we perceive it, and that we naïvely believe that other people are who we imagine them to be. However, he contended, there is a gross discrepancy between perception and reality and many of us go around projecting our own psychology into our fellow beings. In this way, we often create for ourselves a series of more or less imaginary relationships based essentially on projection and are surprised and angry when other people do not conform to our agenda.

Harsh experience has taught me that people generally attempt to cajole you into their way of thinking and expect you to act in a way that is supportive of their behaviour, despite the fact that it might conflict with your own code of conduct. However, once you do not need their approval, because you accept and honour your own special looks, talents and ability, you can easily move beyond their manipulations.

Darkness and light, the mystics say are two sides of the same coin. The darkness emerges to bring us light.

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