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Owning Your Dark Side

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007 by Steve Pavlina

Download MP3: darkness.mp3

Owning your dark side. In this podcast, I wanted to use an analogy from Star Wars that we're all familiar with: the idea of there being a light side and a dark side. And of course this is an issue, really, of morality. Do you behave in such a way that you're serving the highest good of all, serving the light side? Or, do you behave in such a way that you will trample over other people to fulfill your own needs and to guarantee your own survival, which would be the dark side.

For all humans on earth, there's a bit of both in us. We have some elements in our lives that are very much in service to others;and we have other elements in our lives that are very much in service just to our own selfishness and own survival needs.

But, I think one of the most important decisions we have to make in our lives, is that of polarizing with one dominant side or the other. In other words choose the light side, or choose the dark side consciously. I certainly have had a past where I have bobbled back and forth between these two. I was very much into revenge I remember. If somebody crossed me, I would just try to get them back ten times when I was a teenager; especially in my late teens.

Over time I've noticed though, that a lot of people who have had very negative experiences — who have had times in their lives when they've gone way far on the dark side; and later in life that experience becomes a tremendous source of strength for them on the light side — which is really a kind of interesting switch. Consider some of the things that happen if you really become a fairly evil person, whatever your motivation is — let's say you're driven by revenge, or driven by selfishness- you have probably some strong negative emotion that's fueling your actions. But, interestingly, in the long run, what that negative energy creates in your life can become a huge positive asset for you later. That has certainly been true of me.

Think about it. What happens when you have this negative energy? It becomes a fuel for action. Now, at the time that your using it that action is very much in service of your selfishness -maybe it's just in service of revenge, or something like that- but think about it. Think about some of the things you do with that energy. For one — you might plot revenge on somebody- so you're strategizing on how you might get back at this person, who you think has offended you in some way. You can be really focused, you're thinking about what you want — even though it may not be what you should want, in some respects — you're really spending a lot of time thinking about it. I remember one person mentioning that he spent almost his entire work day, just thinking about revenge, about somebody he was going to get back at. Or, thinking about a betrayal — like, let's say you're spouse leaves you all of a sudden — and you feel totally surprised by it and totally betrayed, and you can't think of anything else. That actually focusing your mind, it focuses your thoughts — even though it may be in a negative way — you're centered on thinking about something very clearly. You're not distracted.

Another thing that negative energy can develop in you is passion, desire and lot's of energy. Now, it may be a negative form of passion — but you can get very worked up emotionally — when you're thinking about the source of you're negative energy. Another development is that you take action — this is at the extreme form obviously — for me, I remember taking action in the form of, I was a kleptomaniac. I was shoplifting and stealing stuff almost every day. I had so much energy directed into that, and so much thought directed into that — that action was just kind of a natural consequence — it was largely effortless.Another thing that develops in competitiveness. You have this drive to compete with other people — for your own survival needs, or for oneupmanship.

Now, take this whole collection of things you develop — when you're focused in your negative energy — and think about how these same qualities can be applied more positively. So, let's say fro some reason you undergo a polarity shift and you're no longer focused on your negativity. You forgive whoever offended you, you let go of the betrayal. Whatever it is you let go of — you still have these things that you've developed — they're still wired in your neural firing patterns.

So, think about how these can be redirected and re channeled. For one, all the plotting and planning you did with your revenge, becomes a strategic thinking asset in serving others. The passion you developed, and the desire and the energy for what you wanted — even though it was negative — can still be part of you, and it becomes a positive passion instead. The clarity and focus you develop, can be re-channeled in the service of a greater purpose; a purpose that serves other people. That execution ability you developed — the ability to take action, get's re-channeled into productivity — and that competitiveness you had towards others, get's re-channeled into drive and motivation.­

All of these qualities can be of tremendous service to you, on the light side. In serving the highest good of all, in serving other people — in making a positive contribution to the world. Now, what does it take to go through this re-channeling? As I've mentioned before, I've noted that some of the people who are really dedicated in serving the highest good of all — that I've met, in talking to them personally — it's almost a rule that they've had a really dark time in their past. A time, where maybe — they were drug addicts, alcoholics abusers, or abuse victims — addiction is an extremely common pattern I notice. They were just way far on the dark side. They weren't necessarily conscious of what they were doing at the time — but they were definitely not serving others in any possible way — they were really just focused on themselves.They would back stab just about anybody to get what they wanted.

After going through this, there's a period of guilt, and a period of self- forgiveness, but on the other end, they emerge with some strengths. For example from my own life, when I went through this period of shoplifting and got through it, and went through the guilt and went through the self-forgiveness — on the other side, I emerged with an amazing amount of courage. I'd had these reference experiences, for some of these things I'd done. If I could walk out of a store, with something stolen in my pocket — or whatever- and not have my heart skip a beat; I got to that point where I was not nervous at all, no fear whatsoever. I was able to just walk in and do it and leave. That is something I apply today in the work I do. Not having any fear, not having about, say, giving a public speech, or sharing certain parts of my life that might be embarrassing or humiliating. Being able to do this kind of work, in order to help other people; is really wonderful. It feels like a way of honoring what I learned from that time in my life and finding the good it.

This is a pattern I've seen in so many people, who are really interested in serving others. Who have really shifted over to the light side. How do you switch? especially if you've had this dark perios of your llife, or are having it now. How do you switch polarities? Well, it has to do with making a fundamental decision about the nature of our existence as human beings. So, this goes up to a higher level of contexts and beliefs. Your context is essentially your entire collection of beliefs about your reality. So, that includes your spiritual beliefs, your beliefs in what you think the laws of physics are. What you think is possible or impossible — for others and for yourself. This entire collection of beliefs, of how you think reality functions, makes up your context. The single most important part of context, is answering this question. Are you fundamentally, and unconditionally safe here?

You're answer to that is either going to be yes, no or maybe. If your answer is yes — and you believe that you are fundamentally uncondiotionally safe here — not necessarily in your physical body, but the essence of your being. Which you might define as your consciousness.

Can your consciousness actually be harmed in any way? Can it be destroyed? Can you cease to exist? If there are any conditions placed upon what might cause you to stop existing, then you're not unconditionally safe here. I mean, it has to be unconditional — that nothing you do here on earth could make a difference either way. Nothing you do is going to damn you to hell, nothing you do is going to cause you to cease to exist; including even committing suicide. That somehow you will still survive beyond that. So if you actually believe that, that is true, that really effects how you're going to live your life — in a tremendous way- I mean, this is the most fundamental decision you make. If you believe that you are unconditionally safe here, no matter what you do; then you are going to relate to the world in a very interesting way.

The way I would describe that as unconditional love. In other words, you have no need for fear- you may still have say, the lowest level of your fight or flight response, when your physical survival is in danger — but that's an unconscious response. I'm talking about the kind of fear that you have a chance to deal with consciously — say fear of public speaking, or say fear of asking someone out on a date, or fear of asking for a raise, fear of success, fear of failure — those kinds of fears. If you truly believe that you are unconditionally safe here, then all those fears go away; they simply melt, they're irrelevant. It doesn't matter if you fail, because it cannot really harm you or damage you in a fundamental way. It doesn't matter if you're rejected.

When you live that way, when that is your fundamental decision, you're on the light side.

On the other hand, let's say you answer no to the question; are you fundamentally safe here? For example, if you're an atheist, and you don't believe in the after-life — you believe that when your physical body dies your consciousness ceases to exist- then you're answering no to this question. You're not unconditionally safe here. In other words, when you die you cease to exist, you're done, that's it. Now I would call this polarity, the polarity of fear. Because, now, you're going to relate to the world in a totally different way. Now, your physical existence is all you have, and something you do or do not do; may cause you to be harmed in some serious, fundamental way, or to cease to exist. If that is the reality you deal with, then honestly the most intelligent way to relate to the world, is one of fear. You have to protect yourself, you have to insure your own survival.

Answering this question — are you unconditionally safe here? no — leads to fear of polarization, which essentially leads to the dark side. That's how you're going to relate to the world, if you take it far enough, if you really believe that the answer to that question is no — you will end up in the dark side.

I mean, think about it, if you are an Atheist and you believe — absolutely, you are absolutely sure this is the only life you have, and that when you die you will cease to exist — you may relate to the world in a very, very different way, than somebody who believes they're fundamentally immortal and cannot be harmed. If I were an Atheist and I felt that there was no afterlife at all — and I truly believed it — what I would do with my life, is I would do everything possible to insure my survival. I would probably go into some kind of research, into longevity, and put all my energy and effort into my own survival.

I would take it very, very seriously. I would think, wow, this is the only life I have, that's it and then I'm dead and gone for good, and I don't necessarily want that to happen. I want to ensure my own survival. So, I would put all my resources into that pursuit — into finding some way to survive — whatever it took.

On the other hand — when you end up on the light side — you're survival is guaranteed, you no longer need to work at it. This is interesting, because here you have an extremely conscious choice. Your choice is really no longer dictated by circumstances, or by the need to survive. My survival's guaranteed, I can pretty much do anything I want. But, being in this kind of state raises your consciousness to a point where, you really start thinking hard about what is it you do want. Then you start answering more of those high level context questions, to fill in some of the details.

That's where things get really interesting, because now you have a very conscious choice on how to live your life; and you get into the level of purpose. Of what do you want to make of your life, what do you want to contribute while you're here? You have a lot of possibilities there, but ultimately when fear is removed from the equation, there will be some commonalities there; you won't need to go out and back stab other people for your own survival needs.

Now ultimately — as I said I earlier — I believe we're here to make a fundamental choice, between the light side and the dark side. I think the real purpose of our human existence is to polarize us, one way or the other. To make a choice either way.

Suppose you answer maybe to the question, maybe we're unconditionally safe here, maybe we're not. I would say that all of us living here as human beings — at least initially when we came here — answered maybe to that question. We don't really know, we don't really know if we're safe here or not, and we came here to clarify the possibilities. To get a better grasp on that question — and by interacting with the world we can experiment with both. We can choose fear polarization, we can choose love polarization. When we do each one, we get completely different results. The universe reflects back to us, basically what we put out. When we put out fear, when we put out that our answer to the question — is that we're probably not safe here — we get back threats, we get back difficult life challenges, we get back addictions, we get back negative behavior, we get the reflections of these things coming back into our lives. We get scarcity, financial problems, relationship problems, conflict. All this stuff comes back to us because it is the perpetuation of what we are projecting.

On the other hand, if what we're projecting is that our answer is probably yes, we're probably unconditionally safe here, that's what we're leaning towards. Then we start to get an entirely different reflection back from the universe. We get back love from other people, we get back abundance, we get back gratitude; we're putting out service, we're putting out positive intentions, we're putting out joy and happiness. It's a totally different type of existence, and yet the physical world will accommodate either one. It just simply reflects back to us what we are getting.

You won't find a very fearful person, who's enjoying the reflections of somebody on the love side — and you won't find somebody on the love side, who's experiencing the reflections of somebody on the fear side. It's really a totally different reality. I've gone back and forth between these enough times to be just utterly shocked that — when I shift my polarity internally I can see how the external world changes just almost magically — and it usually happens gradually over time. It usually takes somewhere in the range of sixty to ninety before I really start feeling that there is a shift that has happened. Where I really notice, wow, something has really shifted out there — and it was because, sixty to ninety days earlier — I experienced the shift internally. As I started reasoning my way through the question — the idea — of fundamental safety, "I changed the way I was leaning. I changed more to the dark side, or more to the light side.

Now, for the past several years I've been very much on the light side, and been pushing myself further and further into that direction. That's what motivated me to start my personal development business. However, there's always that part of me — there's always that part of all of us — that can go either way, that can go to the dark side that, can go to the light side. What I realized is that the answer is not out there somewhere, out there in the universe to be found. The answer is a fundamental, conscious choice that we make of our own free will. There's no right or wrong answer. There's no accurate or inaccurate answer. There is simply the choice, and then the results, the choice and the results.The results a very different on both sides.

So, my advice to you is to real think, about this question. Are you fundamentally safe here? Do you want to answer that as a yes, or do you want to answer that as a no? It's a complete choice you're free to make. There's really no evidence out there either way, because all you are going to see, if you look out there, is what you already believe. So that's a good way to know what you already believe right now — is to look at what you're getting.

Is your life filled with scarcity and hardship, turmoil and conflict and betrayal and so on? If so, you've answered no, that you're not fundamentally safe here. Is your life filled with joy, abundance, happiness, ease opportunities, friendship, love, connection with people, gratitude? If that is the reflection you are getting, then you've answered yes.

For most of us, we get a combination of these, a blending. This is not an either or situation. The more you polarize one way or the other, the more the results change. It's like a sliding scale. So, if you're getting kind of a combination of both of these, then you're right in the middle of neutrality. So you're free if your lifetime to move that slider wherever you want, based on how you answer this question.

My challenge to you, is to make this choice consciously — and this is a challenge that I am pursuing myself — to make this choice very, very consciously; and to stay with that choice long enough to see what happens. To see what reflection comes back, to learn from that, and then to continue to refine your choice over time. Either go more one way, or start having doubts and go back the other way. But don't just allow yourself to ignore this decision.

Until next time, live consciously.