Happiness Recipe: Less Positivity and More Shadow Integration
We've all heard that we can choose happiness, be positive, and recite positive affirmations and that will make us happier.
My experience says that this isn't enough.
I’m not actually down on positivity. I grew up with a super positive mom and in so many ways it served me well. I like that for the most part I find it easy to be positive, happy, smiley, and optimistic (even when I am not feeling it inside).
I thank my mom for that ability.
When we focus only on our positive traits and have an attitude of positivity, it helps. It can make you feel happy at that moment. And it makes people around you feel better.
But positivity is not enough if you want lasting happiness.
Positivity can’t be practiced to the exclusion of what’s real and true in your heart and in your life.
If we want happiness, wholeness is the answer.
Wholeness means everything - reject no part, accept it all, stop trying to resist what's negative, hard, bad, ugly, yucky, and face it. Look it right in the eye.
Well there ya go, I said it - we have to welcome everything.
Not gonna deny that this has been hard for me. I'm a pleasure seeker and pain avoider through and through, so this has been a huge edge for me.
But, without embracing the positive and the “negative” within us – the courageous and cowardly, the honesty and the lies, the kind and the mean, the humble and the braggart, the giver and the taker, etc. – we're leaving parts of us behind.
When we leave parts of us behind or reject parts of us, deep down, a part of us knows that. A part of us feels broken or not fully integrated – not whole.
And we feel that emptiness. We feel the burden of pretending. We feel the disconnect inside us that comes from fragmenting ourselves into acceptable and unacceptable parts. It's the source of so much of our inner discomfort and suffering.
The risk of the "happy face."
Through my 20s and most of my 30s, I remember feeling pretty happy - my smile matched my inside world. This happy face became my “normal.”
I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but in my late 30s, I noticed that I wasn't quite as happy, but I kept slapping on that happy face because that's just what I did. While it made other people feel better for me to be “happy” and “smiley,” I was getting more miserable inside. My outside “happy” facade was creeping further from how I felt on the inside.
It’s clear now that I was selling my soul, my authenticity, in a bid to be liked, good, and accepted. Not so unusual, right? Fortunately for me and my happiness, something inside of me was screaming “you really aren’t happy. stop pretending you are.”
Yikes, what do you think of that? Do you think you might be pretending too?
I was suppressing all that I considered negative about myself and my perception of my life. If there was anything I didn’t like about myself or any feelings I didn’t want to feel, I pushed them down – banished them into hiding.
This meant that I was hiding.
These are our shadows. They live in the darkness. It's only when we shine the light onto them that we can be free and begin to live with integrity and inner peace.
Carl Jung says that the shadow is “the person you would rather not be.” Sounds about right to me.
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious.” ~ Carl Jung
The Creep Factor
When we show only the world the parts of ourselves that we consider lovable, there's a part of us that knows that we are more than that.
And I think the people around us sense this in us too.
My own experience is that people around me saw more of these so-called flaws more than I wanted to believe that they did. They were able to see my need for approval, my desperate desire to be heard and valued, and my need to control things so that I could predict outcomes. And of course, there are the other things that none of us want to admit or want others to know about us – our mean side, our negativity, our victim, our neediness, our white lies, etc.
These were just a few of the things that I wasn’t proud to admit but that were creeping out unconsciously because they were still part of me. They are part of me. And you too. And since I have owned (integrated) those parts of me, I find that I'm able to more consciously (and intentionally) bring forth those aspects or not, depending on the circumstances. Or at least I can love myself when I notice I'm seeking approval and have compassion for that part of me that needs a little extra love and attention.
The shadows always have a creep factor – no matter how much you try to keep them from expressing themselves, they end up creeping into your life in ways you can’t control.
What can we do?
We accept all of ourselves. Yes, even the parts you don't like. Actually, especially those parts.
When we can accept and appreciate each and every part of ourselves, we can learn to truly love all of ourselves.
When we love all of ourselves, we finally find self-contentment and inner peace.
You might not want to believe this
I know that these “negative” aspects are the parts of you that you prefer to keep hidden in the darkness and that it feels risky to acknowledge that you might be both the positive AND the negative, the good AND the bad. I suppose it’s possible that you don’t believe me as well. You might reject the notion that the wholeness of the human existence includes everything. You might resist this because you don’t want it to be true.
Deep down we all question our worthiness. We're afraid that if we show our “true selves” people won’t like us.
But it's not true.
The more you reveal about yourself, the more lovable you are. The more whole you are, the more capable you are of loving others. The more you own and integrate all parts of yourself, including the so-called “negative”, the safer others feel to be fully themselves, and the safer they feel to be around you. And the safer you feel within yourself.
I'm not alone when I tell you that the path to personal freedom and happiness is this path.
We, the "adult us", are the ones who must love ourselves the way we needed to be and longed to be loved as children. We must not fear the shadow, and instead, enter those dark places and be curious, befriend that which we find in there and see that when we're conscious of even the ugliest and most embarrassing aspects of ourselves - they lose their power.
In order to bring forth your light, you must go into the darkness. We must know, appreciate, and love that which we wish we could hide in order to become whole. Wholeness makes us happy and free.
“Wholeness equals aliveness.” -Deb Blum
Keep smiling and choosing happiness but ALSO embrace all of who you are, feel your feelings, acknowledge and love your shadows, and stop hiding behind positivity.
Does this resonate with you? What is one thing you want to bring out of the shadows and, once and for all, accept and love as part of who you are? Answer in the comments below!
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