7 Ways to Face Your Shadow Side and Express Your True Self After 60
A few years ago, an older, well-dressed woman walked into my therapy office. She seemed agitated. Nervously, she told me that she was unable to eat or sleep because she was troubled by sexual fantasies about her best friend’s husband.
Not a word or action had ever passed between them, but for the past six months, these desires were upsetting her. She felt ashamed and confused. She said, “I’ve always been a moral, kind person. This is simply not me.”
My client was experiencing an uncomfortable awareness of the ‘dark side’ of her personality. This can be a difficult experience.
We all have unwanted, unacceptable parts of ourselves that we struggle to deny or repress, often for most of our lives. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung called this buried part of the personality our ‘shadow side.’
How Do We Deal with Our Negative Thoughts?
Society sends us women powerful messages to be kind, generous, patient, grateful, forgiving, compassionate, brave and moral. So what do we do, starting in childhood, with the messy, ugly thoughts and urges that just don’t fit with social expectations?
We deny and hide them, and they form our shadow side. Every single human being possesses this buried aspect of personality.
Beware, this article has shocking content. It may make you squirm with discomfort. But it is time for us older women to admit the truth to ourselves. Throw away shame and judgement, and just admit it.
You have a shadow side. We all have it. This conglomeration of negative thoughts, desires and impulses has often been shoved away and buried for our entire lives. But no more.
Accepting Your Dark Side
You are a good person, you love your family, and you are always there for your friends and community. But – once in a while, more often lately, while washing dishes or drinking tea, something bubbles through. Something unpleasant.
Stop. Do not push it away this time. You are not alone! Admit to yourself that there is a part of your personality that may at times be manipulative, self-centered and uncaring.
Women in my life, clients and friends, ordinary, decent, lovely women, tell me secret tales of their innermost dark side. Rage that feels intense. Wildly inappropriate sexual fantasies starring best friends’ husbands, priests or the gender they do not usually partner with.
Wishes for revenge. Bitterness. Jealousy of our dearest friends. Desires to disappear and escape from our families. This is normal! These are thought, not action.
We women over 60 are ready to meet, acknowledge and even embrace our disturbing shadows. We are well-equipped with wisdom, perspective, experience and a fine ability to laugh at even the most unacceptable thoughts.
We have heard and seen it all. And we have learned to be gentle, accepting and forgiving towards ourselves.
Expressing Your True Honest Self
And now, entering the later stages of life, there is no time to waste. We must be our truest, most authentic selves. If we want to feel whole and balanced, to continue growing, to release our creativity, it’s time to make friends with our negative side.
In fact, once we are over 60, continuing to reject these negative aspects of ourselves can be downright dangerous.
We can wind up with physical illness, depression, anxiety, divorce, insomnia, chronic pain and even an untimely death. This is because pushing away parts of our true selves is stressful, exhausting and uses up energy that we need to live healthy lives.
4 Benefits of Integrating Your Shadow
- Self-acceptance leads to becoming less judgmental and more accepting of others, more humble.
- Owning the shadow side leads to a greater sense of wholeness and balance. You become more mature, peaceful and comfortable with yourself.
- Letting go of the exhausting repression releases energy and improves health.
- Making friends with the dark emotions can greatly increase creativity.
7 Ways to Face Your Shadow
- Banish the shame: this is the first step toward unconditional self-acceptance. You are not the only one with unacceptable thoughts, desires and impulses.
- Write in a journal.
- Laugh at yourself.
- Meditate with a focus on self-compassion and acceptance of your own humanness.
- Think of your good qualities and accept the possibility that the opposite may also be true of you, and that’s okay.
- Realize that the shadow side is a reflection of your power, your honesty, your passion.
- Talk to someone you trust, possibly a therapist.
This acceptance process is a part of the journey to becoming an elder and a wise woman. If we can be brave enough to face our dark side, we can become integrated, whole and comfortable in our own skin. Remember, Carl Jung said, “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
How do you express your shadow side and manage negative thoughts? Does your shadow side scare you or do you accept it as part of your true self?
Sheri Saxe is a psychotherapist with a focus on helping women to accept and integrate their painful experiences and blossom into new life; this is called radical acceptance. She has a passion for wilderness backpacking, meditation, and being a grandmother. She is the founder of the blog Seasoned Women Over Sixty.