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.’
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 judgment, 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.
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. Our lives to that point have equipped us 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.
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.
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Don’t know how to meditate? Join a website with guided audio practices that can help you learn how to meditate and incorporate meditation into your daily life.
Don’t have access to a therapist in your area? Websites like Better Help offer online therapy with mental health professionals.
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?
Tags Finding Happiness