Everybody’s got a dark side

“You just wouldn’t understand. I have this dark side of stuff that I can’t really talk about or let out.”

Ever said this? Ever heard it from someone else? I’ve lost count of how many times over the years I have talked like this or listened to someone else try to avoid talking about what’s going on inside them.

It’s not pretty there and few have ever gone …

A friend dropped the Kelly Clarkson song “Dark Side” on me the other night. He quoted the lyrics in a text to try to help explain what was going on in our conversation, and I was surprised at how poignant the lyrics were in the moment. Even more, though, those lyrics fit so many moments in my life and the lives of every single person I know.

Oh oh oh, there’s a place that I know
It’s not pretty there and few have ever gone
If I show it to you now
Will it make you run away?

In my younger years, it seemed every teenager felt a dark side within them that they wrestled with. I sure did. All of us in high school and college seemed to have this fear of letting our dark side out too much and letting too many people into it.

No one ever told me this dark side feeling would extend into adulthood. Heck, they didn’t tell me a lot about adulthood! (Anybody else feel like the adults kind of hid the true story of what it’s like to be an adult?) Our dark sides are much bigger than anything Darth Vader or Anakin Skywalker had to deal with.

Our dark sides can extend from childhood to our teen years and linger on into adulthood and into our marriages and permeate everything we do. When we are younger, childhood abuse, neglect, and trauma and teenage struggles over identity, relationships, sexuality, drugs, alcohol and family seem to run the dark conversation.

Dark sides in adulthood get even more complicated

But adults struggle with dark sides, too. As I live through my forties right now, I can recognize that people around me, no matter what age, are still struggling with elements of their dark side. In adults, I wonder: do our dark side stems from our younger years and morph and mutate over our entire lives, or do some people develop a dark side in their adult years based on grownup issues?  Do we ever move beyond our dark side or is there always some form of dark side in us for our entire life?

dark side mark twain quoteAs we get older, we deal with challenges with alcohol and drugs, marital struggles, grief and loss, personal trauma, mental illness, anxiety, fears and so much more. The list goes on and on. Just because you gain more years in your life doesn’t mean you figure out how to manage your dark side any better. But the adult version gets even more complicated. We try to mask and suppress our dark sides through adding on additional vices like alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, anxiety and other addictions.  Identifying and weeding out the source of the pain gets even more complicated because the vices can create layers of dark side to sort through.

No matter who you are or your place in life, you are wrestling internally with something that you hope other people don’t discover about you. Tabloids are full of the struggles and flaws of public personalities and celebrities, but isn’t this something we all deal with in our own quiet moments?

What is the first step of dealing with your dark side?

What’s your thing you are holding onto? How do you handle your dark side? How do you process it? Do you hide it? Do you let it control you? Have you shared it with someone close to you? Or do you try to manage it alone with varying degrees of success and failure? Does it create bigger problems for you because you suppress it out of fear it will get out? Are you able to process it in a way that doesn’t affect other areas of your life?

Like a diamond
From black dust
It’s hard to know
What can become
If you give up
So don’t give up on me
Please remind me who I really am

I don’t have all the answers. And dealing with your dark side requires an individual response. (If you don’t know where to start or who to talk to, I encourage you to look into professional counseling.)  But you are not alone.  We are all in the same struggle, each finding our way. Remember one important thing — you are not the struggle. Your dark side is not your actual identity, and you are much more and bigger than the struggle.  But take the first step and start by letting someone you trust into your struggle.

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