How do you see darkness in others?
Think about it for a second... How does darkness, whatever your definition of that is, show up in other people?
For me, I can most prominently see darkness as expressions of ego.
It will be moments where someone will make a comment that feels like it comes from an ugly place, such as a joke that comes with a hint of passive aggression.
It's an intuitive knowing we have, to see when someone is hiding their true feelings.
Additionally, I find I can see someone's darkness the most when they feel inauthentic, like they don't even believe what they say.
This darkness is an expression of shadow. Whether consciously or unconsciously, that behaviour or way of expressing is coming from a place that has been neglected and removed.
Every single person has an identity that they have created for themselves.
As part of the human experience, we learn what is considered appropriate, what we can and can't do, and what is "shameful" in our culture and society.
Unfortunately, we are all human beings before we are our identity, so even though we know what is "appropriate", we have desires that may fall outside of that.
Every single person is a primal creature. Yes, we have conscious thought and, for the most part, abide by the rules set forward, but we are still animals at heart.
We experience all of the emotions, we want to have all of the things, and it is all completely normal.
Without understanding and acceptance that we are all human, we can reject parts of who we are. These rejected pieces of us become our shadow.
When we show our darkness, it can come out in ways that don't seem right. For example, a nice kind woman in the office may one day snap and scream, totally out of character.
Another example is a man that seemingly loves his wife and kids, yet has a secret affair with a woman that "isn't his type".
The easiest expressions of shadow to find are those that come out of nowhere. For the most part, these are things that we can see, whereas the person expressing may not notice.
You may be reading this and thinking "great, I can see it in other people, but how do I find my own shadow?". Let's go back to the original question...
How do you see darkness in others?
When you ask yourself this, check in to what your answers are.
For me, it is times where people are being inauthentic, comments they make that seem passive aggressive, and times of extreme anger that hides the true emotion of sadness.
Once you've identified that shadow in someone else, ask yourself how you determined that.
How do you know that their expression comes from darkness?
The harsh truth is, you can only see the darkness in others that you have in yourself.
We are only able to see, experience and recognize that in others which we already have inside us.
It may come as a surprise, but anything that we see in others, and can identify in others, is something we understand from being inside us too.
That's the kicker of all of this... We have the same human parts inside of us as the guy that cheats on his wife, and the woman who snaps out of nowhere.
If you are judging that woman for sleeping with lots of good looking men, maybe there is a part of you (even deep down) that would like to do the same. If you look down on others for being "lazy", maybe it's just hiding the fact that you desperately want to relax and do nothing for a while.
It's human to have feelings and desires. There is nothing shameful about it.
So what do we do with that knowledge?
Just because we have all of the emotions and desires of primal creatures does not mean we need to act on them. It also does not mean we need to reject them.
Part of becoming an integrated, holistic human being is recognizing that we are everything and nothing at the same time.
Rather than hiding from the shadowy parts, like the deep anger, the desire to have all the money, and have sex with all the good looking people, accept that as part of who you are.
You do not have to act on every thought, feeling and idea that comes in to your awareness. It is okay to accept that there are parts of you that you will not act on.
The next step of this is to explore. With a childlike, judgement free set of glasses, start to explore shadow in yourself and others.
It can be helpful to take time to journal about your experience.
Ask yourself questions like:
Who do I judge? Why do I judge them?
Where does that same characteristic show up in my life?
How would I feel if I let myself do exactly the same thing they are doing?
Who taught me that the behaviour/emotion/expression I am judging them for is wrong? Where did I learn that?
These can help to get a bit of clarity if you are feeling lost.
As you begin to explore your shadow, be kind to yourself. There may be parts of you that you have shame or resistance to seeing. Love those parts too.
It's easy for us to love the pretty, happy parts of who we are, but the shadowy parts need love too.
If you need support, reach out to someone you trust.