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It Takes Courage To Face Down Your Dark Side

Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will set you free.

"Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing. Use the pain as fuel, as a reminder of your strength." ---August Wilson, American playwright

What a powerful, hit-the-nail-on-the-head quote. Whenever people struggle with personal change - such as trying to be more assertive, happier, or just more comfortable with driving on major roads - this is the essence of what they need to do.

There are all kinds of techniques out there for making specific changes. There are a buffet of diet programs to choose from, an overwhelming number of approaches to reduce anxiety, and enough gyms to keep you running between them for a lifetime. But, no matter what your goal is, every "answer" requires that you face your fears. You must confront the parts of yourself that you prefer would just disappear -- or that you have disowned, much as you might disown a problem child.

Facing the parts of yourself that you don't like, or are afraid of, is one of the most difficult tasks in life - perhaps the most difficult task. And what Mr. Wilson is pointing out in this poetic statement is the importance of summoning motivation and fortitude from deep within to confront those unwanted or disowned parts of yourself - rather than keeping them out of sight. By doing this, you shed light on them; allowing you to see them more clearly.

This is no easy task; and it can be painful. But facing that pain by really feeling it - not denying or numbing yourself to it - shows courage. And, if you can feel compassion and offer forgiveness to those parts of you (despite a strong desire to turn away), you will come to accept and care for them; much as you'd care for a distressed child. And just as a distressed child is soothed by a comforting response, so, too, are those parts of yourself. I call the process of both getting to know yourself better and approaching yourself with compassion, compassionate self-awareness. With this approach, you will become more accepting of yourself (all of you) and better able to tolerate the discomfort that comes with change. In the end, you will feel uplifted by your "angels."

Dr. Leslie Becker-Phelps is a clinical psychologist in private practice and is on the medical staff at Somerset Medical Center in Somerville, NJ. She also writes a blog for WebMD (The Art of Relationships) and is the 'Relationship' expert on WebMD's Relationships and Coping Community.

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