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March 2014. I’m on my way to my first ever shamanic ceremony.
Feeling nervous, I’ve set all sorts of noble intentions like, “I want to let go of attachment” and “I want to practice unconditional love”.
But when the ceremony begins, the message I receive takes me completely by surprise. I’m told to “Embrace the Darkness”.
For the next 2 hours, I’m shown how my “Dark Side” is destroying me (and causing problems in my life), and how it can be alchemized into powerful creativity and fuel for enlightenment.
To this day, it’s still one of the most unusual and critical lessons I’ve ever learned.
And now, after 2 years of diligent training, it’s allowed me to become immensely more powerful, mentally agile and resilient in the face of adversity.
In this article, I’m going to help you explore your own Dark Side, understand how it’s affecting you, and turn it into one of your greatest allies so you too can tap into your full masculine power.
My brother, let’s go for a walk… on the Dark Side.
Why Do We Have a Dark Side?
First off, we need to understand why we have a Dark Side.
Why is it that you sometimes want to break shit, punch someone in the face, or yell at the top of your lungs? Is something wrong with you?
No, not at all. It’s the nature of masculine energy.
From an evolutionary standpoint, it’s always been essential for men to have access to powerful, destructive energy if needed. As providers and protectors, we need to be able to step up when the situation calls for it.
As Ph.D psychology professor Frank McAndrew tells us, “Testosterone is generated to prepare the body to respond to competition and/or challenges to one’s status. Any stimulus or event which signals either of these things can trigger an increase in testosterone levels.”
Imagine you’re a caveman and an animal attacks you and your family. You better be able to go berserk and defend yourself, or else you’re all going to die.
From a spiritual perspective, masculine energy is symbolized by Shiva- the God of Destruction. But Shiva doesn’t destroy for the sake of it. He does it to create, since death is essential to rebirth.
Like Shiva, you can harness your destructive power for good, and become the kind of guy no one messes with, while being a role model of compassion and care for others.
Tapping into this source of power will unlock the full range of your potential, and help you become a world-class performer at work, an excellent provider for your family and an effective leader in society.
Why Your Dark Side is Destroying You
The problem is, modern society is not set up to help you harness your Dark Side in an effective manner. Quite the opposite, actually.
Contrast your daily lifestyle with that of your caveman ancestor:
Safe to say our modern lifestyle is a total 180 degree turn from what it used to be. However, your primal brain is essentially the same, and your needs haven’t changed much.
You still have a deep-seated need to be wild, loud and free. But in everyday life, you have to do the opposite: behave, follow social norms and keep your shit together.
Here’s the real issue: if your “Dark Side” is not being used in a constructive way, it’s bound to come out in a destructive way.
The 2 Destructive Ways Men Deal With Their Dark Side
If you’re not honoring your dark side, it’s bound to rebel.
You’re going to:
Not only are these behaviors the root of the abuse, violence and crime that cripple our society- they’re also devastating to your personal life: they cause you to be impulsive, make costly mistakes, and live with painful regret.
Remember: no matter how good your life is, one moment of stupidity can mess everything up. Whether it’s cheating on your wife, getting a DUI or being mean to someone you love, you’re always one emotional outburst away from disaster.
From a health standpoint, getting angry is one of the worst thing you can do to yourself:
Take a moment to reflect: how are you letting your Dark Side get the best you?
2) You Numb Yourself (With Bad Habits)
The other common way men deal with their Dark Side is to numb it.
But it comes at a heavy cost: it saps your spirits, sucks your life force away, and turns you into a shell of the man you could be.
What are the most likely “numbing” agents?
For years, I consumed alcohol and cannabis on a regular basis to cope with the uncomfortable feelings I was experiencing.
But one of my teachers, Tara Brach, taught me: “Addictions are born from unmet needs”. We only crave things because parts of ourselves are being repressed.
Eventually I started looking within myself to see which parts I was repressing. It was humbling as heck but I made the appropriate changes, and it paid off big time.
Nowadays, the cravings are gone and I’m experiencing radically higher levels of energy, mental clarity and happiness than ever before. Now let’s see how you can do the same.
The 4 Productive Ways to Harness Your Dark Side
Instead of lashing out or numbing yourself, the key is to channel the dark energy into positive action. Here are 4 strategies my clients and I have been having great results with.
If we think back to our ancestors, they were very physical beings. And while we can’t roam free like they did, it’s important to make high-intensity exercise a regular part of your life.
I recommend you do at least 3 intense workouts/week (I strive for 5). This will be excellent for your overall health and mental performance, and also create a regular “release valve” for your tension, frustration and stress.
It will also increase your production of endorphin, serotonin and dopamine (mood-elevating chemicals in the brain) while taking your focus away from whatever upset you.
Some of my personal favorite “darkness-releasing” workouts are: kickboxing (nothing like punching/kicking the shit out of a punching bag!), hill sprints, weight lifting and team sports (ultimate frisbee, soccer, etc).
If you’re pressed for time, try the workouts on Darebee. They take about 20 minutes, are very effective and can be done from anywhere.
The key to all this is to make your workouts “non-negotiable”. This means you commit to doing them every time, no matter what. No excuses, no bullshit. Just do it.
Note: When you feel like you’re about to blow a fuse, try to immediately channel that energy into physical movement. Go for a workout right away, or simply do 25 push ups/25 squats. You’ll instantly feel better and stop yourself from doing anything stupid.
2) Practice The Golden Belief
In 2012, one of my mentors taught me a simple concept that changed my life. He said, “Phil, everything happens to your maximum advantage.”
It confused me at first but I’ve come to understand that EVERYTHING (including challenges, obstacles and disappointments) can be used as fuel to help us reach our full potential.
Starting today, I invite you to do the same:
Hit a traffic jam? Great, use it to practice patience and mindfulness.
Your new business idea fails? Great, use it as data to refine your entrepreneurial instincts.
Someone is rude to you? Great, use it to exercise your “compassion muscle”.
Every situation, however challenging, can be used to improve yourself and bulletproof your mind against difficulties. EVERYTHING happens to your maximum advantage.
3) Practice Radical Honesty
Chances are, when you get upset it’s because you’re perceiving a situation to be unfair or unacceptable. But the real question is: why aren’t you speaking up?
This might sound harsh but if there’s something you’re frustrated about, and you’re not doing anything to resolve the issue, you’re being a coward.
Instead of being all passive aggressive about it, or letting negativity fester in your mind, it’s time to step up and have an honest conversation with the appropriate person.
That being said, it’s important to understand that there’s a wrong way and a right way to speak up.
The wrong way: lash out, blame the other person, be mean, use an aggressive tone of voice, etc. Speaking up in that way is both immature and ineffective.
The right way: approach the conversation with an open heart, be radically honest about how you feel, use a gentle tone and a solution-focused attitude.
If you train yourself to use frustration as a catalyst for honest conversations, you’ll soon become a conflict resolution expert, and free yourself from the drama that suck away your energy.
4) Embrace Your Inner Child
I saved this one for last because it’s the most unconventional, and the most vulnerable to write about.
Here’s how it works: inside all of us exists a younger version of ourselves. A little kid who got traumatized while growing up.
Perhaps he was made fun of. Maybe he was called names, or he simply wasn’t given the attention he needed. Whatever happened, he got emotionally wounded.
Nowadays, when a situation arises that reminds your inner child of a past traumatic event (ie, your boss treats you in a similar way your parents used to), the wound gets triggered.
If the child in you once learned that getting angry was an effective way to get attention, chances are you’ll use the same strategy as an adult (ie, get mad, yell, etc).
So how can we resolve that? The fastest way to heal your inner child is to use the mature version of yourself to give the “younger you” the love and safety he needs.
Next time you’re feeling frustrated, angry or upset, realize that your inner child is triggered. And just like you would with a little child, be gentle and try to soothe him.
Here’s what it looks like in practice: put your right hand on your heart, and send it as much love and care as you can. Then quietly share words of comfort with yourself, like:
“I know you’re frustrated and this is a difficult situation but I want you to know that you’re always safe and that I love you no matter what.”
Keep your hand on your heart and continue sending emotional warmth until you relax and the frustration starts to dissolve. By doing so, you’ll defuse the present situation and permanently heal the wounded part of yourself.
With this simple technique (and enough patience), you can heal all your wounds, free yourself from emotional baggage and become the powerfully kind man you’re meant to be.
The Key To All This: The Sacred Pause
The beautiful thing about learning to embrace your Dark Side is that you get to practice every day. Here’s my invitation to you:
Next time you get upset, take a moment to pause and CHOOSE your response. I call this The Sacred Pause.
Take a breath, and instead of letting the old, conditioned pattern take over (ie, lashing out or numbing), take the higher road:
At first, it’s going to take serious dedication to avoid falling prey to old patterns. But over time, through neuroplasticity you will rewire your brain and these new responses will become automated.
From this place, you’ll be free to pursue your dreams at full-velocity without constantly shooting yourself in the foot. And life will be a heck of a lot simpler.
This is your time. Get after it.
PS. Please share this post so more men can achieve self-mastery and let go of destructive behaviour.