Many of us like to think we're independent, but we're really not. On a physical and social level, we are dependent on the universe - the earth, the sun and the rain -- and we are clearly dependent on one another for our food, shelter, tools, vehicles, roads, schools, medical care, companionship and love. Even if we were on a deserted island, we would be dependent on the coconut that falls from the tree!
While we can't and shouldn't pretend we are independent of one another, there is a level of independence that we need to claim, but which few of us have mastered: independence from the "dark side." In honor of the U.S. Independence Day, I'm offering this blog on declaring our independence from the dark side. I hope you will join me.
How many of us are truly independent from the dark side -- the constellation of negative emotions ranging from anger, anxiety and judgment, to shame, guilt or even depression? On the contrary, how many of us can be taken over by these negative feelings? In fact, how many of us have been unwittingly using these emotions to help us cope with the fears and pain of life?
When we are children, we are exposed to a lot of negativity: parents fighting with each other, mothers or fathers imposing their sometimes arbitrary or destructive will on us (as opposed to discipline that would be truly for our highest good), violence in our families, mocking and cruelty from other children, a world at war and the weak being dominated by the strong. In the face of so much pain and abuse, we have adopted stances and behaviors that we believe to be self-protective. We may develop sarcasm, a quick tongue, judgmental attitudes, a loud voice or powerful positions. Or we may develop meekness, flinch from challenges or manipulate to protect ourselves and give ourselves some edge. We may make alliances, join teams and gangs, gossip or otherwise bond with one another to protect ourselves through negative thoughts, words or actions. Or we may isolate, distrust one another, fear love and remain hyper-vigilant. In other words, we do, think and say whatever we think it takes to try to protect ourselves from being dominated, exploited, abused or just plain hurt.
By adopting all these negative attitudes and behaviors, we are enforcing our dependence on the dark side, because all these negative attitudes and behaviors are dark side energies. And all the while we explain that it's because "he," "she," or "they" have done something or might do "this" or "that" to us or others. And our negativity, in turn, gives others excuses to use negative emotions and behaviors against us.
For example, let's say I don't trust women, and I keep my distance. This gives my girlfriend the excuse to withdraw from me or try to manipulate me into committing to her. Or if I think you might cheat me, this could give me the excuse to trick you in some way, which gives you the excuse to condemn or even sue me. Or if I fear him, I plan a surprise attack, which gives him an excuse to double his own arsenal or strengthen his fortress.
We use negative emotions, thoughts and behaviors in order to ward off being hurt by the negative emotions, thoughts and behaviors of others; and we use them to gain revenge when we have been hurt, or at least think we have, as we strive to regain the upper hand or at the very lease salvage our pride.
When we use negativity to protect us, we are using the Dark Side to fight the Dark Side. Some of us are obvious bullies. Some of us are quiet smirkers or judges. Some of us cloak our Dark Side behavior behind the mask of caring for others, fighting injustice or being a stand for nation or God. Others of us try to hide our Dark Side behind the collective darkness, blind to our negativity because it is socially acceptable; for example, rooting for our own team while hoping the other team will lose, and believe it's okay because everybody else is doing the same kind of thing.
What is the result of using the dark side to fight the dark side? We strengthen the negative energies we choose to oppose, because we increase the amount of negativity in ourselves, in our relationships and in our world. Do we have a choice? Can we live without giving ourselves the right to be domineering, manipulative or self-protective? Of course, we have a choice. The question is: Are we willing to take the risk?
It is possible that if we drop the "protection" of the dark side, we might, in fact, be hurt. If we were slaveholders and opposed the institution, we might have lost money, the plantation and certainly our social standing. If we drop the right to act out of anger, we might be dominated by an opposing force unwilling to let go of revenge.
Yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we realize that depending on the dark side has a price, too. When we hurt others through our thoughts or actions, at the very least, we feel uncomfortable on the inside, because we are one and can't help but feel one another's pain. In addition, we live inside the anger that we are projecting onto others, and we feel shame about our hurtfulness. What's more, the cycle doesn't end there. Our shame is painful, and it can easily propel us into justifying our hurtful behavior, which causes us to engage in more and more vociferous condemnation of the ones we have hurt. For example, I had to get angry at "him," because he is a lying, unfeeling, cheating whatever, and I couldn't have had any fault in the matter.
By this point, we are lost in the whirlwind of negative feelings that we are spewing forth about the "other," and we become even sicker. If we have been manipulative or deceitful, for example, we now have more to cover that up or defend our behavior, which might require further deceit or manipulation. If we have been contemptuous of another, we have to make him or her seem even more contemptible. If we have been untrusting, we have to keep proving the other's untrustworthiness.
We cannot change the world if we stay locked into negativity, because the world we live in is the world that exists between our ears, in our hearts and in our minds. The price we pay for using the Dark Side against the Dark Side is that we live in our own inner darkness. Is it worth it?
When we declare our independence from the dark side, we may risk being hurt, exploited or cheated, but what we gain is the self-love that comes from self-respect and the good feeling that comes from feeling clean, clear and aligned with our spirit and higher consciousness. People who have come together to fight injustice with nonviolence have found this strength and have offered an alternative for other people to choose as well. They have eroded the heart of darkness through their stand for something better, and they have shaken our world by creating peace within their hearts.
To be truly independent, we need to be independent from the negative energies that can overwhelm or dominate us. If we are dominated by negative energies, how free are we? If we are driven by emotions that seem to overwhelm us, can we choose behaviors that are helpful or supportive, even to ourselves?
To make July 4th a true Independence Day, we need to affirm to ourselves and others that we are willing to let go of our dependence on the dark side and stop allowing it to determine our choices. And we need to commit to the emotional and spiritual work necessary to make that declaration real.
This is the true revolution: the freeing ourselves from the oppression of our own negativity. And this is the revolution that will free the dark side, as well. Because, yes, the dark side, needs our help, too. Every time we engage in negativity, we feed the energies of the dark side, and the more we feed the dark side, the more it is trapped in its own negativity. Just like any bully, the dark side will evolve only when we stop letting it run the planet and, instead, support it to connect to the spiritual energies that will bring it into consciousness and peace.
So here's my invitation: The next time you feel yourself in a negative space, such as feeling angry, judgmental, contemptuous, manipulative, untrusting or vindictive, ask yourself if you are trying to use the dark side to fight the dark side. Ask yourself what price you are paying for doing so. Ask yourself what price others are paying. And ask yourself if it's worth it. If it's not, let's relinquish the right to use the dark side at all. Let's declare our independence from the Dark Side, and let's embrace compassion, understanding, firmness and love. The more of us do it, the more free we will be.
Since posting this blog, a group of people declared their independence from the Dark Side. Click here to watch the video, and join us in your hearts!
Beth Green is a spiritual teacher, founder of The Stream spiritual community, and the co-founder of Consciousness Boot Camp. Since 1980, Beth has been helping people learn and heal. If you would like to read some of Beth's other blogs, please click on her name at the top of the page. For her teaching on "The Seven Dirty Secrets of the Dark Side," check out the second section of Platform Seven in her book Living with Reality, a free download on any of her websites. And for more information about Beth, see her personal website, Beth's Place.