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Lauren Zander Headshot

Ode to Your Dark Side

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Guess what? You have a dark side. Everyone has a dark side. And that dark side is talking to you and filling your head with nasty, mean, dark thoughts on a daily basis. Are you surprised? Most people are.

Whenever I mention this to clients, I get the same response, "Huh? Whatta you mean? Me? Dark side?" Well, I'm here to tell you that you do have a dark side and it's powerful. It will stop you in your life unless you acknowledge it, put language to it and ultimately laugh at it.

What exactly is your dark side? It is the voice of "the Seven Deadly Sins" we've all heard of, or that little devil who sits on your shoulder. It says mean, horrible things to you about yourself and other people that you would never say out loud, because you would be ashamed, embarrassed or afraid you'd get in trouble. What's actually dangerous is that these thoughts fly around in your head as if they were the truth, when you actually don't even know if you agree or believe them.

Most people don't want to acknowledge this darkness, so instead they pretend it doesn't exist. I promise you, you've met your dark side and heard it speak. When you walk down the street and say mean things in your head about people walking past, calling them fat, ugly, lame, stupid or whatever pops into your head, that is your dark side at work. Part of you snickers at those mean thoughts and part of you recognizes that they are dark and twisted. Instead of owning dark thoughts, most people hide them, which ultimately gives their dark side all the power. Until you expose it, understand it and own it, your dark side will own YOU.

Your dark side is also the voice that keeps your vices going. It tells you to have another drink, smoke the cigarette and play another hand of Black Jack. It's the voice that has you go underground and hide any behavior of which you're ashamed, like secretly eating a box of cookies in the middle of the night or pretending to be working when you're actually watching porn. Your dark side likes to stay hidden, but owning and exposing your dark side releases the power it holds over you.

Steps to Owning Your Dark Side

1) Admit it.
You have a dark side. Acknowledge it and say it out loud. There is nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone has one.

2) Listen to it.
Pay attention to your dark side. What mean things does it say about you? What mean things does it say about other people?

3) Understand it.
How does your dark side work? How does it talk to you? What does it want you to do? Smoke? Party? Overeat? How do you let it get away with things? How do you let it run your life? Know your dark side.

4) Share it.
Tell people about your dark side. It's normal. Everyone has their own version. Stop hiding it. Expose it. Once you share it with people, it stops having power over you. In sharing, you'll not only find out you're not alone, but you'll also have a good laugh with someone about theirs, too!

5) Laugh at it.
Have a sense of humor about your dark side. Make fun of it. When you bring humor to your dark side, it isn't dark anymore.

6) Nickname it.
Give your dark side a funny nickname. (ie: Mean Charley, Sassy Susan, Igor, Nurse Ratchet, etc.) Make it a good one and share it with all your friends. When you give your dark side a nickname, it dismantles the significance of it.

7) Write a letter to it.
Talk to your dark side. Engage with it and say everything you need to say to it. Writing the letter helps you realize that you are in a relationship with your dark side. We think we're only able to have relationships with people, but we actually have relationships with many things. Your dark side is impacting your life. Understand this relationship and take control of it.

8) Make Promises & Implement Consequences.
Put in promises to stop your dark side so it cannot stop YOU any longer. My dark side is still hurt and mad at people from long ago. It wants me to play the mean conversations over and over again in my head. I've made these thoughts ILLEGAL for me. What I mean by illegal is that if I don't stop my dark side's internal discussion of past betrayal in less than 30 seconds, I have a consequence. Designing a consequence will help you keep your promises and ultimately muzzle your dark side. If I listen to my dark side and break my promise, my consequence is I have to throw $10 onto the street immediately. It totally works and stops my dark side in its tracks.

You are capable of dismantling your dark side. Remember this? There is a scene in the movie The Wizard of Oz that truly captures how the mysteriousness of your dark side can disappear within moments. When Dorothy and her gang arrive in Oz to see the almighty Wizard, they believe he is a scary, powerful force. But when the curtain is pulled back and he's exposed as an old man moving levers behind a curtain, everything falls apart. That's how it is with your dark side.

Once you acknowledge it, expose it and laugh at it, you will see it's not powerful at all. Your dark side is just a scared old man fumbling behind a curtain. You're the one giving it all the power and can just as easily take it away!

For more by Lauren Zander, click here.

For more on emotional intelligence, click here.

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