We Can’t Make Peace With Each Other When We Don’t Make Peace With Ourselves
On learning to accept our shadows.
To no longer deny, resist, or reject.
My current conclusions about life have grown through wandering down many long, winding paths: Devouring different, and at times opposing, philosophies and viewpoints from various thinkers in an effort to deliberately and continually expand my perspectives. Trying to make sense of all those viewpoints in a way that resonated with my own knowledge, intuition, and carefully chosen values. Seeking a deep understanding of the human psyche through a deep understanding of my own self and psyche. And finally, discovering a clarity of that understanding that can only come through the inescapable experience of sheer living.
Through living — through truly experiencing life with all its ups AND downs, and allowing myself to be affected and transformed by all the lessons that come with them — I began to realize more and more that our bodies are able to know things that our minds cannot fully grasp on their own; that the added dimension of our physical, three-dimensional human self drops the depth of our understanding from our brains into our bones; that we can know things but still not really KNOW things — not completely — until we actually live them…you know?
As such, I have found my ego not to be my enemy simply because I have tried to make it so.
In my efforts to extinguish my ego, believing it a “bad” part of me, a “wrong” thing to have in me, I learned that in reality, I was only trying to destroy a part of me that was still a part of me. I was at war not so much with the “bad” things in the world, or the “wrong” things in myself, but rather, at war with the parts of me I had judged to be bad or wrong, parts of me that were actually, deep down, just suffering — because I had failed to see that they simply sought to be loved and understood and accepted by me, instead of rejected, criticized, blamed, or hated.
If what I wanted was to be whole, then I had to end my own wars, my own divisions, my own fragmentations of myself. I had to stop seeking some idealized version of a perfect self, and simply seek MY self. My true, and whole, self. Not merely spirit, but human; not to merely know my happiness and my light, but also my shadows and darkness.
We often seek our “other half” in others, but truly, I believe we should seek our shadowed half: The half that exists in every one of us. The half we avoid, deny, or even actively try to destroy because we deem it unworthy of us, or deem ourselves unworthy of it. The half that terrifies us because it confronts us with all our deepest, most painful fears and wounds of unworthiness — and yet, this is the other half that makes us whole.
The more I sought to understand, accept, and have compassion for the totality of my human self — my shadows and light, my darkness and my day — the more I became capable of understanding and having that same compassion for others.
Make no mistake: this doesn’t mean that I no longer seek to be or act in a particular way, or that I no longer have a distinct personality. I do, very much so. This also doesn’t mean that I no longer have any desires or ideals that I strive for, fight for; or that I no longer maintain any standards or boundaries— I do, now more than ever. And it certainly does not mean that I am ever perfect. I am as fallible a human as they come. I continue to make mistakes. I continue to feel difficult emotions. I continue to experience conflict and uncertainty and insecurity.
But remarkably, by ending my own wars, I somehow arrived at a place within myself where it is no longer some arbitrary notion of perfection, or “good”-ness, or “right”-ness, that I seek to find again and again, amidst the chaos of life.
It is peace.
It is a peace that is not so much philosophy, but an everyday, every moment, every-minute-I-forget-and-then-remember practice. It is a peace that is not so much an eternal state of being, as a state of constantly living and learning: as fully and deeply as I can, with all my volatile, shifting, dynamic human emotions and perceptions. It is a peace that does not elevate me to a higher realm of consciousness, or some superior spiritual path — instead, it is a peace that snaps me back into the presence of my mortal body, that ricochets me back down into the ground, back into rich, raw, pungent, fertile earth, making my every experience that much more visceral, and important, and real. It is a peace that humbles me in all my ordinary, human glory. A peace that reminds me that I am no better, nor worse than any other. And still, it is a peace that constantly reminds me of the light that burns within my heart that only I hold, that only I can deliver.
And it is this peace that tells me I must.
For it is a peace I know our world is more than capable of — if only each one of us would seek it within ourselves.
Much love and thanks to you Nely Fernando for inspiring me with your question.