Karl Jung wrote extensively of “the shadow”. He described this dark side of human nature as always with it and insisted…iin my own words…“Resistance is futile”. Or to use one of his bromides, “What we resist, persists.” His teaching, of course, was not that this dark side should be indulged or acted upon, but that it should be embraced as part of our nature. He taught that in this embracement we diminished the power of this shadow, given us more freedom to make mature, appropriate decisions. In recent readings of Buddhist literature, I’ve learned that the Buddha called this shadow-side “mara” and reported that it was a daily part of his life. Even the Apostle Paul lamented, “I will to do good, but evil is present with me.” And, of course, in the Christian tradition, there is the ever-present “Satan.”
I think the Catholics have the right idea in confession. There in the confessional booth, Catholics are encouraged to come and bare their deepest, darkest secrets. In my work as a mental health counselor, much of the work I did was merely to listen to my clients lament their short-comings, to acknowledge their baser instincts.
The key is to just not pretend! It is there and it will always be there. To live in a world of duality is to realize that “mara” is there but to believe its power is diminished as we openly acknowledge it. Even more so, as we openly acknowledge it “to another human being.”