When it comes to our inner landscape, we tend to distinguish light and dark. We may say that we associate light energy with God and dark energy with Satan. As a young Catholic boy, this was my lesson. God was good, the light of the world, sitting in heaven with his long white robe and beard, waiting for me after having lived a good life. Satan was bad, pacing in Hell with his fierce face and red pointed horns, waiting for me to slip up and find my way to his realm. Another perception many share is that light energy is positive and dark energy is negative. Most of us would rather resonate with the light than the dark. The dark is scary, unknown, and capable of so much destruction. The light is beautiful, blissful and transcendent. Yet, the truth of the matter is you can’t separate the two. Well, you can try, but it won’t work. You can’t have resplendent light without satanic dark. They are two sides of the same coin. Both must be alive within you if you are to reclaim your authentic and whole self.
I am constantly and painfully aware of how people try to be good. In my opinion, they are all fakers who can’t be trusted! They embrace the light, but since they don’t know their dark side, they don’t have any real footing. Throw them an insult, and you will see that light disappear like a frightened rabbit down a hole. Most people won’t go to the deepest and darkest parts of themselves. We don’t seem to understand, nor want to acknowledge, the truth. You can only radiate light to the same degree you have been willing to go into your dark world. Without going into the dark, and sincerely exploring the murk, you can’t have the qualities of genuine compassion and wisdom. How could you? You haven’t been there. You don’t even know all aspects of yourself, let alone another human being. You only know a part of yourself. If you are honest with yourself, the part you know lacks depth. And for us dudes, we are all about the depth. It is what we crave, and it is that one thing for which women will commit their lives in relationship.
As men, we are born with very primal instincts. Our ancestors were hunters. They went out to kill game to provide for their family. Life was hard, with death lurking around each rock and tree. The need to survive created strength, endurance and discipline. While today, we don’t have to go out and hunt to survive; we still have every bit of that primal DNA in our systems. Anger, Rage, and Lust are still within us, and I am here to tell you that this is a good thing. This is one source of our strength and power. What I see now is a world in which men are running away from their heritage and strength. We don’t claim all of our selves. We act like the pink hippopotamus in the center of the room isn’t there. But it is. You know it. I know it. And your partner knows it. Until a man reconciles with his dark side, he will be marginally impotent in the world. He will be a partial man who has not integrated all aspects of his being. He is limp.
Many men grow up with fathers who were stern and often abusive. As a young boy, it was very common for children to get spanked when they disobeyed their parents. My father was a disciplinarian. Being a rambunctious boy, I was getting into all kinds of trouble. And a few times, I was at the sore end of a spanking. Some of us had it much worse. Growing up in this environment, many of us decided to do a 180 as adults and live a “civilized” life devoid of violence. We got all spiritual and became “anti-Dad.” In doing so, perhaps we are more humane. But in making that choice, we have also cut ourselves off from our real primal power, which, if we explore it and know it, we can use it to further our growth and development in the world. We can provide a real example of authentic man for our spouse and children.
Until I was 40 years old, I would have to say I was a meek young man. I rejected my masculinity. I preferred spending time with women. I was a sensitive new age guy (aka SNAG) who was getting along all right in the world. Honestly, I didn’t think I was missing anything. My life was satisfactory. Others hoped to emulate the relationship I had with my wife. Then one day, everything changed. I got really angry. I got so angry that I knew I could kill. And in that moment, I began to scratch the surface of a part of me that was dormant. I felt like a lion that had just learned how to roar. And it felt good.
In my own experience, it took another man confronting me on the way I was living my life to turn the key, to unlock the lock to my full masculinity. He was physical with me, and brutally honest in a way that I could not defend. And it pissed me off. He pointed out every area in my life that I was being inauthentic. He pointed to my arrogance, my sexual objectifying of women, my fake and my phony façade of being a nice guy. So relenting was the assault, and so debilitating the impact of his words, that I crumbled in tears. However, after the tears, a primal yearning began to emerge. I wanted to kill. I wanted to kill him. I wanted to defend. And beyond all that, I wanted to make a contribution to the world. Rather than sucking off the fat of the land as I had been doing for so long, I was committed to discover all aspects of myself and share my learning with others.
I often share a saying with those I work with: “How low you go determines how high you fly.” You can’t pretend to be a nice guy. If you haven’t dealt with you dark side and admitted to all your ugliness, your hurtful thoughts, and your self-righteousness, it is impossible to be an authentic “good man.” All that dark and murky green slime is lurking just below the surface. Until you whole heartedly dive into the slime, you will look and feel like a phony. There comes a time when you have to admit to your warts. Love your imperfections. Embrace your dark emotions. “Know thyself!” Until you reclaim all aspects of your masculinity, you will have a very difficult time keeping your heart open and trusting in the divine wisdom of the universe. That is no way to live.
When people look into my eyes, I feel they trust me for in my eyes they experience someone who has known pain. Going into your dark and nasty ugliness is tough work. Getting to know your own dark demons is essential if you are to move forward on the path of evolving consciousness. Pretending to be nice, and honest, and sincere all looks fake until you have the done the real work of self-discovery. Only in going toward the darkness, and feeling the pain of your humanity can you discover the brightest of your lights.
In my years of working with men, virtually every man rejects both the teachings and the example of masculinity offered by his father. Our dads gave us tremendous gifts, often of a pure primal nature. While you may reject much of the results of your father’s actions, I invite you to embrace the strengths of the man, the purity of the man, and the essence of his soul. Like it or not, you have the same stuff in you. The work to be done is not to run away from your primal nature. It doesn’t work. You aren’t above it all. You aren’t special. You are your dad and he is you. The work to be done is to get to know the dark side, embrace it, and incorporate it into your being. Out of this process we can all come to tear filled compassion and strength and forgiveness.
Having delved into my dark side with uncompromising regularity, I know and feel my arrogance and my self-righteousness. I know that part of me that wants others to fail. I know that ugly part of me that always wants to tell others how to live their lives. I know the pain of feeling that there isn’t enough love in the world. I know the terror of feeling separate from every living thing. I know the fierceness of what I can become given the right circumstances. Threaten my family and I will kill you. That lives within me. Be dishonest with me and I will express my anger, fearlessly and strong. Nice guys shrug and walk away, laying blame outside of themselves, rarely owning to the anger that is always self-directed. Authentic men stay the course with wisdom and brutally honest words. Authentic men understand that everything they experience, light and dark, is always and only a reflection of themselves.
Only by descending into the darkness can you begin to use all of your powers, rather than your dark side using you. Many fathers provided us with lessons on how the dark energies, left unobserved, can wreak havoc. However, the lesson is not to run from this darkness. Until you integrate all aspects of yourself, you will not be whole. Our dads gave us great gifts, if only we will see them for what they are. The people I trust know themselves. They don’t pretend. They are authentic. They own everything about themselves. There isn’t anything I can say that they don’t already know. Their radiant light shines strong and bright. They have spent many a dark night of the soul. They have died to themselves only to be reborn, each time a more magnificent and radiant self. Delve deep to find the brightest of lights. The only way to the bottom of it, is through the dark bottomless pit. And when you are down there, if you can look the Devil in the eyes and know his pain, Brother, you are on the right track. Then we can party!