The moment when total darkness turns into light is when the moon reveals shadows like a beacon in the night.
We all have it—a shadow side. It’s the alter ego that destroys relationships, fells families and leaves that nasty aftertaste. It’s what you do when you lapse into default mode at the first hint of trouble and feel the worst that your feelings can conjure. It’s that twisted colon, gut shot, heart attack pain that knots around you when you’re confronted by that dastardly feeling you claim you’ve spent your whole life purging in therapy.
But you haven’t. You’ve failed. And you don’t know what’s worse—failing to purge the pain of your past or failing to admit you haven’t.
Welcome to the club.
First, the fact of the matter is, stimulus leads to reaction. Someone says something or does something, or we find out what someone said or did to us via another. That’s the stimulus. Reaction is what happens next. It’s the meltdown, the showdown, the main event. When you’ve just taken a cheap shot to your soul, when you’ve been deceived by a trustee, when you’ve been slain on the sly, well, it’s like fighting in the fog. Where do you swing? How do you retaliate?
Here’s a question: Why retaliate? First and foremost those things that flow from mouths aren’t fists, they’re words. And here’s the beauty of words: Anyone can use them. Matter of fact there’s a book somewhere that contains all of them. Every single one. It weighs more than me. There are even books that have lists of words that mean the same thing as other words. Volumes have been written on how to use words correctly and how to add pre and suffixes to make them snappy.
So when someone twists words for their own benefit, why do you feel like their use of words is true when they use them against you?
But what if they don’t use words? What if they gnarl your emotions with a “look?”
That’s the real power sucker, right?
In response to a trigger as subtle as a tell-tale sigh, an ornery glare or a strategic eye roll when you’re doing something as simple as talking, you ignite. And the second a scold slips from your lips, you get the retort: “Here she goes again.”
That’s how quickly it happens. You were just talking, someone wanted to pirate your power with a clever gesture, you fell for it, and you’re accused of being ridiculous. What follows is a Who’s Who of how to pick sides along with the inevitable backlash: people won’t talk, ill will is harbored, soreness abounds. A fix is impossible.
Merry fuckin’ Christmas.
“Honey, where’s that holiday salve?”
It’s no secret that people who deal hurt are disturbed in some way. No matter what you’re doing, they jump at the opportunity to push your button. Be it consciously or unconsciously, they’re good at what they do. They aim to win.
It’s no secret that you’re picked on by that disturbed individual. But the fact remains, they started it. They dealt a 95 mile-per-hour fastball of hurt and you caught it with a major league mitt. Your button was pushed with the slap of a hurler’s ball on oiled leather ripe for receipt. Be it consciously or unconsciously, you’re programmed to react. And you’re good at it. But you’re losing.
What makes a disturbed individual? I’m going out on a limb here and say hurt. Anyone who shows anger toward another individual—especially one who coincidentally is of weaker constitution—is doing so due to a level of frustration, disgust, anger, or better yet, fear. They harbor a story of hurt so deep they pick on others to create chaos to distract from what they really want: relief.
Then there’s you. You’re the perfect target because your pain from the past fuels a reaction to the injustice so immediately and predictably that the chaos our disturbed individual seeks is delivered instantly. Said individual is free to watch the show with a grin that confirms a successful distraction from the actual feeling that was threatening to burst forth: hurt.
So we have someone operating on a level of hurt against a person who reacts perfectly because of a level of hurt, surrounded by people who pick sides depending on which level of hurt they relate to and suddenly no one is capable of communicating at all.
No witnesses. No murder. Lots of blood.
Welcome to the darkness.
This scenario goes on almost continuously. We’re a society that is spurred into action more so because we seek ways to hurt because of our hurt than because we want to help. There are news channels devised to hurt a loosely defined opponent for ratings. Reality TV fries up drama and dishes it out greasy and burned for viewership. Celebrity, even dubiously earned, is associated more closely with success than following one’s passion.
Drama and contention get our blood running. Boiled feuds spike our adrenalin. Conflict is so derelict that our minds are numbed to what’s coursing through our veins. We are so disconnected from one another and ourselves that stimulus followed by reaction is a scenario that occurs with more frequency than a kind word from a stranger.
What if all you had to do tomorrow was find one kind word to speak to a total stranger? And that person would be so moved by the kindness that they returned the favor by saying one kind word to another? What if your only purpose in life was to speak one kind word to a stranger every single day until you died?
What if the only purpose that ever existed was to speak one kind word to anyone every single day for infinity? And everything that went on around the world was based on the capacity to speak one kind word from the heart?
What if eventually you could say one kind word to that disturbed individual?
What if you started with one kind word to yourself?
You know why you harbor hurt? Because you choose to.
You know why you share a kind word? Because you choose to.
The reason you have the same reaction to someone’s premeditated stimulus so predictably is because you bought the words to the story they’re selling. The feeling you suffer when someone says or does that same “hurtful” thing is one you’ve artistically molded. The story you tell yourself about your past has programmed you to react.
So start all over. Tell yourself another story. Program something else. Mold something different. Matter of fact, stop molding altogether and start painting. People can decorate a room with any words they want. They can cast callous expressions even in the dark. But you have options: leave the room or paint it another color. Or better yet, shine a little light.
Watch the moon travel across the sky and wonder how perfectly two worlds have to align for a planetary object to cast such brightness that shadows are revealed in the night.
It’s not as rare as it sounds.
We can be better than we are.