When you have been treated unjustly or personally harmed, the natural emotion is anger. If this anger can’t get out, it festers and grows in the shadow. Lashing out when holding it back no longer works; this anger leads to a cycle of violence. Guilt can make you feel like a bad person simply for having an impulse or entertaining a thought.
This is a kind of double blind: If you lash out and return the harm done to you, you have done something evil, but if you keep the anger inside and harbor it, you can feel just as evil.
Yet violence can be tamed by breaking it down into manageable bits. Negative emotions feed off certain aspects of the shadow that are very manageable.
The shadow is dark. Everyone has a shadow because of the natural contrast between darkness and the light.
The shadow is secret. We store impulses and feelings there that we wish to keep private.
The shadow is dangerous. Repressed feelings have the power to convince us that they can kill us or make us go insane.
The shadow is shrouded in myth. For generations, people have seen it as the lair of dragons and monsters.
The shadow is irrational. Its impulses fight against reason; they are explosive and totally willful.
The shadow is primitive. It’s beneath the dignity of a civilized person to explore this domain.
A secret, dark, primitive, irrational, dangerous, mythical evil is much less convincing if you break it down into one quality at a time. But this process of bringing evil down to scale won’t be convincing until you apply it to yourself.
Adapted from The Book of Secrets, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2004).