“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole.”― C.G. Jung
We experience emotional turmoil from time to time in our lives. This can include bullying, romantic rejections, or even condescension on the part of other individuals. Since I was a young boy, I have been directly criticized by people on several occasions – “You’re a fat loser”, “Useless dickhead”, “There is no way you can succeed in this position“. In response to my writing, I have recently received feedback from some individuals that “This is bullshit.“. To be honest, all these criticisms and disappointments breed resentment and frustration. The cycle feeds on itself and deeply hurts me. There are times when the emotional turmoil and suffering manifest themselves in negative emotional reactions toward others. Sadly, this is the default setting for me, and I need to improve it. Patience and sensitivity have been two of my weaknesses.
Nevertheless, I have found that reading Stoic philosophy calmed my mind and helped me recognise that sometimes these critical comments can be used to fuel positive developments. Every individual has a dark side that we try to repress by claiming that “this is not me”. Yet if that is the case, we are deluding and lying to ourselves. As a matter of fact, we can either channel that energy into productive and constructive activities, or we can allow it to manifest itself into destructive outcomes that negatively impact us and those around us.
In relation to the dark side of human psychology, personal trainer Tim Grover explored the hypothesis in his book, ‘Winning’. He is well known for being one of the best trainers on the planet. He trained world-renowned NBA players including Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Both of these men channeled their energy into their passion for basketball. He asked three questions of those who wish to succeed:
Do you bet on yourself?
When things get tough, do we trust ourselves? Do we rely on the opinions of others or our gut instinct? As a Los Angeles Lakers player without Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe exceeded everyone’s expectations and won titles after titles without him. He retransformed his game.
Michael Jordan exceeded the expectations of the crowd by scoring the highest points average in the league for the Chicago Bulls during the 1990s when he was expected to fail by adding 30 pounds of muscle.
Both went against the grain and followed their instincts.
Do you leverage your dark side?
It is no secret that Kobe Bryant had a dark side. He even coined the nickname for it – “Mamba”.
It enabled him to accomplish all the tasks he had at hand. Michael Jordan used his negative past experiences to outwork and outperform other players. His rejection by his peers and his coaches inspired him to become the best of the best. This resulted in a successful outcome for him.
According to Tim Grover, we are best served by our dark side by remembering all the disappointments we have experienced – those who said ‘no’, those who teased us, those who rejected our applications, and those who said to us, “You’re not good enough.” We should mentally connect with how each of these moments made us feel. If that made you feel “fire and fury” inside, then that is the kind of energy you should direct toward productive pursuits. That is our dark side fuel for growth. Turning anger into focus is our superpower. Rather than using this energy for despair or impulsive pleasure, we re-direct it towards activities that will benefit us long-term.
In my case, it is writing this blog – practicing my writing; reading the authors and intellectuals that I admire; pushing myself harder to build greater understanding in economics; and lifting weights harder at the gym.
Do you live an unbalanced life?
There are always trade-offs to be made in life. For Grover, winning demands obsession. In order to reach our potential, we must make sacrifices. It is important to avoid socializing too much, not committing to family obligations, hobbies, vacations, or leisure activities. In order to succeed, one must focus on the long term.
It is impossible to have it all. Depending on what we want to prioritize, our decisions are always the lesser of the two evils. Those who seek to have it all will not become true masters of their craft. According to Grover, this will be a difficult choice for most people, but in his opinion, a ‘balanced life with leisure’ does not make sense. It is purely about becoming world-class. Perhaps those who take the decision to become masters are considered obsessive, selfish, and neglectful of others.
However, the results speak for themselves. It pays off to have an obsession with something and strive towards mastery and victory. Tiger Woods, for example, has won 109 PGA Tour events, won 15 major championships, and has been ranked number one for 683 weeks in total.
“Decide. Commit. Act. Succeed. Repeat.”― Tim S. Grover
For a life of true fulfilment and long-term satisfaction, we must channel our dark energy. Dark energy can be used either productively or destructively. We use our negative emotions as fuel to achieve success in our craft. If we combine this strategy with Stoicism, rely on our guts, our obsession to win, and make important life trade-offs, we can achieve our goals.
Imagine what it would be like to see yourself in the future and prove everyone wrong. That would provide real satisfaction.