As I touched upon in a previous article, to really know yourself, you have to be willing to explore your dark side. Carl Jung, a world-renowned psychologist, referred to your “dark side” as your “shadow self.” What’s cool about Jung’s perspective is that he didn’t deem the dark side to be a “bad” thing or a “good” thing. To him, the shadow self is nothing more than repressed emotional energy, and energy is neither good or bad. What’s “good’ or “bad” about energy is the way in which it’s applied — so if you want to come to understand the inner workings of your mind, then you have to take a look at how you apply your emotional energy. Whatever makes you respond emotionally is likely to provide you with insight about your shadow self, particularly if your response feels like it’s subconscious and reflexive.
Out of all of your emotions, anger is perhaps the one that gives you the most insight about your shadow self. For obvious reasons, it’s the emotion people are most likely to repress. But when anger finally does come out, after being bottled up for so long, it often comes out in a way that’s explosive. It’s for these reasons exactly – the fact that it’s something that’s either pushed down, or it’s something that’s all-consuming – that your anger provides one of the best sources of insight into your shadow self.
This isn’t to say that if child molestation makes you angry, you have a latent desire to be a child molester. It means that whenever you have an emotional response to something, that response is telling you something about who you are. It’s telling you that if you’re responding to something, it’s hitting upon something that’s personally significant to you; otherwise, you wouldn’t be responding.
But, as I mentioned, your response isn’t necessarily a reflection of something inside you that’s “good” or “bad.” Your shadow self can be linked to emotions that are considered positive, as well as negative.
For instance, whenever you’re inexplicably drawn to someone, and not because that person is hot and you want to bang them, but because there’s something about that person you find captivating, your attraction is there out of feelings of warmth. But what you might not realize is that your attraction is telling you more about yourself than it is the other person.
You’re usually drawn to people for one of two reasons: because you admire something about them, or because you like the way you feel around them. Either that person is an expression of the life you’d like to be living, or that person makes you feel comfortable in your own skin. We all want to live up to our greatest potential, and we all want to be accepted, so it only makes sense to be attracted to people who represent those qualities to us.
But your personal relationships aren’t the only thing that can elicit a reaction from you. Art probably makes you react, too.
Art, by my very definition, is something that stirs you emotionally. If it doesn’t move you, it’s not art. It might be aesthetically pleasing, but if it doesn’t make you feel, then it’s just something that’s pretty.
So the next time you come across a piece of art that moves you, I encourage you to examine why you find it to be so moving. You might find out some interesting things out about yourself.
There are times when I listen to music, and out of nowhere, a song hits me in such a way that it makes me cry. At first, I have no idea why I’m crying. It’s not until I take a step back, listen to the song a second time, and I figure out what I’m feeling, that I can start to understand what’s going on beneath the surface. Sometimes I learn happy things. Sometimes not. But I always learn important things.
Here are a few examples of cry-inducing indie songs, and the personal insights (I think) they have given me. Hopefully this list inspires you to examine art’s impact on you.
Matt Corby — Resolution:
If you can listen to this song and have no reaction, then you have no soul. Matt Corby has the voice of an angel. But what’s especially great about the song is its lyrics. It’s about resolving to live life now, to accept things as they are, to live life with no illusions. It’s sad to realize you’ve been inadvertently putting off your life. But it’s more sad to never make this realization at all. Think of this song as a gentle wake-up call. That you’ll want to play over and over again.
Pallers — Come Rain, Come Sunshine:
If you had to do it all over again, would you? That’s the question this song asks, especially to people who feel like they’re losing their way. And while it’s true that not all who wander are lost, those who are lost often wander. The important thing is to keep your eyes on the horizon. You’ve gotta keep putting one foot in front of the other. Through rain and sunshine. (Download this song here.)
Lowing – I Will Wait For You (Everybody Wants To Be A Cowboy):
This song is simply sublime. Though in reality I don’t actually think anybody should wait around for anybody else, I’m a sucker for what this song represents. It’s romantic, but not in the typical sense. It’s about having found that special person, and loving this person so much that your love has transcended beyond the selfish. It’s not clingy love, like, “Oh baby, I need you so bad, I can’t live without you, you complete me.” It’s highly evolved love, like, “I know we’re meant to be. Maybe not this very second, but that’s fine, because I want what’s best for you. If what’s best for you is to not be with me right now, then go off and do your thing, I’ll be here when you get back.” The “best” kind of love is selfless love. That’s what this song so artfully describes.
Flight Facilities feat. Christine Hoberg – Clair De Lune:
This one is pretty much a complete contradiction of the previous song. It’s about clingy love, about wanting to remain in an endless moment with someone. You’re praying that things will never change, though, of course you know they will, because everything is always changing. I think we can all relate to wanting to stay stuck in a forever bubble with someone, knowing full well just how fragile bubbles are, and that the bubble is bound to burst. It’s bittersweet.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Can’t Hold Us
It’s so refreshing to hear a song about how “validation comes from giving it back to the people.” It’s really true that the gift of generosity resides in the act of giving. Kindness conquers at all. It makes my heart sing to hear about people living by these principles.
So give me some music suggestions, and let me know in the comments section or via email the songs that move you.