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Style & Substance: on facing your alter ego

Dear style & substance:

Do you think that we all have an alter ego? I feel like I am trying constantly to suppress “the other way I feel” to go along with “what is required.” My hoped for life often times feels more real to me than my real life. I hope your insights will help me figure this out.

Our answer is YES…and NO! We believe the dark and light versions of the self can live together. It is nice to think that we might have a better, braver version of ourselves lurking in the shadows…but the thought of a not-so- nice, not-so-easy to get along with version of ourselves can be so scary we often suppress or ignore this side of ourselves. This internal struggle is universal – as a starting point in your exploration, we suggest you see “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” currently playing at local theatres. It is based on the short story by James Thurber and explores one man’s quest to bring forth his braver, yet somewhat darker and more reckless version of himself.

We can see our alter ego as a hero type, who steps up and saves the day or is careful to not leave good things left unsaid OR as a franker, less appealing version of ourselves.

Carl Jung wrote extensively about the shadow self; one of many thoughts he shared on this topic is as follows:

“Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”

The less we acknowledge the darker part of ourselves, the darker it becomes, so like Jung, we say, welcome it in to your life. We are not black and white, even though it would be easier to manage; it is the gray areas that make us unique. We agree that it is frightening to uncover these suppressed feelings, judgments or emotions, but know those feelings will emerge badly in some way; if not recognized. YOU control your actions when you are highly aware of how you truly feel!

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