The Dark Side of the Light Chasers: Reclaiming Your Power, Creativity, Brilliance, and Dreams (1998) by Debbie Ford is a #1 New York Times best-seller in which the author examines the fascinating process of projection – whereby we transfer our own unwanted qualities onto others – and demonstrates how our darkest tendencies, when embraced, can be used to fuel our dreams.
About the reasons why she wrote this book, Debbie Ford writes:
After years of suffering and addiction, I worked to become whole again. I spent five years and $50,000 seeking out “the answer.” I tried all of the spiritual information and transformational processes at the time. (…) But still, after five years, a lot of money and traveling to all parts of the world, when I got quiet, I realized that I still didn’t like parts of who I was. I didn’t feel good about myself. I judged myself and I judged others. I blamed myself and I blamed the world. The peace that I believed was possible was something that always eluded me. (…) My search led me to understand what it is to be a human being, why we suffer, why we have this noise in our minds if it isn’t what we should be listening to and why we chase things in the outer world instead of listening to our own guidance and intuition in our inner world.
Finally, she realized how to embrace the world within her, and this is the process she shares in this book.
She believes that everyone possesses the entire range of human traits and emotions – “the saintly and the cynical, the divine and the diabolical, the courageous and the cowardly”. While growing up, people suppress those behaviors, thoughts, feelings and characteristics that are unacceptable within their particular environments, and, although we tend not to admit that to ourselves, we all have a hidden desire to “fix” ourselves, which rests on the belief that right now, as we are, we’re “broken”: the anger that we have trouble controlling, the shame that we sometimes feel without a meaningful reason.
In the book, she urges the readers to re-imagine and reclaim lost aspects of self, urging them to “unconceal” and embrace those traits buried in their “shadow,” in order to find their “gift.” Her main message is: instead of striving to be perfect, we should learn to become whole.
She begins the book by defining “Shadow work”, a concept that existed since the beginning of recorded history. In theology, Lucifer was once the brightest of all angels; Ford explains his “fall” as the temptation we all meet, and says that he represents our “shadow”, which we know under many names: dark side, alter ego, lower self, the other, the double, the dark twin, repressed self, and so on.
She mentions a renowned psychiatrist Carl Jung whose work was based on integrating the shadow and its essential role in self realization, and his question which aims to help people understand the essence of the path ahead of them: “Would you rather be whole or good?”
We shouldn’t hide from our shadow, but recognize it as a part of ourselves, because once the darkness is embraced, it can be healed.
She goes on to explain that the forces that comprise matter throughout the cosmos are found in each atom of our body, and that our mind contains the potential of every thought that ever was or will be expressed. Understanding and experiencing this reality is the basis of real wisdom.
We need to understand that the elements that we dislike in others are what we dislike about ourselves, it is the “disowned” aspect of us. And, because every part of us has a message to give us, we should open up to the darkest corners of our being and embrace them.
She gives a range of exercises to help us release the negative traits that we aren’t accepting; the simplest exercise is to make a list of all the traits we dislike in others and, once broken down, we can then work them into a simple sentence beginning with “I am …”. Although it may sound counterproductive to say: “I am cheap”, we should remember that this negative statement also has a positive gift for us – in this example, it also means that we’re thrifty and responsible with money.
Only by owning every aspect of ourselves we can achieve harmony. In her own words:
The purpose of doing shadow work, is to become whole. To end our suffering. To stop hiding ourselves from ourselves. Once we do this we can stop hiding ourselves from the rest of the world.
- Chapter 1: World Without, World Within
- Chapter 2: Chasing Down the Shadow
- Chapter 3: The World Within Us
- Chapter 4: Re-Collecting Ourselves
- Chapter 5: Know Thy Shadow, Know Thy Self
- Chapter 6: “I Am That”
- Chapter 7: Embracing Your Dark Side
- Chapter 8: Reinterpreting Yourself
- Chapter 9: Letting Your Own Light Shine
- Chapter 10: A Life Worth Living
(…) And best of all, she challenges us to accept the God-given gifts which make us special instead of giving this gold away by attributing them to others such as celebrities or heroes. This incisive and energizing book will help you reframe your dark side and approach the best that is in you.
Thank God for a refreshing breath of common sense! We are the way we are because we get something out of being the way we are. If we want to change we need to first accept responsibility for being the way we are and then determine what we get out of being that way. This is Debbie Ford’s message. Using Ford’s techniques, you will be able to stop being a victim of your past and your present.
It’s a very good book for those who may be feeling like they have failed in some aspect of their life and cannot figure out how to get out of their rut. The book is well-written and continues the theme of looking at all parts of oneself throughout.
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