Sunday, March 11, 2012

Good self, bad self

I think most of us want to be a "good person," although we all have different ideas about what that means.  Personally, the thing I value most in life is my relationships with the people I love.  This is where I derive my sense of purpose.  To me, life is meaningful because I can share it with people I love.  It quite naturally follows that my ideas about being a "good person" have to do with how I treat other people (especially the people I love).  Fortunately, I tend to be very lenient with myself.  I don't beat myself up or decide I'm a "bad person" if I don't feel like saying good morning to the people sharing the elevator with me.  I don't even judge myself harshly if I am short with (or even rude to) a telemarketer who refuses to accept that I am not interested in buying anything.  Of course I strive to be at the very least respectful to other people, but I don't necessarily feel like a "bad person" when I fall short of that standard.

What does make me feel like a bad person is when I say or do something unkind or hurtful to someone I love.  (Why does it seem like the people I love are also the people I am most likely to treat unkindly)?  It is extremely rare for me to be intentionally hurtful or unkind, especially to people I care about.  I do, however, occasionally do this unintentionally.

You see, I am a rather moody person.  This is especially true when I am tired or under a lot of stress.  Over the years, I've gotten pretty good at recognizing when I am feeling tired or stressed out.  This allows me to avoid being around people during these periods or to at least let them know that I'm in a bad mood and to apologize in advance for being less than friendly.  This works out well for most people most of the time.

About a year and a half ago, however, I got married.  It is extremely difficult to simply avoid interacting with my husband when I'm tired or stressed (it's possible sometimes, but definitely not all the time).  I try to let my husband know when I'm in a bad mood.  Sometimes, though, I'm under a lot of stress for an extended period of time; I know it must get old for my husband to hear from me every day that I'm in a bad mood and don't want to be bothered.  I wonder if there are times when he feels like he has to walk on eggshells around me.

And, of course, there are times when I snap at him or even yell at him just because I'm feeling irritable.  With everyone else in my life, I can structure my time in such a way that most of the time we spend together ends up being pleasant and enjoyable.  Not so with my husband.  He is with me at my best and my worst.  What I've discovered that perhaps I didn't realize before we got married is that me at my worst is really ugly.  There is this side of me that is impatient, demanding, intolerant, and unyielding.  This part of me wants everything my way and only my way.  She is selfish and lacks empathy.  She is inconsiderate and short tempered.

Who is this person?  I don't like the inevitable answer: she's me.  Or at least she's a part of me.  But she's a part of me I don't like at all and when she comes out, it makes me feel like a bad person.

I suppose this is what is meant by the "shadow self."  If so, then I've taken an important first step; I've forced my "shadow self" out of the shadows and into my conscious awareness.  I've taken ownership of the parts of myself that I don't like.  I haven't quite figured out what to do next, but I know I'll keep working on it.  I will keep you posted.


  1. Have you ever thought about the moment you are in a bad mood, to keep quiet and sit down and meditate and breathe some space into the problem. Just by not being reactive at the moment when you are the most often able to prove your "bad self"...will bring much needed reflection as what really is your final goal...beyond the moment when you are feeling out of control.
    Don't worry about the soon to be joke about "time for Mom or honey to meditate."

    1. That is exactly what I am working on - not being reactive and giving the problem some space:-)

  2. I think what's wonderful is she is you and she is not you, all at once in the same cup. Dogen Zenji said, "Sun face Buddha, Moon face Buddha. What you like is Buddha, what you don't like is Buddha."

    These human skin bags are tough to operate! Too many directions (beware the subtle aggression of self-help) and at times it feels like there no directions at all...

    Great to hear you share this...I've been feeling wrung out myself.


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