This past year, my task has been to remove the words "good" and "bad" from my vocabulary.
Why is that, do you ask?
I have learned on my path that nothing is innately "bad" nor "good." The terms "bad" and "good" (and, for that matter, "negative" and "positive") are simply judgements we impose according to a preconcieved notion of what is considered acceptable. What is "good" one day, might be "bad" the next. Labeling something as "good" or "bad" is a reflection of our own limited perspective, based on our unquestioned assumptions and beliefs.
There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. —William Shakespeare
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What's more, the word "bad" is generally associated with the darkness, with the shadow. I have come to understand the dark aspects of ourselves and of human society not as "bad," but as parts of ourselves we've denied, as parts of our own souls and of the collective consciousness that have yet to be integrated and made whole.
I remember a time when I thought feeling "bad" (ie. depressed, angry, sad, anxious, or empty) was wrong. Believing myself to be flawed, sick, and broken, I visited therapists with the hope of curing my disease and saw doctors with the intent of numbing my discomfort. Their response was to prescribe me an exorbitant amount of antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills, and antipsychotics. I also was heavily self medicating, using alcohol, drugs, sex, and food to keep myself from feeling any kind of pain (ie. "bad").
Growing up in a world where the light is glorified as "good," and the shadow is condemned as "bad," allowed me no space to explore my darkness. It gave me no place to FEEL.
I was always meant to appear happy and content. It was confusing and disheartening, being told that the truth of my experience was unacceptable. Even in the New Age-y crowd I had become a part of in my early adult life, I was always taught to heal and be whole by simply "vibrating higher," by "being the light,” or by choosing "peace and love." God forbid I show any other side of myself, or I'd be called a "Debby Downer," or accused of having "bad vibes."
Not only is this neither conscious or aware, it’s a dangerous belief to espouse. Why? Because it’s NOT REAL. It teaches us to live in denial of the existence of our full truth. And it was freakin' exhausting: living half a life.
To live unconditionally is to feel unconditionally.
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The darkness has a message and contains gifts for us to harvest. Anger can exist as a call to action. Confusion may show up when we have become overly attached to a particular outcome. Anxiety can arrive to show us when we are overworked or may be acting out of fear. Fear may arrive to show us when we are stepping beyond the safety of our comfort zone. Death exists to clear away the old and usher in new life.
In the kind of world where happiness is "good" and anger/confusion/anxiety/fear/death are "bad," everything is taught in terms of black and white. There is no room for growth, for questioning our assumptions, for exploring and integrating our darkness safely. And living in that kind of illusion, where we continue to disavow the dark parts of ourselves, the darkness unconsciously holds greater control our choices and our unfolding experience.
It’s like that movie Inception. When I watched it again after I began doing my own healing work, it suddenly took on a whole new level of meaning. In the film, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character “Dominick" is a skilled dream “extractor” who uses the subconscious dreamworld for the purposes of corporate espionage. But it’s quickly revealed that Dominick’s shadow, in the form of his deceased wife, has begun to sabotage his ability to do his job. Because Dominick has refused to sit with the reality of his wife’s suicide and acknowledge his own darkness, "she" continues to gain power over his world. It’s not until he chooses to turn towards and explore his pain to integrate his darkness that is he finally released from the holds of its power.
Healing and wholeness have the same etymology, deriving from the root meaning "to make whole." Judging something as "bad" and dismissing it as external to ourselves makes it impossible for wholeness to be realized. The "bad" aspects of ourselves will never be healed through judgement, denial, or expulsion but through openness, understanding, and compassion. Healing and wholeness are found by recognizing the darkness as yourself. By not fearing it or labeling it as "bad," but making a conscious choice to love it anyway.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said that "the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?" I am no longer willing to destroy a piece of my own heart.
Now tell me...
Are you denying a part of yourself because you've known to label it as "bad"?
Are you limiting your expression of humanity by only accepting your "good" side?
How might removing the lexicon of "good" VS "bad" change your reality?
There is something very important about this post that I feel needs to be shared.
Yesterday, I shared a video about eliminating the words “bad” and “good” from my vocabulary. I received a beautiful message from a woman in response, and it really got me thinking.
She said that while she herself has been trying to move out of a place of judging things as “good” or “bad,” she still struggles with the fact that there are some really unpleasant things that happen in this world. How can she make the claim that rape, or murder, or pedophilia is not bad? She wanted to know how I reconcile this.
THIS post showed up on my newsfeed this morning, and it felt like the perfect thing to share along with my response to this woman’s question. A post like this, where an entire nation of indigenous people are being displaced because the Brazilian government wants to build the largest dam in the world on their sacred land.
My response is as such...
As the soul matures, it comes to the realization that every single human being is capable of committing acts which can result in the suffering of another being. It also realizes that we have a choice to act otherwise.
The very power of human consciousness (ie. reflective self-awareness) resides within that very choice: knowing that you are capable of inflicting great suffering and, instead, choosing to share great compassion. That is called the divine power of free will. Committing rape, murder, and pedophilia, or stealing from others their land, their life, and their futures, is the act of effectively eliminating the free will of another.
When something (traditionally judged as) “BAD” occurs (ie. we experience or witness the free will of another or ourselves eliminated), there is a physical/emotional response. When we feel such a response, we have two options: sit and judge, staying in our heads and disempowered in fear... or take action, practicing the power of our own free will in compassion. Choosing compassion connects us to the divine because it recognizes that I CANNOT CONTROL YOUR FREE WILL.
Choosing compassion is a maturation of the soul because it keeps us in our bodies and actually ALLOWS US TO FEEL. The very word “compassion” comes from the root “to suffer with."
As the soul matures, it begins to understand that “BAD” people/situations/events occur so that we can feel more deeply, we can (quite literally) SUFFER WITH the experience in order to step forth and put into practice our divine power of free will. “BAD" is our CALL TO ACTION.
What judgement does (ie. declaring something as “bad” or “good”) is actually closes us off to feeling, and thus, dealing with the incompatible situation at hand. Judging takes us completely into our heads, removing us from our physical experience and our ability to respond in this present moment. It’s also interesting that when we do something “bad,” we tend to rationalize what we’ve done (ie. stay in our heads and flee from actually feeling the implications of our decisions).
What judgement also does is bring up our own fears. We’ve been programmed to stop all action when fear arises, instead of using fear as a guidepost from which to take appropriate action. From this engrained fear response, we are immobilized and disempowered.
Additionally, judging conveniently takes the response-ability off of ourselves and instead puts it on the back of another. Have you ever noticed that the most judgmental people are usually the ones never taking any responsibility for themselves?
As a mature soul, one recognizes that, as much as we want to “save the world,” we can only ever save and take responsibility for our Selves. That is our free will in action.
That’s why I mentioned in yesterday’s video that First Nations indigenous languages have no word for “BAD” because when seemingly incompatible situations arise, they, like this Mebengôre Kayapó woman, JUST DEAL WITH IT. They don’t waste their energy judging, they use it as a call to action. They don’t stay in their minds, they allow the suffering they experience to propel their bodies to change the situation.
So—YES! There ABSOLUTELY are some very unpleasant things that happen on this Earth. But what those things are NOT is a call to judge and freeze in fear. They are a call to step forward and act, choosing compassion.
Perhaps that action of compassion is to become a vegetarian, so that you no longer personally contribute to the environmental effects of the industrial farming industry or the pain inflicted upon tortured animals.
Perhaps that action of compassion is to call together a group of women and create social and political systems that protect female workers at risk of being sold into sex trade.
Perhaps that action of compassion is to reduce your airplane travel so as to reduce your emissions of greenhouse gases already affecting billions of sea animals and contributing to sea level rise globally.
Perhaps that action of compassion is to be a parent who sets a example for your children to learn from, so they develop the physical and emotional intelligence to FEEL the implications of killing, raping, and eliminating the free will of another.
Perhaps that action of compassion is to stand your ground and fight in order to protect your people and your land, like this woman Tuira Kayapo.
Judgement leaves no room for feeling. Judgement leaves no room for action. Judgement leaves no room for the evolution of our soul.
Let us all evolve together, re-learn how to feel, increase our response-ability, and take appropriate action for ourselves when the situation calls for it.