The Darkest Versions of Ourselves

I have a saying that somehow always sobers me up from the most stressful situations. It goes: “We are all capable of being the darkest versions of ourselves”. This isn’t intended to be a self-indulgent or depressing statement; it is a rational fact. Each day situations arise where we are faced to make decisions about how or what we FEEL. Because after all, we are the ones that get to choose our emotions. Choose our emotions? Sounds crazy, right? If you look at any given situation from one angle, it can be a horrible, damaging, and even traumatizing event. But if you switch your perspective, it can be a lesson, an opportunity, or even a humorous phenomenon.

Everyday there is an opportunity to allow stress, whether it be one particular matter or a snowballing accumulation of things, to get the better of us. One little trigger and we are set off into a deep and dark place that can take tremendous effort to climb out of. For those of us that are lucky, we can catch it before we go too far and we can sort of hop out of it and brush ourselves off. It is always that one specific moment where we are hooked; where the downward spiral begins. The tibetan word for this is shenpa. The usual translation for shenpa is “attachment” but it is much easier for me to understand it as “being hooked”.

When I’m in the midst of anger, trying desperately to validate MY aggressive emotions, I hear “…the darkest versions of ourselves,” and somehow these emotions that I was trying so hard to cling to, begin to dissipate. This is because once you recognize the fact that are hooked, it is much harder for shenpa to have power over you. I can step back and look at how just the sensation of being hooked can cascade into the most grisly place, making me the darkest version of myself. 

For me, just remembering this saying can help. However, there are times when it takes much more effort. Pema Chödrön is one of the most well known American tibetan buddhist teachers out there. I find that her practices are really some of the few that genuinely work for me during intense times of stress. From her book, Taking The Leap, she suggests the following steps for working with shenpa:

  1. Acknowledge you’re hooked (with humor, if possible).
  2. Pause, take three conscious breaths, and lean in to the energy (with kindness, if possible).
  3. Relax and move on.

Read more about shenpa and Pema Chödrön’s view on getting unhooked here:

The ups and downs of stress and emotions are apart of life. My point in writing this blog was mostly for my own personal healing. Genuinely admitting that we can all go to that place, the darkest place; that I go to that place… it’s part of what makes us human. But with work and dedication, we can instead become the best versions of ourselves.

Happy unhooking 😉

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