Each of us has his qualities and lesser bright sides. The latter, when
we do not ignore them, embarrass us most often. And those we perceive
in others rarely leave us cold, sometimes to the point of considering
At first sight, we tend not to notice our own flaws, except when they
handicap us. And, over time, if we are criticized for one or the other,
we generally prefer stay deaf, denying them or hiding them.
It is not so simple to publicly acknowledge our faults, and even less
to accept them serenely.
And with regard to those of our loved ones, we are rather inclined to
consider that if we love them, it is in spite of their faults.
And so the defects of each other are sometimes able to mess up our life.
Yet, it is at the heart of our defects that sits the most beautiful part
of our humanity. Because despite being the least beautiful part of our
personality, they can be at the source of our finest qualities.
It is therefore worthwhile to look at our own imperfections, to acknowledge
them, to know them and to live better with them.
Indeed, pulling the right thread of a defect, allows to let blossom the
quality that corresponds to it.
So knowing and acknowledging our own defects helps us to blossom better.
Contrary to widely held beliefs, it is not necessarily constructive to
fight the darkest part of our personality, and even worse, to try to hide
it, in order to submit to the request of our entourage or any social diktat,
and to comply with what is expected from us. It may harm us much more
than the apparent benefits we could get from it. For, it consists somehow
in denying oneself. And the consequences can be more negative than the
illusion of the disappearance of one of our shortcomings.
It may, however, be useful sometimes on the short term, in the case in
which a part of our personality almost systematically leads to ruin all
our emotional and social relations.
For example, for persons who are impulsive and violent, it's in their
best interest to learn to control their impulses so as not to harm others.
But in the longer term, it is much more interesting to know the needs
hiding behind their impulsive and violent behaviors, in order to discover
how to respond to these needs in a softer way. And this could, for example,
lead them to discover an unfulfilled need for justice, and further, lead
them to develop or reinforce qualities such as honesty, integrity and
consistency, for example.
It would then be useless to seek a way to fight our defect in order to
overcome it and mask it with a quality. It's more about acknowledging
what is and accepting it; which intrinsically leads to a decrease in its
intensity and can generate a transformation.
When we learn to know and to accept our dark side, it doesn't mean that
it will take up the whole space. For, when we stop fighting against our
defects and masking them, and when we begin to accept ourselves as we
are, with these defects; then they allow to discover the qualities that
are hidden just behind.
So, for example, someone shy could develop a lot of self-confidence.
Someone impulsive could become patient.
Someone who is stubborn could become persistent and determined.
Someone who is fearful can become serene and confident.
This doesn't happen in the blink of an eye, but it is possible to notice
that in some areas of life, the quality develops, although in others,
it is still the default that prevails.
In reality, most of our faults are related to, either habits taken early
in life, or defense mechanisms in front of fears often related to unhealed
old emotional wounds.
During our childhood, or adolescence, we have learned in some situations
to react in a certain way that was, or seemed to us, appropriate at the
time. For example, in front of people on whom we were depending, or because
we were not in full control of our faculties or because of a lack of maturity,
we couldn't react otherwise. We used means at disposal at that time in
order to meet our needs despite the educational obligations that were
hanging over us. And we just kept the same attitude in similar situations
when we reached adulthood, without thinking of questioning what, for us,
has almost always been obvious.
It can also be the result of habits taken by submission, by obedience
in education. The conditioning established in such way, does not disappear
if one does not become aware of its existence. Yet, education often leads
us to live in a very conditioned way, and it is only once autonomous that
it is possible to question these conditioning and this doesn't happen
automatically, for, the most part remain unconscious.
However, with the maturity and autonomy reached in adulthood, these reactions
may have become inappropriate, and if we have not paid attention to them,
we will have maintained them.
Consider the lie, for example. In front of an authoritarian and sometimes
unfair parent or teacher, lying may have seemed to us the best solution
in order to avoid excessive or unjust punishments, or to make us being
appreciated, or simply to make fun or escape unpleasant obligations. In
adulthood, whereas we are no longer subject to the same type of authority,
and become autonomous for most of our actions, we may have kept the same
behavior. We have not realized that we can make demands, negotiate, take
our place, give our limits, while keeping a form of honesty and frankness,
without it being necessary to lie, to dodge, to manipulate. It is possible
that the lie can continue to save us some inconvenience, ... superficially.
But it is more likely that it would lock us in a world difficult to access
by people around us. A world where the truth has little place and where
we always have to lie more to hide the lies that preceded. And where it
becomes difficult to match the lies between them or when they were different
according to the person to whom they were addressed. It can even become
pathological if we start believing in our own lies.
Behavioral habits previously contracted in a conditioned or defensive
way can thus remain during adulthood. We adopted them and maintained them
because they allowed us to solve problematic situations. And often we
have extended these modes of operation to other situations where it was
And, over time, we have not changed or made evolve them, even when we
found that they were not really adapted, or brought us a lot of inconveniences.
We end up being trapped by our own defects, because we are blamed for
them, because people are moving away from us because they are messing
up our lives and are the source of our worst problems.
Focusing on the obstacle consists in rushing on it
However, it is possible to avoid the traps that we set for ourselves.
Our defects, our faults, our manias, our dark sides, our weaknesses,
are a little like the holes described in the story of Portia Nelson: "Autobiography
in five short chapters". They make our life much more difficult,
but there is no need to fall in them, there are other ways.
Here it is :
Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost ... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place.
But it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in ... it's a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
I walk down another street.
When we stumble over a problem in life, when a defect that we know well
show up once again, the natural tendency is, if we want to get ourselves
out of the hole, to become obsessed with the problem, with the hole. And
the more we focus on our defects, on our problems, on these holes; the
more holes we encounter, the more they will grow, the deeper they will
become and the more difficult it will be to avoid them and get out of
Denying them is not the solution. But looking elsewhere makes it possible
to discover other horizons, firm stable grounds, a safer path. Knowing,
acknowledging and accepting aspects of our personality that bother us,
consists precisely of no longer considering them as obstacles and makes
it possible to no longer seek at all costs to defend oneself from them.
And once we understand that it is no longer necessary to fall into the
hole, and we begin to choose streets in perfect condition, then it becomes
possible to notice that taking advantage of our old bad habit is within
our reach. It taught us, for example, patience, the patience of waiting
for help; or it taught us to tame our fears and our loneliness at the
bottom of the hole; or it made us very resourceful and imaginative when
we managed to find the way out of the hole. And these learnings can prove
to be real treasures when we walk new paths.
The day we are able to choose to walk in another street, where we make
life choices that lead to success rather than always falling back into
the same problems; that day, we have, for our new projects, the qualities
that were forged when we were at the bottom of the hole: resourcefulness,
creativity, patience, serenity, psychological strength in front of adversity,
by examples, and we can imagine many more, each one traveling a different
It is also possible that the default is simply the quality, with a few
nuances. For example, the tendency to stubbornness could be an aptitude
for perseverance and determination to carry out our projects. The defect,
in this case, inherently contained the quality but was inappropriately
Looking deep within oneself, accepting to see the aspects that repel
us the most in us, is a royal way to transform them and to widen, deepen,
enlarge our part of happiness, and that of our entourage.
Some character traits may, however, come from another source. Knowing
them, acknowledging them, accepting them, will then not change anything.
These are usually inappropriate or problematic reactions and behaviors
related to fears, themselves linked to traumatic wounds that we never
could heal, and of which we often ignore the existence. It is not necessary
to imagine big traumatic shocks. These may be small wounds that have created
an appropriate reaction during the triggering event. But the freezing
produced by the fear experienced the first time will make that we are
no longer able to produce other more appropriate behaviors in close but
different circumstances, and that we will constantly reproduce the same
behavior without even having the choice to choose others.
In this case, combating the inappropriate behavior is also the best way
to strengthen it. Just like seeking at any price to get out of a rut when
one is well mired. We only dig deeper the troublesome character trait.
It is just as vain in this case to try to hide it or to make it disappear.
On the other hand, it is preferable to become conscious of its origin
and to try to heal it, in order to become able to respond more adequately
to the need at the source of it. The healing of a traumatic wound automatically
generate the backfill of the rut dug over time, and the immediate change
in behavior, that is to say, the disappearance of the defect.
The automatic repetition then no longer has any reason to exist and we
rediscover the choice to act as we wish and in a more adapted and satisfactory
The benefit lies not so much in the discovery of the quality
as in the look at reality that changes
Whatever the origin of our defects, the benefit of learning to live with
them by accepting them is not so much to mitigate them by discovering
qualities; it is mainly elsewhere.
For, changing the way we look at reality by accepting it rather than
condemning it, leads to give ourselves the permission to be ourselves,
to open ourselves to the knowledge of ourselves, to become still more
ourselves, dropping the masks, becoming more conscious. And this authenticity
is not only liberating and less demanding, but it will also allow to be
better approached and better appreciated by others.
Better still, by giving back to ourselves the permission to be ourselves,
we inherently nourish our self confidence, and indirectly we learn to
discover other resources and inner riches. Because the day we open the
inner door, without further taboo to hide the unacceptable, we discover
a reality very different and more comfortable than we had imagined, and
much less dark than the surface let it appear.
And that's not all. Because it does not only work in a reflexive way.
When we are able to change the look at ourselves, with the indulgence,
and even the absence of judgment, and the benevolence necessary to get
there; we become capable of changing our our look at others.
Knowing better the mechanisms underlying the presence of certain negative
character traits; we become capable of perceiving the humanity of each
of the persons we meet, and can therefore replace the hardness of our
judgments with empathy.
For, what bothers us in others is always something that we carry in ourselves
and that we do not like, and that echoes, unconsciously, precisely because
we do not want to see it.
By transforming ourselves, it becomes possible to transform our judgments
about the people around us, by practicing the same indulgence and benevolence
that we have become able to give to ourselves.
Simply because we now know that their defects, like ours, are nothing
more than defenses, habits, conditioning, inadequate and obsolete reactions
that have no other goal than to meet their own needs. just as legitimate
as ours. Understanding this changes our perception of the other, allows
us to see beyond the facade, and to love him/her for who he/she really
Entering in this approach should make obsolete all our judgments of the
other, all our criticisms. Activating this process does not necessarily
clear our intolerances, but drives away the limits of our indulgence and
facilitates access to forgiveness, to openness to difference, to understanding
of human and social mechanisms.
It makes us gradually strive towards learning to let go of struggles
and rebellions in front of all that does not suit us, in order to choose
more and more often in our social and emotional relations, the alternatives
of consensus and cooperation, respecting our limits - sometimes allowing
us to leave groups or systems that do not respect these limits - and respecting
the limits of those who are facing us.
This will not necessarily make us lose, in a snap, some of our inclinations
for criticism, slander, denunciation, self-sufficiency, contempt; this
sometimes implacable side that defines the other without knowing him/her
really, and especially without having removed our glasses which prevent
to really look at him/her.
But we can learn to use two different ways of thinking in parallel, and
choose increasingly often to believe in our indulgent thoughts and to
base our acts relating to this. It is even possible at the beginning,
to still believe in our old ways of thinking, but intending to put into
action what is suggested by our new ways of thinking. This allow to move
more easily from one to the other, for, in the end, we necessarily harvest
the fruits of it. It can be judged as a hypocritical way of behaving.
It all depends on the real intention that motivates our actions. If it
is really positive and indulgent, despite a form of incredulity that continues
to characterize it; it will not be hypocrisy.
It is in this context that unconditional love can flourish. It is likely
that one can truly love someone unconditionally only when one knows and
loves his/her weaknesses, and it is to the point that one would probably
not be able to love him/her without these weaknesses. Because our weaknesses
are our humanity.
And we can then observe that, the more we adopt such a look around us,
the more people around us will improve.
And it works in two ways. Not only, by evacuating the negative beliefs
regarding them, we put ourselves in such a disposition with regard to
them when we are dealing with them, that we then don't stir up the manifestation
of their defects. But, by not feeding thoughts like judgments, criticisms,
reproaches, regarding them, even without any explicit manifestation on
our part, we will be able to discover that their defects (the ones we
reproached them before) will diminish. It has to be experimented in order
to conceiving it believable, but it really works that way.
Whatever the concrete reasons, the result is there, and can improve with
This dark side that is so scary is probably a kind of mirage that does
not really correspond to reality. We have every interest in learning to
look at this dark side, not as a problematic part of ourselves, but as
a potential treasure. Because it is there that one finds all the passion,
all the rage to live.
Discovering our dark side can bring us to enlighten our lives. To discover
it in others can lead us to understand them and to learn to love them
more and truly.
Claire De Brabander
translated November 2018
This text has been written originally in French and has been translated
by the author (who is French speaking). The translation quality is therefore
not guaranteed. Don't hesitate to report any error. See more details