I’ve been thinking that most people probably aren’t very aware of their dark side. That doesn’t mean it isn’t an operating force in their actions, and it doesn’t mean they don’t fear it, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Many people express their darker selves when they’re behind the wheel of a car. And when they’re on the Internet. Both situations offer power and anonymity. The opportunity to hurt without consequence.
In a car you can bully someone you’d never feel comfortable threatening in person. Someone bigger than you. Someone stronger. Someone older, or more accomplished. Someone who would command — and possibly demand — your respect, if you had to look them in the eye.
On the Internet you can threaten, humiliate, libel, and ridicule someone you’ve never met and will never have to face.
Many people take advantage of these two situations to scare, hurt, and threaten other people, to knock them down emotionally or physically. I wonder if more people act out while driving and/or on the Internet than don’t.
It takes a certain strength of mind to remember the humanity of others when they can neither see you or touch you. When they’re saying something you don’t like, or doing something that “gets in the way” of where you want to be, or what you want to do.
It takes patience. It takes humility.
If you’re not the one in the empowered position, behind the wheel, way up high in that SUV, you may be a little more familiar with the edges of your dark side. With the landscape of what you are capable of, given the right set of circumstances.
Let me tell you about my dark side.
I know what it feels like, rising. I know the size and shape of it. I know its roar. I know exactly what it — and by extension, I — am capable of.
I also know that it responds to the cold logic that runs through my mind when I’m processing a bad situation. I know that as incendiary as it is, it still filters through my awareness, and I still make choices about what I am going to do. Choosing through an enormous storm of rage is a very weird feeling, but it’s one I’ve felt a lot.
I will tell you that most people have never seen my dark side, not even a glimpse, though many have seen (or heard) me angry. I will also tell you, and I am deadly serious now, that you do not want to meet my dark side.
I have had to spend a lot of time getting to know my dark side because it is there to protect me from danger, and I’ve been in danger — real, you-might-die-now danger — more times than I can count. I’ve had to find out just what the limits are — how much control I have, what the decision-making process is like from within a white-hot rage. It’s not a pleasant experience. But it’s worth knowing, for real, who you really are, when you’re pressed up against the sharp edge of your mortality. Because of these terrible experiences, I have come to know my most dangerous self, and it is well-integrated into the rest of me.
What I’ve discovered is that: a) it’s a source of strength, b) it would enable me to kill someone if that were the only viable choice, and c) it is still me. C) means that for the most part, like Mal,
If I ever kill you, you’ll be awake. You’ll be facing me, and you’ll be armed.
I used to joke that I had to leave New York before I ended up dead or in prison. It wasn’t altogether a joke. If I ever kill you, it will probably be because you have hit me with your car, and I will either be unable or unwilling to tell my big dark rage to stand down. And I probably won’t regret it.