In her sixth book, New York Times bestselling author Debbie Ford returns to a subject she covers in her workshops and has written about in previous works: the darkness that lies within us all and causes us "to act out in inappropriate ways, destroy our relationships, sabotage our dreams, and place ourselves in harm's way." According to the author, the source of our doing bad things is the false self which is animated by our wants, needs, and deep feelings of unworthiness. Within each of us a war rages between "the good self and the bad, the light and the dark, the id and the ego, the Jekyll and Hyde."
Another cause for our self-destructiveness is unacknowledged and unprocessed shame, that abundant storehouse of negative messages we have received from those around us. One reasons for the popularity of courtroom TV, reality shows, shock jock radio, and gossip rags is that they all deliver an unconscious outlet for the toxic hatred and criticism we have about ourselves. Ford suggests that we deactivate the shame virus in our personal software.
Underneath our acts of self-sabotage are unexpressed emotions such as hurt, hopelessness, sadness, anger, jealousy, and hate. With creative élan, Ford offers a revealing guided tour of some of the masks which the false self and the wounded ego dons in the name of fear and shame: the seductress, the charmer, the people pleaser, the quiet snake, too cool, the martyr, the good girl, the nice guy, the abuser, the eternal optimist and more. A major challenge of adulthood is to discard the masks we have constructed and to express our authentic self. To do so, we could use this ritual:
"My friend Jorge once told me about an ancient African religion that advocates hanging a mask in a visible location near the entrance of one's home. This custom serves as a reminder that people enter our lives under a variety of pretenses. It is believed that the symbol of the mask helps us to recognize and protect ourselves against those who are there to take rather than to give, or who may not have genuine friendship or our best interest in their hearts. Hanging a mask near the entranceway of our home reminds us to look past the outer façade of all who enter our lives and see the true nature of the person hiding behind the mask."
In one of the best chapters, Ford outlines seven states of being that are driven by the false self along with the spiritual antidotes to these imbalances:
• Guardedness and its spiritual antidote of vulnerability
• Greed and its spiritual antidote of generosity
• Arrogance and its spiritual antidote of humility
• Intolerance and its spiritual antidote of compassion
• Self-absorption and its spiritual antidote of being of service
• Stubbornness and its spiritual antidote of willingness
• Deceit and its spiritual antidote of integrity
Ford ends this multidimensional examination of why good people do bad things with a look at the relevance of the spiritual practices of love and forgiveness. Waking up from denial and becoming the person that we were meant to be means making peace with ourselves and our imperfections and conflicting desires:
"Every wounding incident holds the potential to be a catalyst that will mend the separation between our lower self and our higher self. But if we don't make amends for the things we feel bad about, if we don't start treating ourselves with the love, care, and attention we so desperately need, the sad reality is that we probably will in fact continue to be our own worst enemies."
Forgiveness challenges us to mine the gold of our unwanted selves and to make the most of the wisdom in our wounds. Ford suggests a daily practice of saying to ourselves, "You are a jewel." She concludes: "So I invite you to put away your judgments, lay down the boxing gloves that keep you fighting, and surrender to the love you are looking for. That love lives inside you."