Most of us adults were told not to be “bad” as children and we were punished if we were. Yet all adults have an inner teenager who is saddled with responsibility and commitment, and who wants, no needs, to come out and play—to let off steam. Often that teenager has a rebellious streak and is curious about “bad.”
Halloween is a perfect time of year to express some of that inner rebellion and shadow side. Perhaps that’s why Halloween has taken on huge significance as a holiday. One can dress up and pretend. Our inner teenager gets to scare, play at being a gangster or drug lord like Walter White, or flirt shamelessly.
For many women, aspects of their sexuality are lurking in their shadow. Something about it is forbidden to their socially-sanctioned conscious awareness, so they project these banished thoughts and feelings surrounding their body and sexual relationships onto others. In movies and in tabloidized antics, actresses like Jennifer Lopez and Miley Cyrus wear stripper costumes and perform stripper moves while other women get to express outrage at not only them, but also at their own hidden thoughts and desires. Their normal masks of conformity and composure don’t have to be removed.
It’s okay for adult women to remove their confining masks and take a little walk on the wild side to let their inner rebellion out and explore their shadow selves in a safe, healthy way, but then they need to know when to be grown up again. The adult who’s dressing her young child in sexually explicit Halloween costumes perpetuates the real evil at this time of year. Allowing a young girl to reinforce the already myriad of images she’s getting that say explicit exposure is a way to attention and acceptance, is scary.
Not too long after that concert, I sat next to a sedate older gentleman on a plane who was going to see Kid Rock perform soon. I was surprised. He didn’t look like he favored high energy, sexually-explicit profane lyrics. This reminded me that we’re all just big little kids wanting to play dress up and dress down. This is good. Through exploring our shadow side, appropriately, we have a better awareness and understanding of who we are, we’re more whole, and all our relationships benefit, especially the ones with ourselves. Being adults, we can give our inner “bad” selves permission to play, but it’s a power we have to use wisely. The health of our young girls—and boys—depends on it.