Being aware of the dark side can help save us from overstepping the line.

'How common it was to find a dedicated anti-fascist who conducted his erotic life as if he were invading Poland."

I do love this quote. In only 21 words WH Auden manages to perfectly capture the contradiction at the heart of human existence, that people are capable of being perfectly virtuous in one realm and perfectly venal in another.

We can all be attentive to and thinking about two things at the same time - having two separate, equally vivid, realities - in which we are both good and bad. But thinking wicked thoughts won't kill you, only acting on them might.

Yet this inherent paradox seems to be inconveniently complicated for some of us to grasp, especially the media machine which likes to reduce things to the most dinky concepts.


Finding a grand unifying pattern of villains and victims may help your brain feel safe in an unpredictable world: but it doesn't make it true. We are all flawed, complex human beings.

Here's another WH Auden quote: "Evil is unspectacular and always human. And shares our bed and eats at our own table."

Accepting the dualities and contradictions of human nature seems to have made this Roger Sutton story particularly troublesome to understand. Is Sutton a hero or a devil? Maybe he is neither.

First up, despite the frustrating information asymmetry, we do know that according to the findings of the State Services Commission, Sutton transgressed societal boundaries of a sexual nature and it is right that he's censured for that.

But if Sutton is also to be shunned by society, which seems to be what has happened, it should be for the right reasons. He should not be cast out for, as Rodney Hide suggests, failing to be macho enough.

Hide: "Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) boss Roger Sutton should have been sacked. Not just for the unwanted hugs but for the wimpiness. It's okay to hug mum at dad's funeral but that's about it."

Face palm. Sorry, but I disagree with you, Rodney.

Certainly, we should sanction any chief executive for sexual harassment, but please, let's not shame our managers for showing emotion or daring to be human.


We desperately need leaders that know how to connect with other people as human beings. They just need to learn to do it without unwelcome full body hugs or mentioning G-strings.

The most admirable chief executives will not be the kind of emotional retard Hide admires, unable to show any depth of feeling, but real people who have frailties and flaws. The way to deal with those vulnerabilities is to be aware of them, to be able to acknowledge them without acting on them, not to repress one's impulses in a misguided attempt to be a corporate robot.

Repressed feelings, those that are denied in a regime of strict taboos, inevitably come out in the worst self-sabotaging fashion, particularly in those who have acquired a reputation for being upright and virtuous.

If you believe all male achievement is ultimately a courtship display - and evolution suggests it is - you have to accept we can never banish the dark, sexual or destructive impulses from any relationship, even the most banal corporate ones.

The important thing is not that we have dark impulses, but that we recognise them and don't act on them. We only do that by being aware of our dark side.

As the psychiatrist Carl Jung said: "It is not by looking into the light that we become luminous, but by plunging into the darkness. However, this is often unpleasant work, and therefore not very popular."

Jung said you cannot know a thing unless you know its opposite. So none of us can be sincere unless we also know hypocrisy. Jung considered the reintegration of our shadow - our dark impulses resulting from the repression of instincts such as sexuality and aggression - to be the ultimate moral challenge. People - especially leaders and chief executives - who can welcome and embrace their shadow become whole, unique and moral individuals.

But the idea we all have a dark side is too frightening a truth to face for many people. We are all hiding something, even from ourselves.

A win's a win

I received two acknowledgments for my journalism last week. One good, one more ... cough ... not so good. Brilliant but rather terrifying writer Steve Braunias nominated me as a finalist for his Wintec Best Writer in New Zealand award. He said: "Deborah's weekly column in the Herald has been a harrowing read throughout 2014. She has experienced the depths of real despair and she has told everyone all about it in explicit detail. There was the famous line about the great English columnist and melancholic Jeffrey Bernard, that his columns were 'suicide notes in weekly instalments'. Something similar was happening with Deborah, and she always wrote about her anguish vividly, elegantly, and with fantastic honesty." It was a shameless thrill to be in the company of other finalists Jeremy Wells, Emily Simpson, Matt Bowen and the winner Aimee Cronin, even though knowing Braunias' brutal wit, I kept expecting a message to say "Gotcha! Sucked in!" And just in case that might threaten to cheer me out of my ennui, I also got a Metro Dubious Achievement Award, in this case being shamed for naming Cameron Slater blogger of the year at the Canon Media Awards. I won't relitigate this issue - I've explained before that under the criteria he was the clear winner. Given the year I have had, I was rather delighted to find I had achieved anything at all, dubious or not. (Pulls covers over head.)