Have you ever watched one of those videos, either on TV or on YouTube, of a toddler suddenly realizing there is something following him around? The child is usually terrified and running from it, and the image strikes most people as funny, so they laugh. You, as the adult, know that it’s only a harmless shadow, and no matter how hard or how fast they run, they can’t get away from it. But they haven’t realized it yet, so they run away, crying and screaming as they try to escape it.
Everybody has a shadow.
You say, yes, of course. Everybody has a shadow. And….?
And everybody has a Shadow Part.
There’s a part in every one of us that’s dark, and anxious, and jealous, and not very nice.
The Shadow is shame and abandonment and betrayal. It’s all the lousy things that have happened to you, and all the lousy things you’ve done to other people. And just like that toddler, you often run from your shadow part, rather than recognize it and face it. You’re afraid that if you acknowledge the feelings and memories that you’ll have to realize what a bad person you are. Because ‘good’ people don’t think and do the things you did. Right?
Ouch, who wants to think about that? Can’t you just get over it and move on already?
There are just a couple of problems with that.
- You’re human.
- Humans have 2 sides.
Light – Dark
Good – Bad
Genius – Idiot
Kind – Mean
When we teach children concepts, we often teach opposites. In fact, there are lots of children’s books that are mostly illustrations of opposites: in/out; up/down; loud/quiet; black/white. The human mind seems set up to understand and explain the world in terms of opposites. Explaining the human spirit is no different.
But people are very complex.
You aren’t all good and you aren’t all bad.
You give to charity, you’re loving to your family, you work hard and you’re thoughtful with your friends.
And you also snipe at your husband when he doesn’t do enough around the house. You gossip about your lazy coworker behind her back. You’re envious when your neighbor brags about his new boat.
You like to think about all the good things you do and think. It’s much harder to admit that you have a side that isn’t as nice.
Here’s the big problem, though.
When you’re ‘supposed’ to be nice and you ‘know’ that deep down you’re not, there are unintended consequences.
- Sometimes you’re irritable and snappish with the people you love because you feel bad inside
- Sometimes you put up walls with the people you love, because they might not love you if they really knew you
- Sometimes you’re extra critical with people and the way they act, because you’re critical of yourself when you act that way
Your bad feelings, your Shadow Part, is there whether you acknowledge it or not, and it affects you. When you’re actively pushing it down you’re aware of why you’re pushing it (must be nice!). But when you’re critical and mean with people for ‘no good reason’ it’s because feelings you’re not even aware of are influencing you.
So what’s the solution to this horrible situation?
Be kind to yourself.
Really. Make friends with your Shadow. Have a conversation.
Write it a letter in your journal.
Write about how envious you are of your neighbor and his boat, and how you wish you had enough money to waste on a giant toy, and how you work 10 times harder than he does and deserve a boat a whole hell of a lot more than he does, and how did he get that cushy job where he can leave the office early and you have to stay late just to keep up with the paperwork…..? You get the idea.
Acknowledging all these thoughts and feelings doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you human.
Start to get to know your shadow. And when you feel uncomfortable and squirmy and red-faced from shame
Breathe. Take a break, have a glass of water, watch a show on Netflix.
Forgive yourself for being human. It makes it easier to forgive others.
We’re all down there with you, and we’re all up here, too. It’s very hard work to make friends with your Shadow. My friend, Michelle, often reminds me to take it slow and to be gentle because it is such hard work (and Michelle Wolff offers a toolbox for exploring and supporting your Shadow side at www.cattyshackdesigns.com ).
It’s okay to make friends a little at a time. The first step is to accept that your Shadow exists.
Everybody has a shadow.
Have you done any shadow work?
How do you work with your shadow? Do you like to journal, or do you talk out loud with it? (Some people do!)
I’d love to hear where you are in your relationship with Shadow!
Have you Googled “Shadow work?’ Try it!
Thanks so much for stopping by, see you next time!