The secret is OUT: all of us, NO exceptions, have qualities we won’t let anyone see, including ourselves—our shadow.
If we face up to our dark side, our life can be energized. If not, there is a price to pay; our true selves will be buried forever.
If you are ready to seek greater self-knowledge and tune into the voice of your soul this topic is for you!
My hope is to provide an accessible exploration of the mysterious dark side of human nature and provide tools for a more authentic way of living.
A quote by psychotherapist Carl Jung; “What we resist; persists.”
How true! We have a difficult time exploring our unconscious forces and acknowledge or hidden negative traits like jealousy, impulsivity, self-centeredness as well as our under-developed traits which hold our creative talents and have tremendous healing abilities.
How are we supposed to find out what we are hiding from ourselves?
Begin with an honest conversation with yourself and understand the primary goal is to eventually be able to WATCH your emotions WITHOUT identifying with them.
In their book, Romancing The Shadow, A Guide to Soul Work For a Vital Authentic Life, Connie Zweig, Ph.D., and Steve Wolf, Ph.D. share their expertise about how to create your own individual framework and understand who you really are!
We all have an EGO… This is what is called the unauthentic “I”, which develops in order to survive in difficult environments. Our ego is the result of many inevitable adaptations to forces that can’t tolerate the authentic expressions of the SELF.
SELF is identified as the “God Within” and what we are all longing to get back in touch with… it is a reconciliation with the SELF. When we can hear the voice of the Self and learn to obey it, we walk and talk with authenticity.
When we feel intolerable feelings like helplessness, we become over competent, or when we feel rage, we turn it into social appropriateness, so they are banished into the shadow turning into the opposite which is called our “persona mask” and where our ego feels safe.
The primary role of this unauthentic ego is to PROTECT the authentic soul by attempting to ensure that the child will be loved and accepted while he/she learns to adapt and survive in social settings. Think of it this way… there are many aspects of The Self (our authentic self) that are unacceptable to our ego so we each have a “Family Trunk” which contains and holds our lost and neglected shadow contents.
Our personal shadow is shaped by three forces:
- Collective/cultural shadow: contains our moral/social values.
- Family shadow: the vessel in which we grow
- Parents’ shadow: forms the legacy of abuse and betrayal.
Our authentic feelings and behaviors both POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE… are banished into the darkness only to later reappear in distorted forms such as rage, addiction, depression, abuse, and envy which tear apart our precious relationships.
How do we change this destructive pattern in our lives?
We make the UNCONSCIOUS… CONSCIOUS!!
We need to end the all good/all bad point of view and be more real by tolerating uncertainty. By facing our fears we are humbled and forced to surrender to a “higher power” which is our authentic voice. Our ego is able to see our limitations… the experience of SELF is always to defeat the ego.
Did you know that the word “psyche” means soul?
Our soul is our inner connection transcendent spirituality where we feel relatedness and vulnerability. Our souls offer an approach to life that is sacred, an orientation toward depth that brings a quality of awareness that is reflective, imaginative, and engaged in daily things. We are forced as kids to abandon the tender, authentic needs of our souls.
THE GOALS FOR EACH OF US
- Turn self-hate into self-acceptance… shame into pride.
- Open to exploring family dysfunction and secrets.
- Parents’ roles in your life.
- If you are single: break old relationship dating patterns.
- Couples: learn how our projections color our perceptions of our partner.
- Move from Shadow-boxing to Shadow- dancing.
- Explore our feelings with friends.
We are able to turn painful experiences into wisdom… our ego weaves the world together to create a status quo… our shadow unravels the world to destroy our illusions and allow transformation to occur.
Unfortunately, we all sacrifice our complexity and authenticity in an effort to feel safe, earn money and win love.
Here are some examples:
- Trade tender feelings of intimacy for a marriage of convenience.
- Trade time with family for success and influence.
- Trade peace of mind for a persona to attain status symbols.
- Trade authentic relationships for hot anonymous sex or trade-off sex for an appearance of purity.
- Trade life-long struggles for soul searching for temporary pleasure. (addiction)
The Result: We lose vulnerability, true intimacy, authenticity, imagination, and soul! At some point when we realize we have told ourselves a lie, we face a lost dream at midlife because we believed by doing this, we could avoid suffering; we would not have to acknowledge our own darkness. Our ego thinks this is life-threatening, but if our shadow is allowed to come forward, we can begin to understand the forces much larger than ourselves that shape the events in our lives. EVERYONE has internal figures of the shadow and we need to examine how they develop naturally and inevitably within us and how they appear to sabotage us later in our lives.
We actually meet the shadow in small ways quite often, even several times a day.
When we feel humiliated by an unacceptable aspect of ourselves—the critic, the addict, the thief, the miser—we meet an interior saboteur, a shadow quality. By definition the shadow is unconscious, we can’t see it directly because it is hidden, we need to learn to seek it. Where do we look?
The shadow hides in our secret shames. To uncover the feeling of shame is to discover an arrow pointing straight toward shadow material, toward sexual taboos, bodily defects, emotional regrets—perhaps toward that which we would not dare to do but would secretly love to do. When shameful feelings are tucked away from those we love or even from ourselves, the shadow remains in the dark, out of the sight of loving eyes, and therefore unavailable for healing.
There is a way to discover the shadows hidden in ourselves by honestly answering the following questions.
- What private thoughts or feelings most embarrass you?
- What trait do you want to get rid of?
- In what ways do you feel unacceptable, dirty, shamefully different?
Our intense reaction to others is a trait we fail to see in ourselves, we notice in others and are disgusted by it in order to banish it from ourselves.
- Who do you hate or judge the most?
- What group of people repulse you? Terrify you?
- What can’t you stand from a family member? A friend?
Deadening our shadow feelings fill in an invisible emptiness and we become deaf to the call of the Self.
- What do you crave most deeply?
- What desires do you attempt to control or limit when you succumb to the addiction?
- What do you secretly wish you could say but believe you can not?
- When have you been surprised or ashamed by your reaction to another’s demise?
The shadow also disguises itself using physical symptoms, we may lie, but our body does not! We may forget the abuse, but our body does not!
Like shock absorbers, our bodies absorb the wear and tear of our emotional experiences. The stress and trauma accumulate over the years.
- What is your body trying to say?
- If your cells could speak, what secrets would they reveal? What betrayals?
The shadow comes to a head at midlife.
The first half of life typically involves creating stability in love and work (developing the shadow), the tasks in the second half of life involve creating consciousness of that which we have neglected or ignored (discovering the shadow).
What idea is summoning you to a new life? In what ways do you yearn to change? When you are eighty years old, what will you regret doing or not doing?
The shadow dances in our dreams and may enact forbidden wishes we fear to admit and unable to uncover in conscious waking life.
- Who appears in our dreams to contradict your waking self-image?
- What do these characters do and what do they need?
We are preprogrammed to look the other way and shift quickly to denial, hardly noticing the white flash of humiliation, the red heat of rage, the cold wave of grief. We want these feelings to pass by not acknowledging them.
What we need to realize these messages are gifts from the hidden parts of ourselves.
Listening to their voices that have been silenced and honor what they have so say will awaken a desire for greater self-awareness and a deeper connection with others.
Answering these questions honestly will require an immense amount of courage and next month my blog will continue to explore shadow-work by tracing the roots of the characters in our own personal history and families of origin.
I have personally been working on discovering my own shadow characters and it has been a fascinating, eye-opening journey! I will be sharing what I have learned and encourage you to take the next step in your life to search for a fresh perspective and uncover the shadow characters waiting to be heard by acknowledging they have been with us all along!
“You know yourself better than anyone else, yet you crumble at the words of someone who hasn’t lived a second of your life. Focus on your own voice, it’s the only one that matters.”
Maria Bucci, M.Ed LPC DWC-F. Daring Way Facilitator by Dr. Brené Brown