~by Ruth West
It’s always hanging out with me. What is she really made of? Well, there is certainly envy, and selfishness, and anger and silliness in there – and some other stuff I’d rather you didn’t know about. In fact – ALL of my emotions are in there – but the ones I want everyone to see - are the ones I shine my Light on. The rest are relegated to my Shadow.
How did I learn which ones I wanted to allow to dance in the spotlight? Well, when I was a baby – I just let everything out – just whatever I was feeling at the moment – a little outburst could turn sunny within 90 seconds. But gradually, I began to get signals – Mom would say “Shush” – or my teacher would say “Sit down and be quiet” – or the lady in the supermarket would give me a disapproving stare. I began to figure out that in order to be a “good girl” – I needed to hide some parts of me in my Shadow for safety.
But what is happening to these bits and pieces in my Shadow - when my “Good Girl Self” is on display? Well, for one thing – I don’t want to look at my rudeness – so I can see it in YOU, instead. (This is called Projection.) No, I am NOT vain – (this is Denial!) I have a pain in my back – oh that’s really my repressed anger talking. Why did I just lash out at my dog when I didn’t mean to? I ignored my inner anger - and my Shadow used it to hijack my behavior.
What if I were to try to make friends with my Shadow instead? Where should I start? I could identify and reflect on all of these hidden qualities (and their triggers) without and judgment, but with honesty. I could admit that my Shadow and I make ME a Whole Human Being - and that I can’t have one – without the other. I could own up to having some of these disagreeable aspects dancing around in my Shadow behind me - and realize that I have to embrace them as part of my Human life. And I could stop trying to look for flaws in others – knowing, with compassion, that these same flaws are part of me.
So - what should I do to gain a clearer idea of who my whole authentic self is – Shadow and all? How can I retrieve all that energy I have been investing in protecting that Shadow? Well, to start with, I can center myself. After all – my Shadow is really a cluster of various parts of me that I want to keep hidden, so I need to bring them back into my Center. Then, I want to be compassionate toward myself. I can’t talk to my shadow if I let shame or guilt or blame get in the way of the conversation. I have to be willing to accept my humanness and forgive myself for my mistakes. I have to be able to observe and evaluate in the Stillness of Mindfulness – without emotional reactions or criticism. After that – it is important to journal about my new discoveries. Writing things down helps to clarify them. Clues to the content of my Shadow will be reflected in my relationships. Then I can choose one of my Shadow attributes to work on - that I wish to modify. I might choose to make it into a character – with a name or a color. Then I can just talk to it – “Salazar, why are you here? What did you want to teach me? How can I work with you?”
After I do my Shadow Work – Me and my Shadow can go out and do the Tango. See you on the dance floor.