One Side of the Shadow:
By now most of us have heard about our shadow self. We usually reference it as a place where we hide the negative aspects of ourselves from others and mostly from ourselves. We often fear to explore our shadow side. Why? Because it can seem to give more evidence of our insecurities and doubts about our worthiness and lovability. And if people knew what we were really like, they’d run away…or so we think.
When we deny our shadow, it often makes its presence known in the form of other people…because that which we deny in us mirrors itself back to us. Unfortunately, we translate that into a finger pointing game. “I don’t like her because she’s so uppity.” ”I hate how he always takes more than his fair share.” “Why do I always seem to work for controlling bosses?” …you know the drill.
These people mirror for us traits which we fail to acknowledge within ourselves. Using the examples given, in what areas of our lives are we uppity, take more than our fair share, or are controlling? It may look a little different than how we see it in others…yet it’s there within us in some form.
Key point: we can only recognize in others what already exists within ourselves…i.e.: it takes one to know one.
So here is how we can work with the shadow side:
- Pay attention to these negative behaviors/actions in other people
- Explore how that trait expresses itself within us (I find journaling to be very helpful for exploration work)
- Acknowledge it
- Honor it by thanking it…at some point in our earlier years we adopted this trait as a survival mechanism and it served us well at that time
- Allow it to come to light as needed…it can still serve us to this day only this time we can consciously choose to use it rather than it being a knee-jerk reaction
As we do this, one of three things will happen:
- these annoying people will move out of our lives
- they will seem to “magically” change
- or, we make peace with that person/trait
When I worked through an issue I had with me dad (which turned out to also be in issue with me), my dad said to me one day…”gee, you’ve changed.” My dad still behaves in the same manner he always did, only now I have found peace in being with him as well as being able to better understand my shadow side.
The Other Side of the Shadow
Okay now take everything that I just said and apply it to positive traits…that which we admire in other people while denying that we also have the very same traits. Remember the “Key Point” I stated earlier? …we can only recognize in others what already exists within ourselves.
This side is a bit more challenging to address since our culture tends to look down on us acknowledging our positive qualities and gifts. We consider it to be bragging. Unfortunately, what we end up doing is denying our positive qualities, traits, skills, talents, etc under the guise of humility.
The positive side of our shadow is just as important to address as the negative, and maybe even more so. When we deny our positive qualities (gifts, talents, skills, etc.) to ourselves we also deny them to the world. Until I allowed myself to call what I do “art”, and to call myself an artist, I only just dabbled in it without any goal or direction until years ago when I had someone tell me that each of us has a gift to offer the world that in someway helps people and makes the world a better place. “People are waiting for the very thing that you have to offer…why would you deny them that?” This holds true for all of us.
So here’s what we do:
- Pay attention to these positive behaviors/actions from other people
- Explore how that expresses itself within us
- Acknowledge it
- Honor it
- Allow it to come to light
The world is waiting for what you have to offer.
Ponder this as you color this month’s mandala.
Maureen, The Mandala lady
Be sure to download Section 4 of the 2013 Mandala of the Year