Owning Your Shadow


Consider the following scenario:  you have unexpected houseguests that stay longer than their welcome, and leave a big mess, and some broken furniture. If you don’t do something to acknowledge and clear out the negative energy that your guests generate in you, you will be far more ripe to jump down the throat of your spouse, children or unsuspecting strangers.  You’ll get rid of the negative energy you accumulated, but in a clumsy, hurtful and inefficient way.

How could you do better?  By acknowledging your “shadow” emotions and their effect on you, and by keeping them under your conscious control before you land them on other people.

How do you do that?  Here are some ways:

  • Write your answers to the following questions:  What aspects of my life need transforming?  What am I most afraid of that someone else will find out about me?  What am I most afraid of in finding out about myself?  What are the biggest ways I have deceived myself?  What are the biggest lies I have told other people?
  • Here’s a list of negative words.  Take a few minutes and identify any words that have an emotional charge for you.  Say out loud “ I am _______.”  If you can say it without any emotional charge, then move on to the next word.  Note the words that you react to.  If you are not sure that the word has any charge for you, close your eyes, repeat it to yourself, and ask yourself how you’d feel if someone you respected called you this word:  Greedy, phony, cheap, jealous, vindictive, controlling, possessive, bitchy, wimp, geek, angry, secretive, alcoholic, fat, stupid, fearful, unconscious, compulsive, frigid, rigid, abusive, manipulator, victim, victimizer, egocentric, better than, pompous, sloppy, passive, aggressive, coward, jerk, inappropriate, dead, irresponsible, incompetent, lazy, stingy, unfair, traitor, immature, pansy, hormonal, late, cruel, insensitive, explosive, needy, perverted, defensive, sad, impotent, nervous, deceitful, superficial, judgmental, martyr, hypocrite, sneak, condescending, competitive, power hungry, failure, bigot, anxious, failure, dirty, critical, bitter, bossy, inflexible, old, withdrawn, cold, heartless.
  • Refer to the words that you have an emotional reaction to.  Sit or stand in front of a mirror and say each word over and over again “I am (that trait).”  Say it until the energy around the word disappears.  If you get stuck, take time out from the mirror and write a letter to this trait.  Start with “I am angry at you for…” and then write as fast as you can.
  • Ask the trait “What part of me do you represent?  What is your healthy purpose in my life?  How can I integrate you into my Self?  What can I learn from you?
  • Notice the traits or qualities you loath or react to in someone else—and do the above exercises with those traits.

If you have your shadow under conscious control, you’ll be able to be in the presence of another (person’s) shadow—their anger, rage, hostility, negativity, mistrust, etc.—and   not respond in kind, which is absurdly hard to do otherwise.  The goal is to make sure that you consistently act, behave and talk the way you want to—and the way you feel.  Also this can help you to be in touch with your negative emotions and behaviors you would otherwise have poor understanding about, and would therefore have difficulty controlling. 

Source:  “The Dark Side Of  The Light Chasers” by Debbie Ford (Riverhead); “Romancing The Shadow” by Connie Zweig and Steve Wolf (Tharcher). 

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