I’ve been thinking about my shadow, the hidden, denied, and repressed part of me that often comes out in my actions. Shadow is a Jungian term that refers to emotionally charged parts of my personality that have been submerged. When my behavior is driven by the shadow, the expression is counter to my authentic self, and creates circumstances which are less than lovely.
I’d like to be lovely or at least healthy. And there’s the rub. If my shadow is unseen, how can I take corrective measures to change what I can’t see?
Well, they say it’s simple but not easy. I must awaken to it. When I began taking suggestions from others who cared about me and had done their own authentic shadow work, I began to glimpse my own shadow.
There are two specific practices which have helped me bring the shadow to consciousness: The integrity process, and by retracting my projections. Let’s start with integrity.
The integrity process is used in the Deep Waters and Brave Heart Experience communities as a connection and growth practice. For our purposes, integrity is simply defined as keeping the verbal or written agreements I make. Period.
If an agreement is kept, I am in integrity.
If an agreement is not kept, I’m out of integrity.
No excuses, no “sorry’s”, no extenuating circumstances, no force majeure, blah blah blah. I either do or I don’t! And it is not about self or other shaming. It is simply data.
Part of the process is to look beyond the story at how I CHOSE to be out of integrity. What did I choose instead? In the case of being late, if there was a million dollars waiting for me, I would be on time!
Then I look at the consequences. Did I make someone wait? What was I saying to that person with this choice? My shadow was saying, “I don’t care about you” or maybe something even stronger. Remember, the shadow is under emotional pressure. This is also known as passive aggression. Anyone besides me have some of that? Or know someone who may have a bit of shadow work to do?
When I acknowledge what my shadow is really up to, I usually get a lot of thank you’s from folks in my circle. “Brad, I’d much rather have your emotional truth straight out than sideways”. This always surprises me, because I was taught to be “nice” at any cost. It has cost me a lot btw.
Here’s the kicker. My shadow is the part of me which made the choice to not keep the agreement. When I am in a safe healing container, I can take a deep dive into the true feelings which underpin this behavior. I usually find some of my unresolved trauma there, and a deeper understanding of me begins to emerge.
Was it fear, sadness, shame, or anger which led me to behave in such a manner? I guarantee it was one of those repressed feelings. While discovering the true nature of my feelings is scary, gaining awareness and some influence over my choices is both liberating and healing.
This is a great process for deepening relationships. When I’m out of integrity and I have awareness, then I can make it right. I can move forward in my relationships and in my life with more trust and clarity.
It has changed everything for me. I’m much more careful about making agreements especially if I’m doing it out of some codependent urge to be everything to everybody. I’m told this is what they call having “boundaries”!
Shadow work involves feeling all of it, and coming more vividly to life, and having more satisfying relationships. Its worth it to me after many years of hiding in so many ways.
Thanks for reading, I hope you got a glimpse of some of your shadow and/or how the process works toward becoming more whole. Next week we’ll look at how we can see our shadow in people, places, and things.
Like the wallpaper sticks to the wall
Like the seashore clings to the sea
Like you’ll never get rid of your shadow
You’ll never get rid of me
Let all the others fight and fuss
Whatever happens, we’ve got us.
Me and my shadow
Billy Rose -1927