Something that we have to accept about ourselves is that we all have our shadow sides. These are the parts of us that appear, often when we are under pressure, and lead us to act in ways that we then feel guilty about. They are the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that we have that we find totally unpalatable about ourselves. These are for example, the parts of us that shout at our partners, our children and at other drivers on the road that appear to “cut us up”, when we have been working all day with our clients and peers being as kind as anything. In short our shadows are the very things that we do not want other people to know about us because we have been taught from a very young age that it is not acceptable to behave in this way.
What we mostly do with our shadows is work very hard at repressing them. We do what we can to act in ways that are absolutely opposite to the shadows that we have as a way of denying their presence within us. We go out of our way to be nice, kind, good people to hide anything to the contrary within our being. We see an extreme example of the shadow playing out within one of our ruling churches where gays are deemed to be sinners and yet there are members of the clergy who are known to have been paedophiles. These clergy men act to their congregations as pious, righteous people, in total denial of their actions behind closed doors.
So how do these shadows form within us? All our shadows are created from the messages either direct or subtle, that we received from our parents, teachers, carers and peers at an early age. This was a time when our mind did not have the reasoning power to understand the real meaning of the messages we were given and the actions displayed towards us. Our young minds took our parents words, actions, looks of “disapproval” and negative emotional states as messages that what we were doing was not OK, that there was something about us that was not good enough and our behaviours meant we were being bad. This often wrong interpretation stays with us from our childhood leading us to suppress certain parts of ourselves for fear of being “found out.”
The imposter syndrome that many successful people suffer from is caused by an inherent belief that they are bad. Given this, these people endlessly have to show that they are a success at everything that they do and keep creating more and more success to make absolutely sure that no one finds out that they really are a bad person underneath. This syndrome leads them on an endless treadmill of creating success to hide these painful inner feelings rather than celebrating their success for what it is without the need to feel that each success is still not enough.
To help us cope with our inner shadows we create a persona or a wear a mask that hides all our painful beliefs about ourselves and instead presents a picture to the world that we hope will be acceptable. This persona or mask has many facets to it, all of which have their own belief systems and goals for getting what they want. Often these different facets work in conflict with each other leading us to feel part of us feels one way and part of feels another way about a certain issue. All of these parts though are part of the mask and have to be understood and united for us to move forward.
Much of the work that I do with people is help them recognise and release the untrue beliefs that they have formed and negative emotions they have hidden within them, based on their parents’ and carers’ behaviours towards them in their early years. The value of this kind of introspection is that as the painful memories are released from the body and mind, it is possible to look at our decisions with our adult eyes and see that in fact we decided wrongly. We can go within and examine our shadows that are so often holding us back and choose again. This means that more and more of our true self and actually who we really are is able to integrate within our being so we are no longer living out our lives from a persona that is not who we really are. We also learn to recognise with time that we can use the energy of our shadows in other ways to help us move forward and get situations resolved. All this is done with the support of our higher mind which will gently and easily highlight our shadows to us with the help of the people in our lives that we project our shadows onto.
So here’s what we can learn from our shadows:
1. We have to be willing to acknowledge that the people who are causing us negative reactions in our life our showing us disowned and repressed parts of ourselves. This is not an easy concept to accept at all for our ego which would like to totally ignore this fact and continue to project our shadows onto others.
2. Once we have recognised this we need to understand this shadow better often by entering into a dialogue with it. If you are able to, it is valuable to find the memory that caused the shadow to be formed within you and re-examine it with your adult understanding of everyone involved.
3. When you have understood and accepted this part of you, it is helpful to understand the positive intention behind its actions. For example, by believing you are a bad person as in the imposter syndrome, how has that actually helped you so far in your life? It has clearly led you to much success throughout your life; it has led you to work hard, always do your best at everything you do, and to push yourself in your chosen area of endeavour. On one level, these are all positive things and what is important here is to be able to do what you love and create success without the desperate drive to “have to” keep succeeding. What is crucial here is to be able to let go of the negative belief with the help of your higher mind so that you actions are driven from a totally congruent inner desire to succeed
4. With the help of your Higher Mind it is time to choose again and create a new belief that supports the truth of who you are. Believing in your goodness and recognising all the times you have been a “good” person is a start to this, and affirming your goodness will support any change in belief that you wish for.
As you get to acknowledge your shadows and to integrate them, you begin to recognise that they really can work for you in specific circumstances. For example within many of us women is an “evil bitch” which I am sure you can certainly acknowledge that in certain circumstances when you need something done in a hurry and people are not co-operating, it is valuable to use the energy of this shadow side to help you! So this is the ultimate healing for our shadows – to recognise them, acknowledge them, and chose a new belief system for them…… and then to have a willingness to use their good qualities when we need to! Enjoy your shadows!