This week I participated in a little shadow work exercise from the bible of shadow work-The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford. In it she asks that you contact a few friends you trust and ask them to list the 3 things they like most and least about you.
For me, this was a little like instigating a trust fall into a concrete block. I’m not gonna lie it was rough. Why is it so tough to hear constructive criticism? I wondered.
As @deepakchopra puts it, it’s all about recognizing disowned parts of ourselves.
It goes a little like this:
1. As a kid I express all of myself. I might run around with a dirty shirt or with my underwear hanging out-no problem, I’m busy being me.
2.The structural norms we reside it tell us that said dirt or underwear are not what is the current version of ok is.
3. So… we either learn to hide our dirty shirts and predilection for visible undies or we face fears of isolation from the pack, threating our perceived survival…not a super enticing idea.
The funny part is these ‘stuffed’ aka unacceptable parts of ourselves just keep on showing up, despite our attempts to hide them. They can show up as a tendency to criticize another for these same things, or as people who demonstrate these traits showing up in our lives.
Sooner or later our shadow selves always make themselves known. And they often get louder and more obvious the more we try to ignore them. If you abhor anger, you might keep encountering people who lose their temper. If you can’t stand being cheap-you might find yourself going to three different gas stations to save a dollar.
This is perfectly fine. And, in fact, can be admirable if you are trying to save up, or are on a limited budget. But when you have more than enough cash to pay the difference…it’s a chance to explore why saving that dollar is so important to you. It could be the shadow self, waiting to be seen.
The important part about the above scenarios is to avoid judging yourself for these characteristics and begin embracing yourself for what they have given you. If you are frugal-maybe you have saved up enough money to take your family on a nice trip. If you are angry, maybe you have been able to stand up for yourself when you deserved a raise. ALL characteristics have given us gifts in one way or another-even the ones we prefer to disown.
As for me, my shadow self tends to silence criticism in favor of keeping the peace. And, while I am working towards more authenticity in my relationships, it has also gifted me with the ability to find the common goals in people with very different backgrounds.
I’m curious, my friends-Are your shadow characteristics difficult to digest? What do you think your shadow characteristics might have to teach you?