Spending time with the shadow

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Found on silenthillmemories 

I just spent an interesting, stressful, scary and embarrassing week with my shadow.

Recently I wrote an article promoting an alternate view to our current politics and deliberately posted it to those regions in the country that I was pretty sure had the opposite view. I was expecting pushback and thought that the dialog might prove interesting maybe even transforming. Though to be honest there was also a need to make them wrong for what I perceived was a very dangerous politic.

What I got was the most negative vitriol I’ve ever read. The things I was called and likened to couldn’t possibly exist in one person even if I were as evil and worthless as my detractors believed me to be.

Eventually the negative rhetoric got to me and I took down the posting.

After some thought I tried to apologize for what I’d done to stir up so much emotion. One detractor however, noted, correctly, that I was still attacking others points-of-view even with the apology. How embarrassing to be called out like that. It was a very negative experience.

The whole episode did have some positive for me in that it forced me to look at my original motivation for the article i.e., an ill disguised and dishonest put down of a very different point of view. The rejection that came my way was immediate and hostile.

Though embarrassment is often a shadow that follows me wherever I go, rejection is my greatest bogeyman and threat to my sense of well-being and yet I am continually rejecting myself or putting myself in the space of rejection.

When threatened or when not feeling safe for whatever reason I bellow, flail, reject and dominate. When I hurt I withdraw. When at peace and feeling safe I am open and accepting. When feeling accepted and at peace I am able to give of myself instead of trying to hurt others.

I suspect that this reaction to my shadow is not uncommon with others though it may take different forms in different folks.

So what’s the name of this particular shadow? Why do I react so strongly to something when I feel it’s trying to make me feel less than? Why is it I get so frightened and angry at being rejected?

In asking this shadow those questions it reminds me that I have always been angry at myself for not being better than I am. And yet what is this “better” that I am comparing myself to? How is it I know of it if it’s not already in me? And if it’s in me, why am I not accessing it? What do I put in the way of being this better version? Why all the clutter around the better me and why did I put it there? What do I gain?

As I muse on these questions it occurs to me that the question of what am I gaining might be better put as, “What do I stand to lose?” At that exact point I realize what is the “me” I’m operating out of, it’s the “me” that’s asking the questions, and the “me” who’s been reactive all along and at this point a new answer to the revised question makes itself known.

It’s the ego-‘me’ the ‘me’ I so often think of as the real me that stands to lose. It stands to lose power and control. It is the pretender to the real me, the deeper me, the soul and deeper Self who fears loss of control and its belief that it should be the heir to the throne of my life. Loss of this control through domination looks like death. No wonder it fights so hard to keep me in the dark. From it’s limited perspective it’s about survival i.e., life and death.

In short, when not being me the shadow me takes over.

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For more on the Shadow read the Archetypes section in the book Morpheus Speaks: The Encyclopedia of Dream Interpreting.

 

 

 

A lesson from our dreams: From Plato’s Shadow World to our own

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Priscilla Hernández, ‘Nightmare’

 

I have often said that every person in a dream represents an aspect of the dreamer e.g. their emotional and behavioral characteristics are a mirror of your own. Though this is a truth in dreams it’s also a truth in our waking lives as well.

Each of us is mirrored* in the others that we meet. Hate a certain behavior in someone and you are seeing your own rejection of that behavior in yourself. Dismiss someone out of hand it’s probably because you don’t want to acknowledge their behavior that they reflect from yourself no matter how small it may be.

How are the people you reject just like you? How are the people you like just like you? Both reflect parts of you.

This fact leads me to compare the dream world with the waking world and helps me to see that maybe both worlds really are a dream, the sleeping dream and the waking dream. Interestingly learning to decipher each dream can help us understand ourselves better and where we fit in the overall scheme of things. Both dream worlds can act as a personal therapist and guide through the journey of our life.

Often when a dark and scary being shows up in a dream we want to run from it, hide, or verbally or physically defend ourselves vigorously. This type of dream being is known in psychology as a shadow aspect. When the shadow shows up in a dream either in the sleeping or waking world** take a break before reacting for there’s an opportunity being presented here for you to see a part of yourself that may need dealing with and perhaps modifying so that you can begin to manage the darker aspects that show up throughout life. In short, seeing others as a mirror for self-improvement and/or self-acceptance is a sign of a maturing and evolving psyche.

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*An interesting resource that I’ve used as part of my blog comes from Justin Gammill through the following link: https://seventhrayblog.wordpress.com/author/violetflame2035/

**If you want to look deeper into this concept of the Waking Dream and how it is used therapeutically for greater self-awareness you might like to read “Life as a Waking Dream” by Diane Kennedy Pike, Riverhead Books, 1997.

 

Like Peter Pan each of us need to find our own internal Wendy to reattach the shadow we’ve become separated from.

One of the paradoxes of being human is that we hold within us both the dark and the light.

Carl Jung the Swiss psychiatrist described how each of us has that part of us that we identify with and present to the world and that part of us that we keep hidden, the dark and unbearable characteristics of ourselves. This shadow, or dark, side of our nature is kept cut off from the rest of our being but is still attached through the unconscious part of our selves.

 

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Jung went on to say that our growth into wholeness required that we come to terms with our unacceptable aspects– our desires, hidden impulses, hostility, greed, and selfishness. What he believed was that we all long for the essence of ourselves, what some might call the soul, that part of us that is connected to the divine.

Prior to being born we may have been fully integrated with the wholeness of the universe and only after acquiring a body and by extension an ego did we become separated from this whole. It is then thought that each of us in our own unique way is going through a process of reintegration from the incomplete status of a separated body and soul toward the harmonious fullness of a being integrated with all other beings.

Thus the process of integrating our shadow parts is a major goal of spiritual growth, but how to do this?

It’s a little like Peter Pan trying to get Wendy to help him reconnect with his shadow by having her sew it back on. The way we do this is to reacquaint ourselves with what we’ve cut off from ourselves. What keeps us from doing this is fear.

We know that this part of us has a negative charm attached to it and whenever we get too close it will invalidate and make wrong any of the good in you. This extends to the world as well. Have you ever noticed how anger, fear, and negativity comes up whenever it looks as though peace is about to break out?

While the lower thought forms of our unconscious mind control us we are stuck until we learn to transcend the forces that lay there. We can only do that by bringing to light what is hidden in the darkness.

We can’t overcome the shadow by hating it for hate is of the shadow itself. The shadow is only the wounded part of ourselves that needs to be reunited with the rest of us much like Peter needed. And it was only through the love of Wendy that this could be accomplished, which is why he came to visit in the first place. The answer to dealing with the shadow is through love, compassion, and forgiveness. This is true for both the individual and the society in which he lives.

It’s our own individual and collective arrogance that disallows the points-of-view of others and won’t give deference to the spiritual views of others. On an individual level this is a person who runs rough shod over the beliefs of others. On a collective level like the United States for example (and I only use this example because it is where I call home) the great American shadow through capitalism and its powerful defender, militarism, tends to take whatever it wants and disallows the spiritual principles of anyone and everyone.

It goes on to display an arrogant disregard for the effects on others and the environment that it too often exploits. Corporate America affects more than the other countries it shares the world with it also disenfranchises the people of its own country. This will only get worse because America refuses to acknowledge its shadow and wields its heavy hand all over the world.

Oh it has better angels within itself and these do a lot of good in the world, but its unacknowledged dark side causes it much self-inflicted grief and prevents the outbreak of peace.

Now, America is not the only country that ignores its shadow and the effects it has on the world, arrogance is not limited to only one country, or one people, there are many, many other perpetrators of this kind of grief– its part of the human condition to be arrogant and dismissive of what one thinks is not them.

But the transformation needed to reintegrate the fragmented self begins with the individual– you and I and what we support in ourselves and in others around us. Do we support what brings joy and healing or do we continue to maintain the separateness through our own self-righteousness? It’s up to us– you, me.

Like Peter Pan each of us need to find our own internal Wendy to reattach what we’ve become separated from and become whole again.

 

 

The Darkling Wood

 

 

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Follow the path, I’ll show you the way.

Look carefully now for all crawly and slither

They’ll make you all creepy, scaredy and shiver.

The night falls here with a cackle and thump

A crack of a twig, a murmer and bump.

For it’s these dark woods where the nightmares play

The nightwoods where your darkmares say,

Beware, beware the darkling soul

He cannot be bested by fairy nor troll.

For he rules the forests of your mind

Your lighter and darker forever entwined.

Look close dear one for there is a charm

That can tame before there is too much harm.

Face the demon to make you wise

Embrace his fire and don’t despise.

Give only what he is due and

Accept that he is but a part of you.

He will bow his head and give you due

For his master is really you.

So harness him up and together take flight

Across the deep lake and into the night.

–R.J. Cole

 

Take a peek at the Dark Knight of the Soul blog and see what it is that dark dreams have to tell us.