What is in your Shadow?
A topic I have been thinking a lot about lately is shadow. Our shadow is the parts of ourselves we don't see or acknowledge. So, if we can't see them, how do we know what they are?
We most often see our shadow in the qualities we either greatly dislike, or greatly admire in others. In either case we see it as something outside of us, not a quality we ourselves possess.
An example for me is selfishness. This is a quality that I have really judged and disliked, and when I am in that space I see myself as NOT selfish at all. I think things like, "how can that person be so self-centered?!?!" and I feel righteous and indignant!
The truth is, as humans we have the capacity for the whole spectrum of human emotions and qualities. There is nothing that we are not. We may not display those qualities explicitly, but they are there on some level.
In fact, often our judgment of a characteristic or behavior gets in the way of our wholeness and healthy expression as a human. If I can't allow any selfishness within myself I might go to the extreme of always putting others first, and not taking care of my own needs. Then I end up exhausted and resentful.
Another way it can play out is that when I AM acting out of self-centeredness that is hurtful to others, I can't see it because it is in my shadow! Then I am oblivious to the harm I am causing and not taking responsibility for my actions.
Positive qualities can also be part of our shadow. If you find yourself greatly admiring someone, or putting them on a pedestal, thinking that you wish you could be like them but don't believe you have those qualities, that is positive shadow. Again, this limits our full expression as beautiful, complex human beings!
A gentle way to begin bringing awareness to the shadow parts of ourselves is, first, notice when you have a strong reaction to someone, especially when it comes with a lot of judgment....positive or negative! So, I may notice myself thinking "He is SO self-centered!" That's my clue to gently turn it around and add to that sentence "and so am I."
This isn't to judge or beat ourselves up at all. It MUST be done in the spirit of self investigation, self-awareness and with tons of compassion.
I feel like this is especially important at this time of so much division, fear and anger in our world. We change things from the inside out. As we find more compassion and understanding for ourselves, it automatically reflects in the world around us. As we heal the divisions within ourselves, the divisions in our world can't help but be healed.