I don’t know why I thought I’d never encounter the Shadow again. I guess it’s possible to believe you’ve seen the worst, lived through it, and now, what? Smooth sailing? Endless chai lattes? Bagels with cream cheese that don’t cause instant weight gain? Yeah, something like that. But just because my darker half showed up again doesn’t mean I haven’t acquired some impressive chops in facing down my demons. I might have found myself in some of the same places, but this time I had different equipment: a better map, a brighter headlamp.
You know the Shadow, right? That dark part of you that wants to trip little old ladies and steal a pack of gum in the check-out line? Most of us have our Shadow under control, so we don’t act on those impulses. In fact, they usually go unnoticed. They just stream by in the never ending river of internal experience, bumping up against other impulses, thoughts, feelings, impressions and memories, as we process input from outside ourselves and navigate each moment.
But the Shadow shows up on a regular basis in a much more palpable and troublesome way: It generates those pesky thoughts that keep us stuck, make us feel bad about ourselves, sap our self-confidence and stand in relentless judgment of everything around us. We may not trip the little old lady, but we are mean to ourselves regularly.
We can do something to change and heal that process. Like anything else in personal growth, awareness is the first step. I remember reaching a juncture in early recovery where I was clearly miserable and for no reason that I could discern from analyzing my circumstances. Then one day I heard the thoughts that were in my head and realized what was meant by “beating up on myself.” My thoughts were brutal and relentless. I couldn’t do anything right.
It didn’t take me long to realize that I was simply perpetuating the thought forms and beliefs I had learned growing up. And that isn’t code for blaming my parents. These thoughts and beliefs are everywhere in our culture. Beliefs about our worthiness to receive the love of our Creator; expectations we are to conform to, based on barely articulated sets of conditions we are never quite perfect enough to meet; conditional okay-ness in every sphere: physical, emotional, and behavioral; attacks on our worthiness and value as people.
As I began to recognize the effects of that voice, I began to work with ways of healing the thoughts it wanted me to buy into. I wrote them down to examine the beliefs and world view more closely. I began to see what the New Thought movement (what is manifest starts in thought) was talking about. As we believe so shall we receive. How could I have a wonderful, fulfilling life with thoughts like that?
Fast forward almost ten years. I am offering empowerment workshops, as I have done since graduate school, on various topics all focused on creating a good life. I get totally hooked on the idea of incorporating principles of quantum physics into the empowerment work. After all, if the butterfly wing really can trigger a thunderstorm, then maybe our thoughts can affect our reality.
In that model, I decided not to pay too much attention to obstacles and stuckness, except to acknowledge that our outer world reflects back to us what we believe is possible. That which we focus on becomes our reality, which correlates with the Observer Effect in physics. No point in doing battle with stuckness, just heal the perception of lack and limitation, and the situation transforms.
Then I received a request to develop a workshop all about dealing with obstacles and stuck places. I revisited my transpersonal psychology notes from the Program In Spiritual Psychology. Right there with the other sub-personalities I encountered the Shadow. My notes say, “Don’t confront the Shadow.” Check. They go on, “Treat as if no big deal. Don’t do battle. Just ignore it.” Then a little later on, “Best way to treat the Shadow is with humor, even mocking.” I flashed on Eckart Tolle’s brilliant work in A New Earth where he talks about how the one thing the ego hates the most is being laughed at.
Bingo. So, in the workshop, in the midst of our very intense work on obstacles, we came face to face with our Shadow or Adversary. I could see people start to tense up, like you do when the bully is approaching from the other side of the school yard. How is Madame Transformational Happiness going to pull us out of this one and save us from the Scary Thought Monster???
And if you, too, know all too well the tyranny of the Inner Wet Blanket, who seems to hold sway over one or more sticky aspects of your life that just don’t want to change or get better, I suggest you do what my workshop participants did:
Give your shadow a silly name
Don’t let that pompous meanie ruin your life one more second. My shadow’s name is Silly Poopy Banana Pants. No lie. Yesterday I caught the witch trying to ruin my successful writing workshop by telling me I would not be equal to creating something of value for five more sessions. So, I said, “Silly Poopy Banana Pants, Na-na na-na na-na!” and IT SHUT UP.
My Kick-Ass Guide: Getting Unstuck not only contains instructions for crafting utterly luminous affirmations, it is also a step-by-step approach to ferreting out those unconscious beliefs that your silly Shadow wants to scare you into believing. Your affirmations can then address these beliefs directly. This guide is basically that entire workshop, organized like a workbook.
Armed with these tools and the appropriate moniker for your Inner Naysayer, you should be ready to silence that demon without breaking a sweat.
© 2015 Phyllis Capanna. All contents property of Phyllis Capanna and phyllomania.