Embracing the Shadows
"One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious" - Carl Jung
A good friend, mentor, and teacher of mine was sharing some deep insights she has become aware of over the last few days. She has been struggling with her partner for several weeks now, and has been stuck in the uncertainty of which direction to take. After an honest, hard, and raw conversation with her lover, she came to realize that some of her shadows had clouded her judgement and had created obstacles in the way of relating and connecting.
This conversation sparked some deep inquiry of my own. I had lost sight of my own shadows and had been surprised and flustered this past week when someone close to me pointed some of them out in a blunt way. I am a strong, driven, energetic, and lover-of-learning kind of lady! I love a challenge because it supports my growth and keeps me humble. However, I felt blindsided when it came to my attention that my good intentions were being perceived in a way that was causing more harm than good. This feedback triggered some major hurt and sadness as I was a wee-bit heart broken to hear that my fun-loving and eager attitude was negatively effecting someone in my life that I want nothing more than to help.
Being the coach and the committed Growth Mindset person that I am, I allowed myself to sit in this sadness and get real with what was going on inside me. I came to realize that I was triggered because, first of all, there was truth in what was said to me. I knew I had come across as too eager to help and impatient in my words. I knew that when it comes to family, boundaries are crossed and I often overstep into coaching before I get permission to do so. I had to sit with this, as uncomfortable and aggravating as it was, because that is the only way to truly let it go and allow growth and expansion.
I also realized that I need to ask for permission and offer invitations for support rather than assuming I know what's best for my family and friends. This is so hard to do when someone close to me is struggling, but I know now that when boundaries are crossed without permission, walls go up and words won't land, no matter how brilliant I think my advice can be.
The biggest takeaway from this experience was to begin more of an inquiry regarding my shadow side. Everything casts a shadow.
One of my favorite philosophers on this subject is the brilliant Carl Jung. He said, "Unless you learn to face your own shadows, you will continue to see them in others, because the world outside you is only a reflection of the world inside you."
We must look internally before we attempt to change or support the external. Knowing ourselves makes it possible to know others. And knowing ourselves is different than judging ourselves. No one is perfect. Nothing is perfect. It is important to acknowledge and embrace our shadow just as much as we acknowledge and embrace our light or our strengths. The only way to truly change and grow is to first be real and honest about where you are right now, the good, the bad, the light, and the dark. To observe without judging.
In the book "Big Magic", Elizabeth Gilbert says, "If you love and want something enough - whatever it is - then you don't really mind eating the shit sandwich that comes with it."
Without the shadow, we have no depth. Anything with substance, anything worth working for, anything capable of change, all comes with a shadow. So get to know yours. Get curious. Notice it. Acknowledge its presence and its potential power. That is the only way to bring the power back to the light.
Happy shadow hunting my friends xoxox