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Monday, March 26, 2012

Connecting with your Shadow

In the Walt Disney Classic, Peter Pan, there is an early scene where Peter is desperately trying to remain attached to his shadow.  He tries some tricks with soap, but in the versions I've seen, it's Wendy that comes to the rescue- she sews it to the bottom of his shoes for him. That seems to do the trick. Hmm...

Lots of psychological and spiritual writers talk about connecting to your shadow self. Debbie Ford has written a number of best sellers about this including "The Secret of the Shadow". I recently picked up  "The Shadow Effect", in the clearance bin.  I find a lot of interesting books there.  This one is a shared authorship between Deepak Chopra, Debbie Ford and Marianne Williamson- all well known in the world of spiritual evolution.

The basic idea I guess is that we all have a shadow self.  It's that well-hidden part of us that we would really rather not acknowledge and try hard to squish and suppress. In doing so, we build that shadow self to gigantic proportions. Eckhart Tolle, in "The Power of Now", among other publications, writes about the pain body in a similar concept. Both the shadow and the pain body are sides of our personalities that prevent us from enjoying life to some extent and to growing into all that we could be.

It isn't easy to figure out where your shadow is lurking or what fuels your pain body.  By it's very nature, it's a part of you that you try to avoid. We are taught to "stay in the light", look for the positive, foster our positive qualities and talents and stay away from our "bad side".  We are frightened by our shadow side, perhaps even embarrassed by it's existence. Our shadows aren't the mature, well-behaved, politically correct and well mannered versions of our soul. We are socialized to fear our "dark side" and work hard to keep it in check. Sometimes they aren't even dark or bad, we just think they are and force them into becoming that way.

You know you've caught a glimpse of your shadow or your pain body, when you suddenly explode at something and rather surprise yourself(and others) in the explosion. When something really just "tweaks" that inner part of you and makes your blood boil, and your mouth run away from you, your shadow has come out of the box. And once unleashed, it likes to take full advantage because it knows you are soon going to put it back in the box and hide it again.

I ran into my shadow today. It was at the Motor Vehicle office. From the minute I walked in and had to take that number and wait till I was called, despite the fact there was no line, I started to feel a little a antsy. By the time I got to a person to explain what I was trying to do, I could feel myself preparing to fight. I know she's a civil servant, just doing her job and not out to "get me" but my shadow begs to differ on that. So when she so patiently explained that she couldn't do what I need done without me having to do about 20 previous actions all of which involve more paperwork, money, and the retrieval of documentation I was apparently supposed to keep from 10 years ago, I really knew I should have taken multiple drops of the Bach Flower Cherry Plum before I left the house.  I knew I could take some Rescue Remedy and breathe deep and save us all some grief but I really wanted to just jump over that desk, take her computer keyboard and do something drastic. I'm not "in her system" according to the name that's on all my documentation except the one piece that so happens to be my driver's license. It doesn't matter that "the system" made an error when it issued me that card.  I'm told I'll have to sign my name differently and just "play along" in order to satisfy the computer system. Really!!!  Well.. hello shadow...

 I didn't give in to my shadow and end up arrested. I got out of there intact. But I'm not going to just squish that shadow. I'm going to examine it a bit.  I guess I have some issues with rules and control. You figure??? I don't like to play the game because it makes bureaucratic sense. I'm not trying to buck the system exactly, I just want people to recognize when the system doesn't make sense and when computers are controlling us rather than us controlling computers.  That's my shadow (one of them). I can see how it developed. Maybe it had something to do with the rules of that etch-a-sketch I got and didn't appreciate so much.  Maybe it was being told to "color within the lines", "print neatly", "write a beginning, middle and end to all stories", "eat your vegetables before your ice-cream". Perhaps it's the idea of  taking the medicine the Doctor perscribes whether you feel better, or and it feels right, or not... Hmmm... Now we're looking right at that shadow!

Back to Chopra, Ford and Williamson... They all suggest that once you face your shadow you find  a piece of yourself that, if allowed to emerge at appropriate times, might not build to out of control proportions and might just serve you well.  They suggest that by reclaiming the part of us we've tried so hard to ignore, we might reclaim our true path and release a valuable feature of our personalities.

They are not suggesting, I don't think, that I go back to the government office and launch a protest or spray paint the walls, or drive without a license.  But perhaps if I recognize the piece of myself that likes to look outside the box, challenge the rules, and find different, unconventional ways to solve problems I might find it easier to "play the game" when necessary, knowing that in other areas of life I was breaking new ground. 

The thing is, your strength is in your shadow.  It's strong when it comes flying out of the box in an uncontrolled manner and flies around the room like Peter Pan's did. But it's not an asset then.  It becomes an asset when you don't put it in the box in the first place. When you acknowledge your "dark side" and let it come into the sunlight a bit at a time every day, it doesn't need to "explode" anymore. That's when it's both a strength and an asset. It just wants to be heard and allowed to become a part of you every day. The woman at the motor vehicle branch has nothing to do with my shadow self. My shadow just saw her as a likely target and it was tired of not being allowed out to play.
Shadow's are created in different and individual ways. Sometimes we hide our ability to express ourselves and tell ourselves it's wrong to speak up for ourselves. Sometimes we squish our fears into being a shadow. Sometimes we think if we don't work all the time and keep ourselves busy that lazy shadow will come out of the box. Shadows are created when we overcompensate for something we deemed ,or were told was, undesirable.

Peter Pan felt better when his shadow was re-attached.  Our shadow is a part of us, sometimes it's a good part of us. It might be one of our better qualities. It deserves to be heard and examined and allowed to show it's face. The more you hide it in the box, the darker and the stronger it grows and the more likely it will come out at the wrong time. I'm going to think outside the box a bit more.  Even better, I'm going to speak about what I think that might be unconventional and "outside the system".  I'm going to reattach my shadow firmly to my shoe and then I'll walk into that motor vehicle branch with the right paperwork, happy enough to play along knowing we'll (my shadow and I) write about it later.

I wonder what else is lurking in that box???

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