Understanding the Shadow Pt. 1

For me, meditation, yoga and music therapies were not a straight line pathway to bliss and serenity. I think that was something that really caught me off guard and led to the culmination of anxiety for me.  I also think it's important for anyone embarking on this path to understand this too.  There are demons to face.  As real as they seem though, they are phantoms that will disappear in the light of love. Our greatest power, is the power to choose. The other important thing is that although these demons (fears, self-loathing, self judgement, anger, resentment, un-forgiveness) are largely self created. I know I created many of the demons I faced myself.  In some of the heights of my anxiety I literally thought the devil was after me!  Later, I started to notice, "Holy shit, this guy knows a lot about me, that I have never mentioned to anyone".  It was only then that I started to understand and face my shadow.  The Devil was ME!!

So what is the Shadow?

Carl Jung described the shadow as the part of us that we want to hide from the world.  In short, it is our darkness.  Our fears, desires and urges that are repressed in order to present the part of ourselves that we think the world, society and our family and friends want to see.  Of course, this is all self determined and in my case I found that I was also robbing myself of the joy of being fully ME.  The shadow is also largely contained in the subconscious.  Many of these emotions and urges are things I didn't want to face about myself.  When I started the path to awakening my mind and opened the cork of my subconscious all of these emotions and urges came rushing out like bats out of a cave.  It was terrifying.

For me, this happened all at once.  Like a cork being popped off of a champagne bottle, my subconscious was unleashed and all of these fears came to the forefront for me to face.  At the time I had no idea what was going on.  I had no knowledge of "the shadow", no knowledge of my subconscious and no knowledge of how this could affect me or my outlook on life.  Even though this was extremely hard to face and terrifying at times this was like going to a Jedi bootcamp or attending virtual reality training session of "Learning about the Subconscious 101".

In retrospect, I understand more about the concept of "the shadow" via reading and talking with a counselor.  Even though going through the fear was unpleasant I now realize it was the pathway to freedom and the only way to unlock the doors of the prison that I had created for myself.  So what I wanted to do here was to give you some tools that I have read about to help you in facing this.  The most important tool is awareness, and since you just read this...now your aware. 

"We have nothing to fear, but fear itself"  ---Franklin D. Roosevelt

Here's an excerpt from "The Little book on the Human Shadow" that explains it well..

The Long Bag We Drag Behind Us
By Robert Bly

Let’s talk about the personal shadow first. When we were one or two years old we had what we might visualize as a 360-degree personality. Energy radiated out from all parts of our body and all parts of our psyche. A child running is a living globe of energy. We had a ball of energy, all right; but one day we noticed that our parents didn’t like certain parts of that ball. They said things like: “Can’t you be still?” Or “It isn’t nice to try and kill your brother.” Behind us we have an invisible bag, and the part of us our parents don’t like, we, to keep our parents’ love, put in the bag. By the time we go to school our bag is quite large.

Then our teachers have their say: “Good children don’t get angry over such little things.” So we take our anger and put it in the bag. By the time my brother and I were twelve in Madison, Minnesota we were known as “the nice Bly boys.” Our bags were already a mile long. Then we do a lot of bag-stuffing in high school. This time it’s no longer the evil grownups that pressure us, but people our own age. So the student’s paranoia about grownups can be misplaced. I lied all through high school automatically to try to be more like the basketball players. Any part of myself that was a little slow went into the bag.

My sons are going through the process now; I watched my daughters, who were older, experience it. I noticed with dismay how much they put into the bag, but there was nothing their mother or I could do about it. Often my daughters seemed to make their decision on the issue of fashion and collective ideas of beauty, and they suffered as much damage from other girls as they did from men.
So I maintain that out of a round globe of energy the twenty-year-old ends up with a slice.

We’ll imagine a man who has a thin slice left-the rest is in the bag-and we’ll imagine that he meets a woman; let’s say they are both twenty-four. She has a thin, elegant slice left. They join each other in a ceremony, and this union of two slices is called marriage. Even together the two do not make up one person! Marriage when the bag is large entails loneliness during the honeymoon for that very reason. Of course we all lie about it. “How is your honeymoon?” “Wonderful, how’s yours?”

Different cultures fill the bag with different contents. In Christian culture sexuality usually goes into the bag. With it goes much spontaneity. Marie Louise von Franz warns us, on the other hand, not to sentimentalize primitive cultures by assuming that they have no bag at all. She says in effect that they have a different but sometimes even larger bag. They may put individuality into the bag, or inventiveness. What anthropologists know as “participation mystique,” or “a mysterious communal mind,” sounds lovely, but it can mean that tribal members all know exactly the same thing and no one knows anything else. It’s possible that bags for all human beings are about the same size.

We spend our life until we’re twenty deciding what parts of ourself to put into the bag, and we spend the rest of our lives trying to get them out again.

In the next post,  I'll talk a little more about my confrontation with my shadow and some of the tools I discovered that helped me.  

Just a personal note: There is nothing new under the sun. I am just attempting to present info. here that has helped me. I hope to present it in a clear way based on my experience with anxiety which was a spiritual, psychological and emotional awakening for me. In retrospect of this experience I have been reading as much as I could to come to a deeper and more grounded understanding of this seemingly mystical thing that happened to me (so that I could share it with you).  I'm not a doctor or a scientist.  Please know this is only my experience.  Yours will obviously be different, but since my experience was so similar to others I've talked to, I am hoping this may be helpful or useful to you in some way. It's also a way that I hope to share my love with you. That is my purpose here.

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