“Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”
― Steven Pressfield The War of Art
When I use the term “shadow” it’s not always referring to the dark side, or the negative aspects of an individual. Sometimes it’s referring to a person’s opposite aspects, that which are not the default ways of being.
Sometimes our shadows and nightmares are like candles bringing light to our darkness.
During the month of June 2010 I had a series of dreams that reflected some difficulty I was having processing some critical statements a close friend had made about me. Images of floods, drowning, and being attacked filled my dreams every night for five days.
The so-called critical statements alleged that I was pompous and arrogant and these evaluations didn’t reconcile with my self-image of being humble and self-effacing.
Then one night I dreamed of being overwhelmed by a flood and climbing the stairs to the second story in order to gain safety. And in that second floor experience I realized the answer to my emotional dilemma. In my dreams and my working with them I was being guided to realize that I was actually humble and arrogant, pompous and self-effacing! I was both my bright and shadow self.
I have known people who were basically kind, but who would “flash” anger onto others for what seemed the most insignificant of reasons. This continued for quite some time until they came to realize that this side of their personality had been rejected and shoved down into their subconscious for so long that it was beginning to leak out.
Basically, an unacknowledged shadow will dog you until you pay attention to it and acknowledge its presence as being a part of you. As humans we are sometimes happy, sometimes angry, sometimes humble and sometimes arrogant, sometimes brilliant and sometimes dull. This is the human condition, but if we spend too much energy trying to not be our opposite we can become out-of-balance and eventually this can cause mental, emotional, and/or physical sickness.
Every so often a sleeping nightmare will visit or a waking world nightmare will disturb your peace of mind. Don’t reject them out of hand because they both can be there in the service of your health and well-being. Every once and awhile you need to embrace your shadow self.
Some psychologists and therapists believe that to bring balance to our lives we need to strive to become whole, that is to accept what we are and to create ourselves endlessly.
We are more than our limited image of our self. We are greater than what we reject and than what we keep.
“We fear discovering that we are more than we think we are. More than our parents/children/teachers think we are. We fear that we actually possess the talent that our still, small voice tells us. That we actually have the guts, the perseverance, the capacity. We fear that we truly can steer our ship, plant our flag, reach our Promised Land. We fear this because, if it’s true, then we become estranged from all we know.”