Me and My Shadow

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” Carl Jung

The Shadow Self is the self that is hidden from view. That place in each of us that holds our secrets – those things of which we dare not speak to anyone, not even to ourselves.

You see, the Shadow Self is the metaphorical container of our repressed thoughts, shames, fears and desires. All those things that we learned so long ago were unacceptable and thus kept best kept hidden.

But, if you’re looking for a clue as to what might be held in your Shadow Self, then look at what you intensely dislike or react to in others — their behaviors, their attitudes, their characteristics, even their physical attributes. What happens is that we often project what is unacceptable in ourselves onto other people.  Interesting, yes?

Out of Sight Out of Mind?

Even though we repress our Shadow Self, it doesn’t go away. While the Shadow Self’s thoughts, feelings and desires are largely unconscious, they are still active, much like a roiling undercurrent that can surface when under stress.

As such the Shadow Self can cause us a lot of problems in our day-to-day life, playing havoc in our relationships and other aspects of our lives.

But, according to Dr. Stephen Diamond, the Shadow Self can also be a container of positive creative energy, because the Shadow does not just hold negative secret elements of ourselves, but many positive ones, perhaps in the form of desires of the heart, that we’ve been too afraid to give voice to or acknowledge.

Shining a Light into the Darkness

To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light” Carl Jung

So, how do we deal with our Shadow Self – turn a negative force into a positive one?

Firstly, we can make the unconscious conscious. Give those thoughts, emotions and desires permission to reveal themselves. Then acknowledge them and give them words. Psychotherapy, Jungian or other, can be very helpful in this regard.

Next, we can remove any negative labelling attached to such thoughts, propensities and feelings. We can see them as normal as opposed to evil, unacceptable or wrong.

We could even consider that our Shadow Self may hold the key to potentialities that we haven’t yet fully developed and that may be beneficial to us in some way.

And most importantly, we could accept that these thoughts, feelings and propensities aren’t going away. So, if repressing them doesn’t work – even making things worse — then we need to explore imaginative ways to deal with them. Re-purpose them, if you like.

As all of this requires deep work, the safe container provided by a helping professional is highly recommended.

Jacob Norby said, “Every pain, addiction, anguish, longing, depression, anger or fear is an orphaned part of us seeking joy, some disowned shadow wanting to return to the light and home of ourselves.” 

So, the question is this: What gems lurk in your Shadow?

Lost and Found

…Or the Day My Co-dependency Ended

The day that my co-dependency ended was the day that I decided that it was okay to be me.

It was the day that I decided that who I was was good enough. That I didn’t have to continue to push, strain or strive endlessly to be better. That I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone… even to myself. And that I didn’t need to be anything more than I was right in that moment.

It was the day I knew that I was not just okay — I was more than okay.

My co-dependency ended the day that I decided that I didn’t have to ask permission to breathe or justify my existence.  That I didn’t have to please others or try to be like them. That I didn’t have to live up to any tradition or follow in anyone’s footsteps.  That the only acceptance I needed or wanted was self-acceptance.

It was the day I decided that I could just be with nothing added.

My co-dependency ended the day I decided that my needs were at least as important as the needs of others. That I didn’t have to make things okay for other people or please them so that they wouldn’t dislike me or leave me.

It was then that I could see that I could give help, love and support to others and be open to receiving those things too. Giving was no longer a one-way street.

On that day, I realized that I might choose to change, but I would decide the if, how and when of it. My decision to change would not be driven by any outside force or influence, but only by listening to that small inner voice within to guide me. And, if I chose to change, it would not be to please others or to be seen in a better light. My decision to change would come from a desire to be even more gloriously human and to live in even closer alignment with my most deeply held values.

The day my co-dependency ended, I knew in that moment that this was true freedom. Freedom to be who I am and that the world would just have to like it or lump it. No grovelling, no explanations and no guilt trips required.

They say that co-dependency is the disease of the lost self. If that is the case, then finally, finally I found me.

And I have a strong suspicion that the world doesn’t mind at all.

Some Days Are Roses…

Some days are roses and other days are stinkweeds. I refer of course to the ups and downs of our day-to-day existences. Some people call them the vicissitudes of life.

While intellectually we might get that life, by its very nature, is not always smooth or happy, viscerally we don’t get it at all. We want roses all day, every day. We want an easy life, where everything goes our way. But, of course, that is impossible.

So, our usual reaction is fear and our main coping management strategy is to try to be in control.

Being in fear is a hard way to live. And, that we might have control over anything that is outside of us is an illusion.

Even though our efforts to resist and control the vagaries of our existences are futile, we keep applying this same useless strategy and, as a result, we are filled with even more fear.

But there is only one option for action and that is to choose how we respond to life’s vicissitudes. Yes, choose to respond. Not react. But we need some tools to do this.

The Tools of Wisdom, Acceptance and Gratitude

The first two tools of wisdom and acceptance go hand in hand. Wisdom assists our understanding of the nature of our human experience – that life by its very nature is a series of ups and downs.

And wisdom tells us that, rather than rail against the variance in our lived experience, acceptance of our condition is the only path to having any level of serenity in our lives. In other words, we know what life is and decide to accept it on its own terms.

So, with wisdom and acceptance, we can drop our pointless attempts to control the uncontrollable and we can dispense with useless expectations and demands of life, others and ourselves.

The gratitude tool helps us to notice all that is good in our lives. We begin to appreciate the bounty in everyday existence. We notice what we have, not just what we don’t have. We notice that we are already loved. We deepen our connection with others. We look to for ways to be of service and to share what is good in our lives.

And then the miracle happens… We feel a touch of contentment and we may even experience small moments of joy. Wisdom and acceptance tell us that these positive feelings will likely be fleeting and wisdom and acceptance tell us that they will also make a return.

While each and everyday may not be roses, our days don’t have to be stinkweeds either.

And we are grateful.

Crossing the Bridge

In times of dissatisfaction with our lives, we might ask for inspiration or guidance from within or without as to a direction or a step we might take to change things for the better.

Yet, often we know what to do without even asking. We know the answer in our bones, but we lack the will or the desire to take the necessary steps. And we wonder why that is.

Maybe it’s because we prefer the sameness or the familiarity of our current situation as dissatisfied as we might be with it, because making change isn’t comfortable. Or maybe it’s because we lack the confidence to try something different. Or maybe it’s because we demand certainty as to the outcome. Or… Well, there are probably a myriad of other reasons as to why we don’t take action on our own behalf.

COURAGE IS THE MISSING ELEMENT

However, my sense of it is that courage may be the crucial missing element. And then there is the companion of courage — faith. Faith that things will work out. Faith that there is something bigger than us that protects us and guides us. Faith that there is an inner wisdom in each of us that ever shines a light forward. We just need to listen and trust.

I’LL CROSS THAT BRIDGE WHEN I COME TO IT

I’m reminded of the old saying, “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.”

The bridge I refer to is the metaphorical bridge from here to there. From the life we’re living now to the one we want to live. From the place where we’re standing now to the place we wish to be standing in – that place where a goal, desire or dream is fulfilled.

When we come to the bridge, we rarely place a foot on it, because we lack the courage to trust ourselves. To trust our dreams. To trust our worthiness to live our dreams.

GO AHEAD — TAKE A DOSE OF BLIND FAITH

This is when a dose of blind faith might be in just what the doctor ordered, because sometimes we just need to take a punt, take a chance. Sometimes we just need to bet on ourselves. Sometimes we just need to put one foot in front of the other and move forward however slowly across the bridge that goes from here to there.

And we could look at it this way. Isn’t it better to have tried than to never have tried at all?

So, my question to you, to me and to all of us is this…

When you come to the Bridge of Opportunity, by happenstance or by design, will you have the courage to cross it?

 

Who Do You Trust?

We so often do not feel safe in this world. We perceive threats coming from every direction.

The news media, like our brains, has a negativity bias, expanding our perception of threats in a myriad of forms.  And even more devastatingly, we often don’t feel safe in our community or in our personal relationships.

And so, we are hyper-alert in the moment and anxious about the future, usually about things that may or may not happen or be true. Life can feel very scary.

But here’s a basic truth: fear and mistrust of others, the world and life itself are rooted in a lack of self-trust.

Here’s why.

♦♦When you don’t trust yourself, you are more likely to invest in people who are untrustworthy and situations that are problematic.

♦♦When you don’t trust yourself, you see threats around every corner. You’ve abrogated your ability to discern and distinguish what’s true from what’s not true.

♦♦When you don’t trust yourself, you have little belief in your own self-worth. Therefore, you will waver when danger signals do arise, because you ignore the warning of your small inner voice.

♦♦When you don’t trust yourself, you overlook your good qualities and you ignore or minimize the times you have acted wisely and made good decisions.

When you don’t trust yourself, you are more vulnerable to what others think, say or do, believing that their words, their actions toward you and their opinions about you, others and the world are valid, especially when they are hurtful or frightening.

♦♦When you don’t trust yourself, you have little to no faith in yourself to take protective action on your own behalf when it is required.

♦♦When you don’t trust yourself, you don’t trust much that is outside of you either, especially when circumstances are beyond your control. For example, you have little faith or trust that Life or Goodness can deliver what is in your and others’ highest good.

The good news, however, is that self-trust can be built. But it is a process. Here are some self-trust keys and suggestions to help you on your way.

Self-Forgiveness and self-trust go hand in hand. Forgive yourself for your past mistakes, the times when you’ve failed in some way. Begin to see them as learning experiences, because, like it or not, it is through making mistakes that we tend to learn.  So, close the door on the past, but stay open to the lesson.

Self-trust requires that you place your needs before those of others. Draw a line in the sand. Make a commitment to put yourself and your legitimate needs first as opposed to those of others. Your only obligation is to act in your own highest good. Know what that is and make a stand for it.

Self-trusting people have a balanced view of themselves, others and the world. Decide that you will see not just your errors, but the many ways your decisions and actions have been wise, kind and loving. Notice what is good in others and in the world. Take it in, appreciate it.

When you trust yourself, your intuition is your guide. Learn to recognize that quiet inner voice in your body. Pay attention to it. Respect it. This your wisdom, your place of truth. It will guide you to your True North. It will tell you when something (a situation, opportunity or a relationship) is okay or not okay for you.

A healthy sense of self-worth is essential to building self-trust. Accept, despite your conditioning and that loud critical voice in your head, that you are worthy of life’s bounty and goodness. Accept it on principle even if you don’t entirely believe it. With this principle in place, it will make it less likely that you will settle for less than you are worth.

Self-trusting people filter others’ words and behavior. Learn to filter what others say or do, whether it’s the media or people you know. In other words, don’t accept that every negative thing that someone else says about you, others or the world is true. Decide that you are the best arbiter of truth in your life and that you will make a stand for that.

When you trust yourself, you can better deal with disappointments and setbacks. Learn to put your disappointments and setbacks into perspective, because disappointments and setbacks will happen. Notice not just what you did wrong, but also what you did right. And try to see the larger picture. You’ll then more readily be able to harvest learning from the experience and try once again. Remember, it’s progress, not perfection.

Self-trusting people also trust Life to deliver what they need.  Sometimes you just need to ‘let go and let good’.  You can’t control, shape or determine every circumstance and outcome, so letting go is often the most loving and wise thing you can do for yourself and others. And sometimes, the most wonderful things happen when you do nothing.

 

Fire and Ice

“She’s fire and ice. You fear the cold and crave the burn” J.M. Storm

I’m talking, of course, about the Fire and Ice Lover.  You are captivated by their enthusiastic loving in one moment and devastated by their cold distance in the next. But still you want more.

I use the word “love” tentatively, because this isn’t love. It’s pain.

Nonetheless, I’m wagering that, regardless how painful the relationship is, you hang in there hoping things will change. True?

If so, consider this. The Fire and Ice Syndrome is just another way for this person to say, “I’m not available”.  And by not available, I mean that this person is not willing or able to truly love or commit to you, because their priorities lie elsewhere. Perhaps they are focused exclusively on their own needs, another relationship or their career. Or, perhaps, they are consumed by an addiction of one type or another. Or, maybe, they are just not that interested in you.

So, I’d invite you to…

Step out of denial

Dispense with the rose-colored glasses!  It’s time to face reality, as hard as that might be, and admit to yourself what is really going on – that this is pretty much a one-sided relationship.

And it’s time to stop justifying your lover’s behavior. Own your feelings of pain and hurt and recognize your need to be loved equally and fully with no confusion or mixed messages allowed.  You deserve better.

Acknowledge once and for all that you chose this relationship – it didn’t just happen to you. And, while you are there, consider that this relationship is probably part of a piece. It probably fits a pattern of relationship that you have engaged over a period of time, where you’ve invited others just like this person into your life. You’re attracted, against you’re best interests, to this Fire and Ice kind of loving.

Next, I’d invite you to…

Make a decision

Minimally, you could do either of two things:

Decide whether you want to accept things as they are, despite the hurt and discontent you feel, or if you want something better. If you’re going to stay in it, at least do it consciously and in full recognition of the consequences. Alternatively,

Decide that you wish to finish the pain and confusion. After all, if you want something to change, then you must change something.

If you want something to change, then…

Step into action.

Minimally, you could do either of two things:

Let him or her go or,

Engage in some serious face time with this person, the purpose being to once and for all find out if they are interested in a relationship with you or not. This requires that you take your courage into both hands and honestly and respectfully ask what this man or woman wants in a relationship. Do they want to pursue a relationship with you or not? And, critically, on what terms? Perhaps their terms are unacceptable to you. Well, that’s good to know, isn’t it?  Their response or non-response will be important to your decision-making about the on-going viability of the relationship.

Yes. It may be possible to get the relationship on an equal, reciprocal footing, where both of you are more available to each other and each of your legitimate needs can be met.  But that requires up-front honesty and heart-felt commitment on both your parts.  Unilateral commitment when it comes to relationships is meaningless.

So, the question for both of you is this: “Do you want to step up to the challenge of building a mutually satisfying relationship together?”

Now take a deep breath…

Bending with the Winds of Life

“Remember, stress is what makes a tree strong enough to sustain the wear and tear that it will face later in life.” Anupum Pant

Ever watch a tree bend in the wind? As you watch, you might wonder if the tree will snap and break. But just the opposite is true.

Trees need the wind to sufficiently stress them to deepen their roots. In that way, they can grow tall and strong.

You see, scientists have discovered that trees cannot sustain themselves when they are grown in a protected environment. However, trees that grow as nature intended grow strong, because they are tested by wind and other elements.

Looking at trees as they bend in the wind, we see that they do not resist. They bend and sway gently, seemingly in a state of acceptance that their greatest good is being served by yielding to nature’s forces. Rather than bending in the wind, they seem to bend with it.

We are a lot like trees. We too need to be tested by the winds of life, because we, like trees, cannot grow in strength and resilience in a hot house. We need times of variance and stress to challenge us. And, yes, we need times of adversity too.  As much as we may dislike them and resist them when they happen, those stresses and strains of living, and hardships too, are opportunities to deepen our roots and become stronger.

But, of course, it depends what we do with those challenging experiences. Do we resist them? Do we allow them to break us and irrevocably distort our perceptions? Or, do we with time, perspective and acceptance see what strength we can draw from them?

And so we can take a leaf from the Book of Wisdom of the Trees.

With the same innate grace as the trees, let’s first accept what we cannot change. Let’s then find the deeper meaning in our hardest experiences and harvest the lessons. That may take time and distance from those difficult events. But ultimately, we too will grow deeper and stronger and wiser.

And, if nothing else, we will grow in compassion. And that alone is worth the pain.

“I bend with the winds of life, knowing that from this pain my heart will grow in wisdom, love and compassion.”

 

Obsessing Less & Enjoying More in Love

So, you are preoccupied with your lover.  Your thoughts constantly revolve around this person — their wishes, their wants.  You place their needs before your own, if you even think about your own needs at all.

Or maybe your thoughts are incessantly focused on whether he or she is paying enough attention to you. So, you interpret every little action or non-action as a sign of their caring or rejection of you.

The upshot is that this relationship over-shadows almost everything else in your life.

Consequently, you are always on high alert. You believe that, if you weren’t vigilant, this person would somehow slip away from you. In that way, your vigilance serves as a kind of protection from what you construe as impending loss.

If any of the above describes your love relationship, then it is likely more about pain than it is about enjoyment.  And relationships are meant to be enjoyed!

Then there is this: your intensive focus may have the opposite of the desired effect. Instead of drawing your lover closer to you, it may actually drive him or her away.  Why? Because your lover will pick up the vibe no matter how well you try to mask it.  Your fixation is not attractive. It is repelling.

However, there is a way to obsess less and enjoy your relationship and your life more, but it will require commitment on your part and a complete change of focus.

So, if you are committed and ready to step out of relationship pain and into relationship enjoyment, I would encourage you to:

♥ Figure out what’s behind your intense focus on your lover. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a ton of fear there. So, be curious about what the fear is about? Then challenge the reality of the fear.  Or, is your fixation on your lover a distraction from other issues or problems in your life that require your attention? If so, it’s time to address them.

♥ Switch the focus. Focus on yourself first and foremost. Direct your attention to your own legitimate needs. Begin to fulfil your deeper needs for fun and satisfaction in all parts of your life, not just your love life.  In addition to feeling better about yourself, you’ll be a lot more interesting to your lover.

♥ Renew and refresh your other relationships. While you are preoccupied with your lover, other important relationships are likely suffering. You need other people (more than one) in your life to love and support you in good times and bad. All these relationships require nurturing.

♥ Reclaim your autonomy. Autonomy doesn’t mean rugged self-sufficiency where you don’t need other people in your life. It refers to your capacity to act in your own best interests, independent of what you think your lover and others might think or need. Standing in your autonomy will give you a greater sense of balance and wellbeing. And it is inherently a lot more magnetic in love department.

Respect your lover’s autonomy – his or her right to choose, to be or not be. You can’t control another person and, if you respect them, you don’t seek to control them. Respecting your lover’s autonomy also requires trust – trust in them and trust in yourself. Where there is no trust, there is no real relationship.

♥ Accept the relationship for what it is. Don’t overplay it or underplay it. It may be the relationship of a lifetime or might be a short-term affair. If it is of the short-term variety, then it still has value and the potential for much enjoyment. You can, if nothing else, see it as an opportunity to hone your relationship skills.

 This article was selected for publication on the Love Evolve Thrive Website: www.loveevolveandthrive.com

Give Up the Bad Boys Or Bad Girls

Ah, the Bad Boy or Bad Girl. Despite that he or she is “mad, bad and dangerous to know”, as Lord Byron, the ultimate Bad Boy, described himself, you are drawn to them despite the pain inflicted and the calamitous endings you experience.

No matter how much you try to please them, the less grateful they are. The harder you chase them, the more elusive they become.  The less they want you, the more you want them. And then there is the fear – the fear of abandonment and the fear of letting them know what you truly need or feel in the face of their anger or indifference.

Even so, you go back for more, if not with that person, then with someone who is like them. Again, the relationship ends badly or fades into non-existence.

For the sake of argument, let’s call this dynamic a relationship pattern. And however distressing a pattern it is, it is likely quite addictive or moreish.

And this is for a variety of reasons –early experiences with parents and caregivers prominent among them.  Through these young experiences, you probably have adopted some beliefs about yourself, life and others that were not true. These beliefs provide the underpinnings for this painful pattern in love.

For example, perhaps you came to believe that you aren’t worthy of love, that love with someone who loves you unconditionally and treats you well isn’t exciting enough, and that true intimacy in a relationship – allowing someone to get to know you warts and all – is impossible or fear-inducing.

However, there is a way out.

Step One – Take Your Power Back

Now this is important to come to grips with no matter how tough it sounds. However, the pattern began, you’re the one that perpetuates it through your beliefs and choices. Taking ownership of continuance of the pattern is the breakthrough moment, because by taking ownership you empower yourself to change it.

The next part of taking your power back is to understand that the pattern fulfills a need or serves a purpose, probably one that’s outside of your conscious mind.  So, you’ll need to do some delicate digging to discover what’s underneath the pattern and the purpose it serves.  Include in your search the beliefs that drive the pattern (beliefs about your worthiness, your desirability and so forth).

Step Two – Take Action

Having taken your power back, it’s time to act. So, I invite you to do the following:

Uncover the ways that you’ve perpetuated the pattern. I refer to the specific behaviors and choices you’ve made in each Bad Boy or Bad Girl relationship. For example, you might have ignored the danger signals. Or you might have given up your power in the relationship in any number of ways.

Make a commitment to forever change the behaviors and beliefs that drive the pattern. Yes, draw that line in the sand and say unequivocally, “No more!”.

Forget your relationship “type”. Begin to embrace the idea that your type maybe something or someone quite different than your default Bad Boy/Bad Girl. Decide that your type from here on in is someone who truly loves and positively regards you, demonstrating that positive regard consistently through their actions.

Decide that you are worthy of reciprocated love. This is your deepest truth. Write it down. And most importantly, absorb it into your very bones.

Claim your healthy, legitimate needs in relationship and find the words to express to those needs. Practice speaking the words, so that you can fluently express them to important others.

Identify at least one new way of being or action that will begin to break up the pattern then road test it in your relationships. For example, you might begin to express in respectful ways how you honestly feel and what you need to someone important to you. Or, if in the past, you ignored the trouble signals in a relationship, you begin to heed the warnings of your small inner voice.

Remember, any pattern can be changed. Suffering in relationships is not necessary.

And know this. Respectful relationships in which reciprocated love flourishes are truly moreish.

This article was selected for publication on the Love Evolve Thrive Website: www.loveevolveandthrive.com

The Seductive Past

It’s so often said that it’s almost a platitude: “There is only one reality and that is one you are living in the present moment”.  And it is factually hard to refute, isn’t it?

Yet, we tend to resist being in the here and now. But why?  Maybe it’s because the here and now is seems so humdrum, so colorless… and so temporary.

Therefore, for many of us, even the pain of the past has more allure than the present.

THE ALLURE OF THE PAST

“The past is never where you think you left it.” Katherine Anne Porter

So, what draws us to the good old / bad old days? I’d wager that it is because the past is much more malleable and even reliable. You see, we can selectively focus on our memories of choice or even reshape them to fit a certain narrative. We can choose to see them in technicolor and opt to set them to music.   And, of course, we can cinematically replay those past times as many times as we wish and even put them on auto-play.

However, we can’t as easily manipulate the present or reshape it to fit our desires or our stories about ourselves, life and others.  The present just is. It seems to just lie there as dumb and as boring as mud.

THE PROBLEM WITH PAST RECALL

“The present changes the past. Looking back, you do not find what you left behind.”  Kiran Disai

But the past isn’t the past for the most part. At least it’s not the same past that we left behind, because it is seen through the eyes of the present. As such, distortion and misrepresentation are not only very possible, they are inevitable.

What happens is that we tell ourselves stories about the past, whether negative or positive.  We might think that those stories are an accurate retelling of how it was, but they are likely not. Neuroscientists tell us that the brain is tricky around past recall – it can alter what happened back then. It can link two events that were actually unrelated. It can manufacture and insert things into memories that didn’t happen at all.

Those recollections, false or true or somewhere in between, can bring us joy or pain. So, whether we honor or revile the past, it isn’t healthy to be stuck there, because living in the past robs today of any potential it might have for us.

Let’s face it. The past is dead and gone, friends. It no longer exists. Its issues are resolved, even if we think they aren’t.

So, what use can we make of the past, if any?

PUTTING THE PAST IN ITS RIGHTFUL PLACE

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie

My view is this. Today we can remember the good things of the past and be grateful for its gifts. Today we can acknowledge what was painful in the past and be grateful for its lessons. And that is all. Seduction ritual is complete. Done and dusted.

Now, we can refocus our attention on the moment, because the here and now are where true adventure lies.

LIVING THE ADVENTURE

“Keep looking up! I learn from the past, dream about the future and look up. There’s nothing like a beautiful sunset to end a healthy day.” Rachel Boston

Today, this moment, is the only place where we can live well regardless of our circumstances. Today is when we can enjoy small and great moments as they arise – as well all the moments in between. Today is when we have the power to change things for the better for ourselves and for those whose lives we touch. And today is the time when we can take sensible steps to prepare for the future.

Boring? Not at all. Are you up for the adventure? I know I am.