Monday, February 4, 2013

The Shadow Side

Think of a person who annoys you.  Who is it?  What is it about them that annoys you?  Have you ever thought about why it bothers you?  Really, really, thought about why?  Does it impact your relationship with them in any way?  Have you ever had a conversation with them about what they do that bothers you and why?  Why not?

We all know someone who rubs us the wrong way. In fact lots of people.  Maybe it's not every day, but every now and then, they say or do something that makes us bristle. They could be a co-worker, someone you don't know but can see or hear or even be a family member or good friend.  There is something about them that turns us off, that we dislike or take offense to.  Perhaps the way they dress, their tone of voice, their negative or even overly optimistic and cheerful nature.  Maybe it's their 'preachy' nature about something they feel strongly about, whether you happen to agree with them or not.  It could simply be a particular personality trait that not only does it not resonate with you , it annoys the hell out of you.

What's up with that?  Why should we care?  They aren't us.  We are not them.  We are all entitled to our opinions.  We don't have to be like them or agree with them.  We should be different from one another and celebrate and accept our differences.  So why is it so hard to do that sometimes?

Chances are it's because it's not really about them.  It's about us.  That very trait that annoys us and rubs us the wrong way in them, is because it's a trait we either want or ourselves and don't think we have, or it's something we see in ourselves and don't want to admit we have.  We realize there is a part of us that is just like them and we don't like it in ourselves, so it manifests as we don't like it in them.  That 'thing' about them often evokes emotion in us.  Not truly because of what that person looks like, says or does, but because of how it makes us feel, because of the emotion it evokes in us.  Why do we react so strongly?  Because it's a wake up call from spirit. It's about us, not them.  It's our 'shadow' side.

Shadows are cool.  They are images of yourself.  Sometimes larger than life, often distorted in some way.  Sort of like a fun house mirror courtesy of the sun.  They are changeable. They are often not at all a true representation of the actual person yet they are made up of the person and a source of light.  A SOURCE OF LIGHT.

Here's where I go all crunchy and metaphysical on you.  :-)

Light is an amazing thing.  So much more than just enabling us to see.  It illuminates the world around us.  The sun is the source of our light here on earth.  The moon is but a reflection of the sun's light.  We make fire to create warmth and light.  Man has sought to create artificial light so that we may see in the darkness of the night.  The spectrum of light is made up of a rainbow of colors.  They correspond with the chakras, or energy centers of our body.  Good old ROY G BIV.

The light we have within us is believed by many to be a gift from God, Source, the Universe or whatever higher or spiritual power you might believe in.  It's our spirit and our connection to an energy and universal love and light greater than ourselves from which we were born and to which we will someday return.  Even if you are agnostic, chances are you do agree in the law of physics that tells us matter cannot be created nor destroyed.  If matter is energy...(a topic for another day)

Another one of my favorite quotes is, "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience." ~Teilhard de Chardin

As humans, we choose to perceive ourselves the way we want other to perceive us.  Thus, it's natural to focus on the traits we think are positive, 'liked', and sought after by others.  None of us inherently want to be thought of in a negative way by others.  The problem is, we are humans.  We have negative traits, feelings and emotions.  They are not necessarily a bad thing.  We just don't always think before we speak or act.  We don't always control our emotions or reactions to others.  We are not universally good at putting ourselves in the other person's 'shoes'.  Society has taught us it's OK to 'dis' others, to allow ego to get in our way, to hide our light or to believe the distortions we see.

We also tend to fall into patterns of behavior that are comfortable to us.  Those around us get used to it and attribute traits they disagree with to 'that's just the way they are'.  If they are not so disturbing to us that we feel the need to end the relationship with that person, we tend to never explore where those feelings come from or check in to see if our interpretation is in fact, correct.  We often don't discuss our feelings about those traits that annoy us with the person who possesses them, because we don't want to upset them, make it worse, get into an argument or risk losing the relationship.

I venture to say in actuality, we don't discuss it because it makes us uncomfortable.  On some level, the reality is what annoys me about you is really what annoys me about MYSELF.  I either wish I could be like you and it's some sort of unacknowledged envy or I recognize that trait I am so annoyed by in you is one I possess, am ashamed of and don't want to admit to.  Fear of confronting that, with you or within myself, renders me like a deer in headlights, and so I do nothing.

Back to what makes a shadow.  It is you and a source of light.  That source is often the sun, but it could be the light of a bright and full moon, a spotlight or a lamp.  The characteristics of the shadow have many variables relative to the light.  It's brightness, the angle of the light, and your position relative to it.

You can manipulate your shadow by movement.  You can choose how it appears simply by moving your body.  Just like you have control over your feelings and actions.

You can choose to eliminate your shadow.  By choosing darkness or retreating from the light.

Or, you can choose to come out and play.  To explore all the ways your shadow can evolve and change. You can connect yourself to the light.  Share your feelings.  Write them down, verbally discuss them with someone, ritualistically let them go and start anew.  Like so many things about this human experience, it's about learning, growing, changing for the greater good.

I challenge you to think of 3 people that have attributes that bother you on some level.  Then think of 3 people who you admire.  For each of them, write down all of their positive attributes and all of their negative attributes.  Be honest.  No one will see this but you.  Then do the same for yourself.  Be painfully honest about it all, but especially yourself.  Acknowledge your negative traits as well as your positive ones.  Check to see if there are similarities between yourself and the 6 people you chose based on their attributes.

Take it a step further.  Choose something about your shadow side that you want to change and change it!  Baby steps are fine, just make an effort to change it.  Be mindful of how it impacts your own life and your interactions with those around you.

Then go outside and do some shadow dancing!

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