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Shadow

Part one of series on owning my shadow #robertjohnson #owningyourshadow #balance #psyche


Today feels like the millionth day at home, and my state isn’t even in the “shelter in place” mode. Yet. As a result, I’ve found a renewed love for binge watching shows online. The problem is, I really do not like television. I have a really tough time with it because it reminds me of being a kid. Being… lonely… Actually, it’s more than that. I was ALONE a lot of my youth. My mom was in college when I was in elementary school, and we moved for her job after graduation. She is soon-to-be retired as a Respiratory Therapist, and she has either worked 2nd or 3rd shift for more than 30 years. I grew accustomed to taking care of myself. TV was my companion as a kid, so now I avoid it as much as possible.


Until… you know… a pandemic comes along and forces us to stay inside and be physically distant from one another. I ACHE FOR MY KIDS. S and I have decided that while I adjust to teaching remotely, it is best for them to stay with him. So now, I am turning on Netflix just to have voices in my house. Just like old times, right?


What I realized during this 48 hour (and counting) self-imposed Charmed #teamPiper marathon is that we all must be looking for ways to comfort ourselves right now. To feel normal. To feel that our lives, while changed drastically, can be happy and fulfilled. There has to be a balance. In the darkness, we have to find the light. Maybe I chose to watch the series again because they are good witches fighting the dark… Who knows?


You see, until this morning, that is the way I always looked at it… in the darkness you have to find the LIGHT. But, it hit me this morning that the balance should always be there. Light and dark. They have to work together to find pure joy and contentment. Therefore, in the light you have to accept and acknowledge the dark.


Balance is something I often yearn for. I’m a Libra… textbook. ALWAYS LOOKING FOR BALANCE. I always seek to understand both sides in order to analyze and evaluate any argument, predicament, situation, or whatnot. I try to always offer a perspective that will help people see things differently. It’s what I do…


So, what is the problem with that? Well, it seems that I have spent nearly half a century not embracing my own darkness. It is a more accurate statement to say I’ve been trying to avoid it all together. Sure, some of the avoidance was necessary for survival (the trauma and abuse). But, for the most part, I have been afraid to embrace the BALANCE..


This morning, before work started, I opened a book my therapist recommended. It’s titled Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche and it’s written by Robert A. Johnson. (Hey, wait! The Haliwell Sisters use the Book of Shadows for guidance! Mind Blown.) Anyway, my therapist told me about Johnson’s book a couple of weeks ago when we were chatting about the trauma from my past and just how fascinating the brain and the Psyche are. How I coped, we discussed, was to push everything into my “shadow.” I shoved the pain, the memories, the feelings, and everything else associated with that into my shadow. The catch? Well, the shadow is as much a part of you as your light. Johnson says in his book, “The ego is what we are and know about consciously. The shadow is that part of us we fail to see or know" (4).


Johnson goes on to explain that while we are born whole, our persona splits into two (ego and something else) because our undesirable qualities get pushed to the side. These discarded parts of us eventually create a “life of their own” and form the shadow side. This shadow side is what we really don’t like about ourselves. This darkness can eventually take over and come out in various ways. For me, I think my shadow is my anxiety monster. And, it stands in the corner waiting to get me. Shudder.


Perhaps, my constant need for balance in life is due to my internal struggle. I FEEL so MUCH of the bad inside even though I don’t want to accept it, so externally I overcompensate. I seek approval and reassurance personally and professionally to prove that there is light. I don’t seek my inner light, because I will have to get through the PITCH BLACK darkness to find it. In the shadows lurks the anxiety monster… I just don’t like that thing. Yuck.


You know what else I don’t like? I don’t like the constant feeling of never being enough. I don’t like taking the small portions of good from the external approval in order to feel temporarily lit up. I cannot tell you the number of times I have “been there” for someone only to feel drained and empty after I have listened, encouraged, loved, or helped. I just want people to see me, yet, I lose so much of myself in the process. I really want my kindness to come from a place of lightness. Right now, I think it comes from the shadows… and that makes me sad.


I feel like I’ve been living with a soul that only has a portable battery pack as a power source… there is simply never enough power to sufficiently charge me. It’s temporary. I am ready for something permanent. I’m ready to not NEED to give so much of myself (my heart and my time) to others in order to feel good. I am also ready to be powered enough to receive the gift of genuine love and admiration. I feel as if the stronger I become, the stronger my relationships will be.


So, what will happen if I take ownership of this shadow? Will it consume me? Will I become dark forever? It’s a lot to fully process right now. Perhaps I’ll just sit with this today. Perhaps, I will look for ways to take ownership of a lot of things in my life. Because, I want to be my own source of light. Maybe I want to see what lies in the dark? Is it possible that it's not as bad as it seems? Terrifying.


“To make light is to make shadow; one cannot exist without the other.”


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