How Shadow Work Releases You From the Prison of Old Stories
It has been a whirlwind of emotions and thoughts. I am becoming aware of the thoughts I tell myself, about others and about myself.
Normally these thoughts just consistently flow through my mind, but being aware of the detrimental effect of them has become quite uncomfortable.
I can see where I project my ideas and opinions on others and how this keeps me locked in suffering.
“If you imagine someone who is brave enough to withdraw all his projections, then you get an individual who is conscious of a pretty thick shadow. Such a man has saddled himself with new problems and conflicts. He has become a serious problem to himself, as he is now unable to say that they do this or that, they are wrong, and they must be fought against. He lives in the “House of the Gathering.” Such a man knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day.”
– C.G. Jung
There Is No Way I’m Like That Person!
Yesterday, I was in the store and there was a lady with 5 kids taking up the entire aisle.
They were walking very slowly and then would stop.
I was just trying to put something back in the cooler just ahead of them, but they were not budging.
They were walking very slowly and then would stop. I was just trying to put something back in the cooler just ahead of them, but they were not budging.
Rather than say, “excuse me”, and go around them, I became impatient and judged her.
She had badly bleached and colored hair so I immediately judged her as being ‘white trash.’
I am not proud of this but it is what happened.
Then, I remembered that everything we judge in another is in us. Wow. All these years I’ve tried to dress the part of a classy girl, even if I was flat broke, just to avoid being labeled as white trash.
White trash is a derogatory American English racial slur referring to poor white people, especially in the rural southern United States. The label signifies lower social class and degraded standards of living. The term has been adopted for people living on the fringes of the social order, who are seen as dangerous because they may be criminal, unpredictable, and without respect for authority whether it be political, legal, or moral. The term is usually a racial slur, but may also be used self-referentially by working class whites to jokingly describe their origins or lifestyle.
Okay, so I’ve been poor before, living in a camper to get back on my feet, and I’ve been rebellious of authority. I’ve even lived on the fringe of society, thinking at the time it was an empowering choice for me. But now, I was seeing a reality I definitely didn’t like.
“Am I really white trash?”
All these years I’ve tried to act and dress the part of a classy girl, even if I was flat broke, just to avoid being labeled as white trash.
“I am white trash.”
It cut right to my gut. This has been a label I pushed deep into my shadow, hoping to never see it. EVER!
This has been a label I pushed deep into my shadow, hoping to never see it. EVER!
Then, out of the dark recesses of my mind, I heard my dad’s voice, “Look at this mess, it looks like white trash lives here!” “This better not be here when I get back.”
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The past 3 nights have been very difficult for me. I’ve not slept well and had violent dreams.
My husband left me in the first one. My dad skinned my cat alive in the second. In the third, my husband was shot through the heart right in front of me by an Arab.
I all of them, I felt hopeful at the end.
I held my cat in my arms and asked my dad how long it took for skin to grow back, hopeful that my sweet cat would make it.
I dialed 911 in hopes that my husband wasn’t dead and he would survive the gunshot.
I woke up from each one feeling shock, heartbroken, and hopeful at once. It was shattering some part of me that was holding on.
What did it all mean? Was there a message here for me?
I sat with it a few days, not knowing…anything. It seemed that this was the point at first.
Then, I began feeling more gratitude for what I had. There was still something tugging at my awareness.
What was I uncomfortable with in all of these characters?
What were the qualities that I judged as good or bad?
What was triggering this pain?
Ultimately, I had to face the judgment I had about violence, betrayal, and the aftermath of emotions.
I judged the events and then I judged the pain I felt because of them. Isn’t this what most of us do?
I judged the violence as wrong and evil.
Then, I realized again, that what I judge is inside me.
This was an additional step I didn’t normally choose, but I decided to stop this painful cycle by making a new choice this time.
I wanted to deny it but then a memory resurfaced.
I remembered the first bird I shot, at close range, for sport. I remember it’s body going limp, just like my husband’s.
I also remember catching fish and watching my grandfather skinning them alive. I was told they had no feelings so there was no remorse.
I was a killer.
I remembered my friend inviting me to play a game with her. It was winter time, so our pool was green, slimy, and full of frogs.
It was more of a concrete pond. She was taking the frogs in a net and slamming them into our wooden fence.
I didn’t like the game, but instead of saying anything, I joined her.
I stopped soon after because it was too emotionally painful for me, but I’d already participated.
I was violent.
I’d LOVE to Be Like Her! But…
Growing up, my idols were independent women with graceful power.
Wonder Woman, Charlie’s Angels, Whitney Houston, Barbara Streisand, Audrey Hepburn, Mia, & Vickie (My mom’s friends that became my adopted aunts. Mia and Vickie were both highly intelligent, adventurous, well-cultured women that I respected immensely.
When I thought about the qualities of these women, I had a hard time naming them, knowing that they were inside me.
I am intelligent, graceful, powerful, elegant, bold, adventurous, admirable, influential, wildly passionate…
Listing these qualities and believing they had qualities was like telling me that I was a horse.
It just isn’t so.
“Even if I do have potential for these, it will take a long time.”
Isn’t this a common story?
We can’t fully embrace all of these admirable qualities while feeling superior or inferior.
This is Right & That is Wrong
We will continue to feel like we are falling short in life as long as we keep putting aspects of ourselves in right or wrong categories.
What if we were competent AND incompetent?
Can we just allow ourselves to be pure and vile?
Can we admit that we are beautiful and ugly?
When we do this, we step out of our old story of who we think we are.
If we keep deciding ahead of time who we are and how we react in situations, we will keep running into the same walls we always have.
We will keep sabotaging our own success and happiness.
If instead, we could be innocent going into new situations, we might surprise ourselves at who we are becoming.
The Prison of our Old Stories
One of the biggest prisons we set for ourselves is that something good will always take a certain amount of time or a lot of suffering to happen to us.
Part of this is because we may not feel worthy of it, due to what we have denied about ourselves.
When in truth, it only takes a moment to make a decision that can alter our lives forever.
When a woman makes a choice to lift a heavy car to save her child, she defies the idea that strength takes time.
When a person decides to cheat, it only takes a second to make the decision to change a marriage.
I have had money start flowing into my life immediately after making one simple decision to let go.
So, in essence, our self-made prisons are a choice we are making right now. We can choose freedom or prison bars right now, all according to our current stories.
What we are telling ourselves with our self-talk is setting us up to BE.
When we ask ourselves questions, our mind starts immediately looking for the answers.
When I ask you what your favorite car is, your mind gets right on the response, right?
If not, it starts searching to get the answer.
We have to start asking ourselves questions that lead to answers that serve us.
“What makes me feel proud of myself?”
“What’s the best part about my personality?”
“What skills do I have?”
“How can I take positive out of every situation?”
“Why is my life so amazing?”
“What is the most joyful way to reach my goal of…?”
We all have aspects of ourselves that we are not proud of or cannot fully accept. The more we deny anything about us, the more we will experience self-sabotage, fear, anxiety, doubt, and judgment.
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