One of the trickier pieces of working with ourselves and the realm of personal and spiritual development is working with our shadow, which comprises all of the elements of us that we are unable to see. Often, we see these traits in others but not in ourselves. When we look out to the world and are irritated or upset by another person’s behavior, or we think that they should be different, then usually what we are seeing is our own shadow.
We can see our shadow by correlating what we do not like in another with what we are not aware of in ourselves. For example, if we do not like a person’s selfishness, we might look inside to see how we are also selfish. Because we all have all traits, whatever we see in another, we also have If we deny that we have a certain type of trait, then we’re very likely to see this trait outside of us and react negatively to it in the outside world. We do this because, at some point in time, we’ve decided that this trait is one we shouldn’t have. So then, when we see it in someone else, we believe that they shouldn’t have it either.
However, there’s another layer to working with the shadow: where we look at how our particular stories, issues, and problems are interplaying or interlocking with what it is that we are seeing in the outside world. We might get irritated or have some other negative emotion about someone’s behavior. But, actually, what’s happening is that we are seeing a reflection of the parts of us that are coconspirators with this particular behavior—the things that are we unaware of that help to create our experience of this trait.
If someone acts a certain way or we perceive that they’re treating us a certain way, then we can explore how our storyline, our doubts and fears, the places that we don’t want to go, and the things we do or don’t want to feel inside could be interacting with this particular event.
Our first step is to simply ask, “How do I live out this trait that I do not like in this other person?”
Next, we can look at how that trait interacts with our personal stories. How does our personal story (way of being) help bring out this behavior in others?
Our shadow is incredibly important while we are trying to build our relationships on any level—whether that is a partnership or a friendship or a community. Inevitably, our shadow projections are going to come. When they do, they tend to be the things that are most disruptive to our relationships. Because these traits are in shadow, it’s easy for us to simply blame the other person for exhibiting bad behavior. As we turn around and begin to work with the shadow, we begin to unlock our own potential and the potential of the relationship.
As we become better and better at shining light onto our shadow, we are able to shift and transform situations, not because the situations themselves change, but because our perceptions of those situations change—radically. We see opportunities where we didn’t see them before. We understand how to show up differently or be different so that we can create a whole new reality for ourselves. We also learn to take responsibility for our contributions and keep the focus on our own work which speeds up our growth.
While it is at time challenging work to do and just as quickly as we grasp it can seem to elude us, working with our shadow is vital to our personal and spiritual development. We simply cannot progress pass a certain point without taking it into consideration.
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