I’ve been very interested in the notion of the shadow for some years. The shadow is that part of us the contains so called negative qualities or characteristics that we have failed to make a good relationship with in ourselves and often project on to others. The shadow in some cases can contain rich gold that we (or other around us) have judged to be junk.
Often we attract people and situations to us that urge us to confront this repressed stuff or qualities. If you think about it everything life is about the interplay of opposites, things are in a constant state of flux and as the world turns and turns we go through the changes of the seasons. Dark and light, day and night, summer and winter spring and fall up and down all oscillate and make up the whole.
The way I see it we are an interconnected part of the whole which is playing itself out in a dance in which we can participate or resist. And we all have within us dark and light sides.
Some people love the night time, that is when they come alive, some people are happier at the beginning of the day when the sun rises, they find the grey skies difficult, perhaps it reminds them of the sorrow within that is challenging to face.
For me, on the rainy days, there can be echoes of past sad things, being on a train travelling through the darkness of tunnels and then emerging into grey overcast skies that was the experience of the month following my father’s death from cancer and the break up of a painful relationship which left me alone. But rainy days, too, represent a time to be inward, quiet and centred, to create and draw on memories, to rest, read and nurture. I feel surrounded by light on these dark days when I self nourish in this way. And so out of dark, light is born.
So it was with my addiction, in time that journey took me into the light. There were the dark days and nights of my addiction when perhaps I was doing battle with my shadow self, the one that did not really know how to trust, depend, open up, share, relate and let go in another way than through taking in a substance which obliterated self censoring and self judgement but left me a wounded mess.
In recovery there have been the times of being caught up in negative thoughts and anger when I have been treated badly. There has been the journey to explore past experiences hidden in the dark of lack of awareness within the support of a community that encouraged me to bring these into the light, rather than split off and deny them to find ways to self sooth, stay with and work to integrate the pain so that I did not inflict more damage upon myself. There have been times of deep loneliness when it was really painful and difficult to reach out. But there is something that I know, deep within there was a loving self that needed to emerge, to find the light. To find a way back to love.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the way I react to things. There was a time when reaction was like a scatter gun response, the shots went off and wounded the wounder, which seemed to be better than having to walk around with a load of schrapnel lodged deep in my heart.
Certainly it wasn’t wrong to be angry, the deeper point was. What the hell was I going to do with that anger? How could it be turned to a more constructive, rather than a destructive purpose or expressed in a more constructive way. For too long I think in turned anger led me to depression and bleak thoughts. A lot of this was down to the stories and things I told myself about life and people. Until I believed I had the power to own the dark and use it for positive change I was lost in victim.
I think too, there have been times when the anger that I have not allowed myself to feel in response to hurt has manifested in an injury. Words needed to be spoken, not so much in anger but in truth. The true impact had to be felt and expressed (if only to myself) rather than reacted to or denied and steps taken to allow that truth a time to surface and be integrated, to effect a change in circumstances.
Its a subtle alchemy this being with injury, anger, sadness or hurt in way that helps to enrich and deepen our lives and inner relationship. To have kept my anger in the shadow would have meant that I did not know who I really was and how I really felt, it would have led to more disempowerment and abuse.
I think I am beginning to make peace with the anger now and also with the hurt and pain. Its only one side of the story. There is so much love in everything out there. I see it in nature, in my puppies eyes, I feel it in the support that has come to me over these past weeks when I have not been feeling very well. My foot continues to ache as it is healing. Resisting the fact that I may have had a serious injury has led me to see the struggle I have with acceptance that still lives in the shadow self of me, I have fear around depending and suffering this injury has brought this awareness to light.
I continue to hope that in getting to know my shadow self I will be less likely to judge others and less vulnerable to projections of their own shadow stuff coming at me. Its an easier way of being that allows movement between polarities, soft, defenceless but strong, able to bend with the wind rather than snap apart and break. There is a life within that kind of flexibility and a freedom to move between the opposites and polarities, and with that freedom the playing out of an ongoing dance that is our soul’s evolution.