Who are you? This seems like a simple question and one I often ask my clients. Yet the answer has so much more depth and complexity to it than most initially consider.
So who are you? You may say, “I’m a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a teacher, a therapist, an accountant, a lawyer” etc. etc. But is this really who you are? Or is it what you are? But you know, deep down, that you are more than a title or job description, don’t you?
If you dig deeper you will see there is so much more to who you are than your personal roles and relationships and what you. So think again about who you are. And now you may realize that you are also kind, bold, fun, confident, ambitious, generous, sincere, honest, engaged, motivated, sensitive, patient, curious, peaceful, flexible, forgiving, talented, worthy, creative, etc. etc. Now that feels more authentic, right? Ah…so this is who I am you may think.
You are definitely getting closer but this is still not the whole of who you are. There is another part or you.The part most of us don’t want to consciously acknowledge or talk about, the part that we want to pretend does not exist.
What is this other part of you? It’s the part that we tend to dislike about ourselves, the part we want to hide from the world and ourselves. It’s the part that is referred to as our dark or shadow side. Carl Jung describes it as “the person you would rather not be”. And yes, we all have this side! But by not acknowledging and embracing it we are not able to truly experience our lives whole and live an authentic, happy and peaceful life. And isn’t that what we all most desire – to feel and be whole and complete?
Having read and studied the work of Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Debbie Ford and others on this topic and three of my favorite books include: The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self, and The Dark Side of the Light Chasers. There are many ways to look at this concept of our shadow or dark side. My hope is that what I share with you here will be enough to peak your interest so that you choose to begin to delve into this area more and discover and embrace the whole of who you are.
So how do we understand this dark, shadow side we all have? How do we make sense of it? How do we make peace with it so that we become whole and show up as we truly and fully are? Here are some insights from the Master Teachers:
1. SUSAN MULLEN
“From my own experiences and through my work, I have had to embrace my own shadow. I know we arrived here perfectly equipped to experience every aspect of evolvement, which plays out in our physical lives. It’s the part of us seeking love…and it is only love that will lead us to evolve. Our shadow side is just a mirror; we’ll notice what we came here to work on in others. It is built in to remind us what we came here to work on, not to torment us. It is part of our divine design so it can’t be wrong, judged or labeled. Our job as human beings is to just choose if our light or our shadow is running our show. Acknowledging our shadow and giving it a big hug and another job description will serve us and not hinder us if we let it.”
What is absolutely evident is that we live in a dualistic world where goodness and positivity are accompanied by a less than ideal part of everyone; everywhere and we are here to learn and accept that we all possess the entire range of human traits. What we dislike about others are the exact elements we dislike about ourselves. You remember the saying “it takes one to know one” and “you cannot see in others what you don’t have within yourself”. So rather than rejecting or projecting the seemingly undesirable traits when we feel like we’re not good enough we should attempt to embrace and understand them if we want to be whole and fulfilled.
2. DEBBIE FORD
“Only by owning every aspect of yourself can you achieve harmony and let your own light shine.” And in the book The Shadow Effect, the authors state, “it is only by embracing our duality [of good and bad] that we free ourselves of the behaviors that can potentially bring us down. If we don’t acknowledge all of who we are, we are guaranteed to be blindsided by the shadow effect.” In other words, if we ignore our shadow side we provide it with fuel and it gains more and more power and will ultimately hurt us when it matters most.
So instead of trying to suppress and ignore the shadow side within us which inevitably makes us feel worse (shame, guilt, blame, keeping secrets etc.) and results in it showing up stronger the the longer it’s been pushed aside , we need to work to acknowledge it, detach from it and let it go. As Debbie Ford explains, look at is as “one of the greatest gifts available to us. Carl Jung called it a ‘sparing partner’; it is the opponent within us that exposes our flaws and sharpens our skills. It is the teacher, the trainer, and the guide that supports us in uncovering our true magnificence. The shadow is not a problem to be solved or an enemy to be conquered but a fertile field to be cultivated.”
We all know that you cannot fight fire with fire, darkness with darkness, anger with anger etc. So to in order to be our true and authentic self, to confidently reveal and be the person you are proud of you have to explore your shadow self because it is what cuts off our true self. By going on this journey you will ultimately reach a place where you feel complete and where you can see both your weakness and strengths, your talents and imperfections and still love who you are.
3. MARIANNE WILLIAMSON
“The shadow like all darkness, is not an actual presence, but is rather the absence of light.” According to this way of thinking, the shadow is not the presence of something bad within each of us, but the absence of something good. To shadow, the light is an enemy. But to the light, the shadow is nothing. It simply does not exist.” Given this perspective we need to focus on the light, the good, and the positive.
4. JEREMIAH ABRAMS
“It is only when we have the courage to face things exactly as they are, without any self-deception or illusion that a light will develop out of events by which the path to success may be recognized.”
I hope you’re encouraged to dive deeper into this topic – to discover, see and embrace the whole of who you are so you can shine your incredible light with peace and joy.