The shadow. It's the part of ourselves we avoid at all cost--which is why it's so hidden that we have no idea what it is. When confronted with it, we tend to hide from it or accuse it of being disgusting.
Yet the shadow holds the secrets of freedom and happiness we seek. The freedom to be all of who we are: the qualities we deem good and bad--whilst having the ability to accept all parts of ourselves with compassion. However, until you can see and embrace the shadow, you won't be able to access its light.
So, how do you discover your shadow?
As famous Psychologist Carl Jung explained:
"Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves"
The clue to your shadow is as close as your next annoyance. It's the person you can't stand. The person who makes your skin crawl. The person you can't stand to be in the same room with.
The things in another that trigger you with anger or disgust is often a clue to your shadow--the things within yourself you don't want to see.
For example if you think of yourself as kind and giving, you wont want to see the parts of you that are mean and withholding. If you think of yourself as independent and creative, you won't want to see the parts of you that can be needy and boring.
The shadow is threatening. It threatens our self-concept: what we think about ourselves. So it gets hidden away. It's like trash: nobody wants to see it. But just because we hide the trash doesn't mean it's not there.
I first heard this example from Cheryl Lee Harnish - a writer and intuitive, and it's a brilliant metaphor: if you keep stuffing the trash in the garage so you don't see it, over time the trash will stink. Even if the main area of your home looks clean, eventually the stink of the garbage will infiltrate your home--even the areas that look nice on the outside.
That's what happens when we don't address our shadow. On the outside we may appear nice but the darkness, negativity, and things we don't want others to know about us will eventually start to seep through.
It could seep through as cynicism, overtake our thoughts, slips of the tongue, or the part of us that comes out when we think nobody's watching. In the end it leads to incongruency: where something feels off.
Intuitive people tend to be really good at feeling when things are off. You may have experienced it yourself: you come into contact with someone who appears to be a great business alliance. On the outside everything appears glossy and good, but there's something off. You can't put your finger on it but there's an intuition telling you to stay away from making a business deal with this person.
That's an example of the stink of the shadow seeping through: the incongruency of things not lining up, and your gut knows it.
Yet if you're the one avoiding the shadow--the worst part is you'll feel off.
Wearing a mask is exhausting and over time it will drain you. The way to alleviate this exhaustion is taking off the mask. Letting go of the false self and daring to open your eyes to everything: the light and the dark.
The ability to see the darkness and embrace it is what helps you become more loving and accepting of yourself and others. When you see the truth, it helps you make conscious choices about which behaviors you want to keep and which you want to delete.
The amazing part of daring to see your shadow-is other people won't trigger you so much.
Imagine that co-worker who rubbed you the wrong way for a decade. The moment you can see how the characteristics that bother you the most are shadow aspects lurking within yourself is the moment freedom begins.
Once you acknowledge how the behavior plays out in you--either in your thought-patterns or physical behavior, then you can start to heal that behavior and release the negative trigger.
You can start by being compassionate, forgiving and accepting of the root of these shadow-characteristics. Then, you can consciously clean it out and let it go. As you become more compassionate towards yourself you'll become more accepting of others, which is why the person who used to irk you so bad won't.
And in that is a sense of freedom and peace:
You'll no longer be burdened by holding up that wall of separation. Because when somebody really bugs you, our defense is to block that person. And blocking takes a lot of energy.
I'm not saying the person who bothers you will become your best friend. What I am saying is you'll no longer leak energy from the tremendous frustration and negativity that that person stirred up inside of you.
Another example, if you find yourself irked by the colleague who's constantly boasting about his yacht, million-dollar home, and all the charity he gives away, what you want to look at is the quality of boasting.
Look inside yourself and ask - is there ever a time where you want to boast or do boast? Maybe this behavior only comes up with your sibling, or maybe it's something you think in your head but would never dare say aloud for you wouldn't want anyone to think that you're a boaster!
That's what it means to look in the dark. That's what it means to explore the shadow. Once you acknowledge it, you can say to yourself:
"I am open to learning to love this part of myself, and I am open to discovering a healthy way to be accepting and transform this quality in a positive way"
Then the next time you get confronted with this person's behavior see how you react and feel.
Sometimes acknowledging the shadow aspect within yourself is enough to instantly find yourself making a complete turn: you'll no longer be so reactive towards that person (and when that happens it feels amazing).
Otherwise you can practice saying something like this (in your mind)
"Please show me how to accept this quality and see the root of where it's coming from so that I may be more compassionate and less agitated"
This is like a prayer you send out to the universe: asking for insight and compassion. Often, this starts to shift things.
It will shift things inside of you, and how you react to the other person. You'll know you've fully embraced this side of the shadow when the person no longer triggers you.
For every quality that seems dark, there is light. Like in our last example: the light side of boasting is acknowledging the good work you've done. And there's nothing wrong with that.
Meeting our shadow helps us healthfully meet our light and see who we are--these are the secret gems we find when we dare to open the hidden door of the shadow.
Remember -- in every dark room there's the potential for light. All you need to do is flip the switch on.
Tova Payne is a writer and intuitive consultant who helps people gain clarity and take action on their soul-calling creative work. Get your free copy of The 5 Keys to Start & Finish Your Dream Projects and a Meditation Audio for Clarity by signing up here. Learn more about Tova by visiting www.tovapayne.com Her newest book Soulful Entrepreneurship will be coming out later this year.