One thing I go deep into when I support clients to become Master Facilitators or Master Coaches is to understand the Shadow, all its layers, and how to effectively use it in your facilitation and 1:1 work to help your clients move past limiting patterns and obstacles.
When I train my Master Facilitators on all this in person, a core tenet is that you can’t support your clients with their Shadows if you’re not willing to fully look at your own. And so we go very deep into magically and sacredly helping you journey to the depths of your soul to come face to face and then become friends with your Shadow.
It is truly an alchemical experience that changes you (& your work!) forever.
I thought it would be valuable to share with you some cliff notes on my perspectives of the shadow. Here we go!:
#1: You’re out one night with girlfriends and one of them mentions that she just got a raise. You’re happy for her, yet something starts nagging at you because you have really been wanting a raise, too. Even though you’re usually a caring and compassionate and supportive person, before you know it, you’re unwittingly shaming your friend in front of the entire group – maybe criticizing her choice in romantic partners or sharing an embarrassing and personal story about her. It’s as if there was a predatory energy that was lodged deep inside of you, and it came out without your consent.
#2: You’ve just signed the most amazing, ideal client ever, and you are so excited about working with her. Yet somehow, even though you’re an incredibly organized and responsible person, you come to your first meeting with her unprepared. Or somehow, you stay out way too late the night before your first meeting and show up exhausted. It’s as if your entire life you were a hyper-responsible person and then at the exact wrong moment your inner Lazy Sloth abruptly came out to sabotage you.
#3: You have an acquaintance that you simply cannot stand. She gets on your nerves and really ticks you off nearly every time you see her because she is incredibly self-confident. She clearly loves herself a LOT and thinks everything she does is valuable and worthwhile, and this really gets your goat….you judge her because she isn’t modest enough. You are the model of modesty and downplaying your brilliance, and your criticism of this self-confident acquaintance plays over and over in your head.
Any of this sound familiar?
Each of these 3 situations are examples of the Shadow at work, and each and every human being on this planet has got Shadow energies running through them.
The Shadow – first coined by Carl Jung – are the parts of ourselves that we don’t consciously identify with. They are the parts of ourselves that we have either rejected or not recognized altogether because they are unacceptable or shameful or not allowed. We decided that these parts were unsavory and unwanted at a very young age.
For example, let’s say that you grew up with a Father who was constantly overworking and you felt really neglected and unseen as a kid….you might decide that being Ambitious is “bad” and so you stuff your ambition down deep inside of you so that you can always be present for your own kids. The problem, though, is that your ambition still exists somewhere inside of you and you end up feeling unfulfilled in your career.
Or perhaps when you were younger your Father couldn’t hold down a job. And the family was always stressed out because of it and at risk for bankruptcy. If that’s the case, you may have decided at a young age that that laziness was “bad”, and that there was no part of you that was ever going to be irresponsible. To be vigilant about this, you swept any impulses to relax and have space under the rug and became hyper-responsible. So much so that your responsible nature gets in the way of you having time for yourself, and taking pleasure in life.
In other words, your Shadow contains natural, normal and vital parts of yourself that you decided at a very young age you would NEVER be.
But here’s the thing about the Shadow – it can’t stay hidden under the rug forever. It’s a natural part of you, so it wants to be expressed. And when you reject a natural part of you, when you stuff it down and pretend it doesn’t exist, here’s one of 3 things that can happen:
- Your Shadow unexpectedly and abruptly comes out in exaggerated and dangerous ways, you can’t control it, and it hurts other people by accident. For example – Road Rage usually happens when one stuffs their Anger down and down until it finally explodes. Or in scenario #1 above, the Predator finally came out (we each have inside of us a natural predatory energy that helps us fend for ourselves)
- Your Shadow gets turned on yourself. This comes out in nail biting, self medicating, self deprecation and any form of self-sabotage. Scenario #2 above is an example of the Shadow acting in self-sabotage
- You recognize that Shadow energy in others and it drives you nuts, it activates you, you judge the other person for having this energy, and you obsess over it. If you’ve ever heard the term “You spot it, you got it” – that’s the Shadow. #3 above is an example of recognizing your own Shadow in someone else.
(It’s important to note that there are Dark Shadows and there are Light Shadows. When we spot our Dark Shadows in others, we spot sexuality, aggressiveness, anger, competition, etc. – things that are not acceptable. But sometimes we can also get triggered by the Light characteristics that we don’t own & recognize inside of ourselves, but desperately need to – courage, risk-taking, self-confidence, intelligence).
So, it is essential to be able to recognize your Shadow and work with it. Not only so that you can avoid hurting others, hurting yourself, or being triggered by others, but also because your Shadow holds incredible pieces of gold and beauty and potential that you miss out on when you push those energies into Shadow.
There is a ton of power, empowerment and creative energy in the Shadow. Some of your (& your clients’) truest self is found in the Shadow, and owning it allows for deeper self-acceptance, self love and peace. For example, when I help my clients own their Destructive Shadows, then instead of self-sabotage or reckless competition with others, they are able to harness that Destructive energy to easily and swiftly let go of things in their businesses that don’t serve them. Or, when I help clients own their Lazy Shadows, then instead of having that Lazy energy stand in their way of getting things done, they are able to harness their “Lazy energy” to create businesses that give them more than enough time for leisure and pleasure.
When you do the inner work that’s needed to own your Shadow, then you get to own, accept, embrace, honor and love ALL of yourself….not just certain pretty parts….but ALL of you. Working with your Shadow is one of the most effective ways to lovingly bring your true self out of the shadow and into the light. It allows you to change behaviors and patterns that don’t serve, and it allows you to honor and claim all of who you are.