Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Monsters that Lurk Within

The other night I had the fun of being out in the Jacuzzi with my four-year-old granddaughter. We hadn’t been out there long when she grabbed me around the neck and landed herself on my lap.  I asked her what was going on and she said, “It is really dark out here. I am afraid of monsters.”  She went on to show me that the moonlight allowed for the shadows to dance on the wall behind us and she could make herself look like a monster. She arched her arms above me and showed me how the monster was ready to pounce on me, and then sat down quickly in my lap again.

It took me back to a time in my life when I had my own fear of monsters lurking in the darkness (and I was much older than four years old). I recalled how I would avoid being alone in the darkness in an effort to avoid whatever might be lurking in the dark. Along with the outer darkness, I also avoided the inner darkness, the darkness within myself, my own shadow self.  Our shadow is the monsters within ourselves. The shadow is those parts of ourselves that we want to disown, avoid, deny - all lurking within and out of sight, but still very present. It might be your anger, your shame, your compulsion. My shadow self was scary to me and I spent many of my years running from it (running from my authentic self). However, it is through embracing our shadow that we can embrace our whole self, our authentic self, and integrate our shadow side into who we are giving us power in how our shadow rears its ugly head.

As I sat with Madi and we discussed the monsters that we were afraid of, I shared the wise words of my own therapist from many years ago.  My therapist reassured me that looking at the dragon within would not be nearly as scary as avoiding the dragon. What we don’t look at, what we avoid, seems much bigger than when we look at it. So I told Madi, when faced with a monster, turn and look at the monster right in the eyes. Because then you will see that the monster isn’t so big and you need not be afraid. The monster will then become something you can handle so you will not have to run.

Looking at our shadow self involves looking at the parts of ourselves that we don’t want to see within ourselves. But to avoid the shadow is to let it be bigger in your life than it need be. And you give it more power than it should have. Someone once said, “What we can’t be with won’t let us be.”  Until we look within, face our shadow-self squarely in the eyes, the internal monster will frighten us and we will want to run. Facing all parts of ourselves, the dark and the light, allows us to embrace our whole self, our authentic self. 

“Reclaiming the parts of ourselves that we have relegated to the shadow is the most reliable path to actualizing all of our human potential.  Once befriended, our shadow becomes a divine map that -- when properly read and followed –reconnects us to the life we were meant to live and the people that we were meant to be.”  Debbie Ford. 

Ford coauthored the book, The Shadow Effect with Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson.  This would be a great reference if you want to learn more about facing your shadow. And in the meantime, if you find yourself avoiding a part of yourself that you are not happy with, sit down and spend some time with this part of yourself. Admit you carry this trait, which is the first step is depowering it from running your life. Begin to rein in the shadow side by embracing the shadow as part of who you are. Look your monster square in the eyes and give it a kiss.

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