I write about the shadow a lot. It's a core component to learning how to love yourself. Learning how to love yourself is the key to EVERYTHING, so the shadow is pretty important. The shadow is the part of your subconscious mind where all the bad thoughts you have about yourself hang out. It's where you tell yourself you're no good. It's also where certain behaviors you were told are unacceptable live.
The yoga world was rocked with a scandal in which John Friend, the founder of Anusara yoga, admitted to sleeping with his students. In the fallout that ensued, several well-known, senior certified teachers have surrendered their Anusara licenses. Some think John should step down. He has agreed to begin therapy immediately, and I’ll tell you right now: if he claims to be a sex addict, I’m going to have to call BS on that. I’m tired of people claiming a sex addiction when the real issue is that they don’t want to claim their shadow.
And then, in unrelated news, Whitney Houston died. Like John, Whitney was a bright light. She had a beautiful voice, and gorgeous songs (and I don’t even care for pop music). And she couldn’t get a grip on her shadow, either. For years, she had struggled with drug addiction. Addiction is a big sign that someone is avoiding his or her shadow. People become addicts to try and suppress emotional pain. Even if they are able to manage the addiction, they don’t truly heal from it until and unless they address the underlying pain.
In the meantime, Demi Moore is fighting a huge battle with her shadow, too. Her marriage over, she’s facing the mirror as an aging beauty. At least she understands that piece of her shadow; she was quoted as saying she's afraid she's unlovable. It’s one she shares with virtually everyone: one of the core pieces of the shadow is that we’re unlovable.
I’m going out on a limb here, but I suggest that every single one of us has or has had the fear of being unlovable as part of their shadow. In the name of shining a light into the shadow, here’s an exercise to uncover how that aspect of the shadow shows up for you. Give yourself at least 30 minutes for this exercise, and have a pen and paper or journal handy.
Spend a few minutes tuning into your breath, to allow your mind to begin to settle. As thoughts pop up, just let them be. If your brain is especially active, spend a few minutes writing down all the thoughts as they come. I call this a “dump page.” Dump the thoughts and move on.
Close your eyes and say to yourself, “I am unlovable.” Ask yourself when was the first time you had that thought. An image or words will probably pop into your head immediately. If it doesn’t, ask again. Keep asking until you receive an answer that corresponds to a time in early childhood.
Ask yourself: “How do I let that message impact my life now? What do I let it stop me from doing?” Write down the answers that come to mind, even if you’re not sure you believe them.
In your mind’s eye, travel back to that time. As the adult you are now, gather the child you used to be in your arms, and tell him or her that they really are loved. If more than one scene came to mind, start with the most recent and work your way back in time, loving each version of you as a child.
If an adult in your life said something that made you (as the child) feel unlovable, you (as an adult) can stand up to them now. In your mind’s eye, tell that person they’re wrong. Stand up for your younger self.
Thank your inner child for sharing with you, and remind them that you love them.
Spend a few minutes reflecting on what you wrote in #3, and write at least one thing you’re willing to commit to doing differently, from a place of self-love.
If you’d like another version of this exercise, I have a guided visualization available here. I’ve recorded an audio file, so you have my voice guiding you through a similar process to reveal your deep, hidden messages you tell yourself.
The process of shining the light on your shadow is a long one. When you're in the middle of it, it might feel endless. But every time you shine the light on a part of your shadow, you make progress. The idea isn't to not have a shadow; the idea is to know exactly what your shadow looks like. When it's unexamined, it causes lots of problems. When you know what it looks like, you can laugh a little and then choose to love it.
More from GalTime:
- Are You Overwhelmed By Your "To-Do" List?
- Do You Trust Yourself?
- You're NOT Supposed to Have it All Figured Out By Now
- Are You Carrying Your Weight in Your Friendships?