Embracing Your Shadow, part one


'What we want to change in others is what we haven't loved in

-Dr. John F. DeMartini

On my radio show this week, a woman phoned in to ask for advice
about dating a man of a different race. She loved him, but her
family had said they would completely disown her if she decided
to marry him. After a few questions, she revealed that her
secret fear was that she might be racist like her family.

What I said next didn't really seem to surprise her, though it
clearly surprised a few people listening judging by the e-mails
that I got after the show. I told her that chances were, she
probably was a bit racist - after all, it would be extremely
difficult to grow up in an intensely racist environment and not
pick up on at least some elements of that racism at an
unconscious level.

But I also pointed out that whether or not she judged people as
better than or worse than based on the color of their skin was
not necessarily a problem if she recognized it and even
embraced it.

This is based on a fundamental tenet of Jungian shadow work -
when you disown a part of yourself, it winds up running your
life. In other words, you will begin speaking, acting and even
pursuing certain goals in life in an unconscious attempt to
'prove' you are not whatever your secret fear tells you that you
might be. You will begin to project that unowned trait onto
the people around you and be amazed to suddenly find yourself
living in a world populated by people who exhibit that horrible,
abhorrent trait and do things that you would 'never, ever, do,
no matter what!'

This is one of the reasons we have pro-lifers killing people who
support abortion, relationship 'experts' who can't sustain a
happy marriage and crusaders for peace waging war on the powers
that be.

The flipside of that rule is what sets you free:

Once you embrace (or 'own') a trait, that trait no longer runs
your life.

I then went on to tell a story I once heard about Gerry Spence,
a controversial trial lawyer with a soft spot for defending
underdogs and a 25+ year record of having never lost a criminal

Early in his career, Spence was called in to defend a black man
accused of raping and murdering two white teenage girls in the
deep South. In selecting the jury, Spence asked each
prospective juror if they were racist. With the consent of his
client, Spence would only allow people who admitted that they
were actually racist onto the jury.

His assumption was that a. pretty much everyone who grew up in
the deep South at that time was liable to be at least a little
bit racist and b. if someone was willing to be honest about
themselves, even if it made them look bad, they would be willing
to be take an honest look at the facts instead of being blinded
by their prejudice.

The same is true of each one of us - when we are willing to
embrace the totality of ourselves, 'warts and all', we become
able to live according to our dreams and possibilities instead
of our limitations and fears.

I have played with a number of variations of the following
experiment over the years. All I can tell you is that if you
are willing to take it on, it is intensely liberating (and
often, very, very funny!)...

Today's Experiment - Creating 'Shadow Affirmations':

1. What is your secret fear about yourself? That is, what would
you least like people to find out about you?

2. What trait do you most dislike in others? What is it that
other people do that makes your blood boil?

3. What's the worst thing that anyone could ever say about you?

4. Now, create a 'shadow affirmation' for each of the things you
have come up with in the previous three questions.

For example:

'I am a selfish bastard.'

'I am a self-righteous bitch'

'I am a manipulative cow'

'I am a complete idiot'


As with 'real' affirmations, have some fun with this. Repeat
them often. Emphasize a different word each time you say them.
Make up a song and use your shadow affirmation as a lyric.
(For example, try singing 'I am a selfish bastard' to the tune
of 'Yankee Doodle Dandy'... :-)

Many people resist this exercise like crazy, only to find when
they give in and just do it they wind up laughing hysterically
and losing all their negative charge around the trait or traits
they have so desperately been trying to prove aren't a part of
who they are.

5. Finally, add the phrase 'Sometimes, ...and sometimes I'm not'
to your shadow affirmation.

For example:

'Sometimes, I am a self-righteous bitch, and sometimes I'm not.'

'Sometimes, I am a complete idiot and sometimes I'm not.'

FIVE. You will lose much of the impact of the exercise should
you choose to do so...

Next week, I'll be talking about the 'positive shadow' - how we
tend to disown our greatness and magnificence and how we can
embrace our genius.

Until then, have fun and learn heaps!

With love,

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