Remember Peter Pan and his Shadow? His Shadow was so important to him that he went through a lot of trouble to get it back when they got separated. He even trusted some strange girl named Wendy to sew it back on for him.
Each of us has a Shadow, too.
It’s the part of us that represents all of our darkness, all the things that we consider our flaws and imperfections. Unlike Peter facing danger to rescue his Shadow, many of us would have no trouble leaving ours in an unmarked locker in some big city bus station, without giving it a second thought.
Why is it that?
If you’re anything like me, you have a busload of reasons that make total sense to you. However, there’s one thing we fail to realize when we regard our Shadow as something apart from us. When we separate ourselves from our Shadow, we’re cutting ourselves of from a vital part of us—even if it tends to be a bit scary and totally inconvenient.
This past week, I came face to face with that realization when I had to face the part of my Shadow that I was confident I’d left in that unmarked locker long ago. Yet there she was, making her presence known in the most obnoxious and un-ignorable way. I was embarrassed for her, since she was clearly out of control.
Like me, my Shadow has ADHD. Unlike me, my Shadow is a screamer. She often gets frustrated with repetitive tasks (especially on the computer) and she seems to enjoy punching whatever solid matter is close to her when her frustration reaches its peak—last week it was my left palm.
She forgets where she puts things; every sort of files are total misery for her. To take things totally over the top, she goes blind when she’s screaming or punching—and that makes her scream and punch more. When she finds that screaming and punching make everything she’s trying to accomplish get worse, she bursts into great big heaving sobs.
The great news is that despite the messy racket my Shadow brought with her last week, I finally learned how to embrace her and whole-heartedly recognize the gifts she brings me. Although it took some doing, it was completely worth the effort.
Just in case you’re having some trouble with your own Shadow, perhaps you’ll find these strategies useful:
- The easiest way to encounter your Shadow and begin to appreciate her gifts is to consciously breathe in her presence. Breathing helps your brain work better and keeps you calm as you take in all the information your Shadow presents.
- The more of yourself you learn to embrace, the more you can access your own power. All of us have a Shadow, and none of us is perfect. (Just remembering this one helped me to breathe through the experience.)
- Finding ways to accept yourself, despite your imperfections, saves you an enormous amount of energy that you can use for creating your own success. This was my breakthrough last week: I’ve accomplished more in the last three days than I did all week when I was struggling with my Shadow.
Here’s what this experience prompted me to keep in mind:
- Our Shadow is the opposite of everything about us that shines. Although it’s the side of us that we’re often embarrassed about and would prefer that others not see, our Shadow holds the key to all of our success when we simply accept it, and if possible, embrace it.
- There’s only one thing that makes our Shadow appear larger and more ominous than she really is, and that is to ignore her. All she wants is to be connected to us and to help us. And she has no trouble making quite a racket to get our attention.
- Every time we’re trying to grow in some area of our lives, our Shadow can help us with the work. She’s the part of us that knows where we need to be patient and forgiving with ourselves; she can even provide us with the catalyst for creating powerful strategies for growth.
Although I’ve merely hinted at this before now, today’s the day I must confess that my Shadow has been the source of every single one of my dancing strategies. She’s helped me to create a roadmap for success that I’ve used and shared for over 30 years.
The one thing I’d forgotten over the past several years is that my Shadow will always be the way she is. The increase in my own Light over the years is the direct result of her darkness. Today I finally embrace the fact that having her as a catalyst is precisely why I’ve been so successful.
So even though she can be loud, frustrating and inarticulate, she will always be a part of me. This week I completely embraced my Shadow in all of her darkness—for it is only in the darkness that you can see your Light.