Self Love

Diving Into the Shadows

Shadow

I have had the pleasure and privilege of spending the last several days in Maine on my favorite lake enjoying the sun and nature. Last night, it began to rain so my daughter and I decided to watch a movie. After scanning the selections and reviews on her computer, she suggested we watch “The Florida Project,” a 2017 slice of life drama which, according to IMDb TV, follows a “precocious six-year-old Moonee as she courts mischief and adventure with her ragtag playmates and bonds with her rebellious but caring mother, all while living in the shadows of Walt Disney World.” 

Childhood. Adventure. Disney World. Sounds endearing, right? 

Not exactly.

I did not like the film at first. I kept waiting for the plot to unfold or an inspirational moment, but neither surfaced. Instead, I felt a mounting anxiety combined with sadness and despair as the reality of life in a poverty stricken hotel-turned-residence community exposed all the things that make me uncomfortable: poverty, lying, foul language, cheating, stealing, hustling, betrayal, fighting, child abuse, pedophilia, drug use, prostitution. 

The movie was shown through the eyes of a child who had friends, freedom, food, community and a caring mother, all of which made it more palatable. However, the stark contrast of the lives profiled to those of the privileged thousands visiting nearby Disney World, made me stop and think.

The movie did an outstanding job of portraying the reality of the situation, but I wasn’t happy with the way it left me feeling. Something was tugging at me to look deeper. 

It wasn’t until morning that I realized the importance of what I was experiencing. It became clear that the issues in the movie that made me uncomfortable were the ones I needed to examine more closely. Maybe it was time to look at what it means to lead a privileged life. Had I been turning a blind eye to the realities of those less fortunate?

With all of the recent unrest and attention pointing towards inequality and racism, my viewing of this movie was particularly timely. It became evident that the cinematic story I witnessed was one I had chosen to overlook, just as many instances of injustice get somehow justified through the selective stories we tell ourselves and the parts of our psyche we choose to keep hidden. 

I have recently been working on my own personal growth and have also started “The Life Purpose Project,” a series of one on one sessions to help people reach their life’s purpose through discussion, dream interpretation, tarot, and flower essence therapy. 

I am a believer in the power of positive thinking and healing through love. However, I have been finding that in order to truly heal and make significant progress forward, we need to look at something called our “shadow self”. 

According to an article in highexistence.com, “the shadow is a concept first coined by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung that describes those aspects of our personality that we choose to reject and repress. For one reason or another, we all have parts of ourselves that we don’t like–so we push those parts down into our unconscious psyches. It is this collection of repressed aspects of our identity that Jung referred to as our shadow.”

Full Article:  https://highexistence.com/carl-jung-shadow-guide-unconscious/

Some examples of repressed shadow tendencies include  “aggressive impulses, taboo mental images, shameful experiences, immoral urges, fears, irrational wishes, unacceptable sexual desires.” 

Our shadow self develops as a result of societal expectations that tell as we are a “bad” person if we have certain thoughts and behaviors. We want to fit in and be accepted, so we deny and hide these impulses and pretend they do not exist as parts of ourselves. On top of that, if left unchecked, these qualities feed into a larger collective societal shadow which can multiply and become more systemic, resulting in a world that tolerates prejudice, racism, abuse, and inequity.

Jung believes that these innate qualities are present in all of us and the only way to effectively deal with them is to recognize, accept, and find ways to constructively manage their presence within our lives. 

I have been using dream interpretation and the Tarot to help uncover the shadow within myself and my Life Purpose Project participants. Both methods point out areas of the subconscious that ultimately want to be seen and accepted before allowing us to move forward on our spiritual path. Meditation and identifying psychological triggers can also help shed some light.

One thing “The Florida Project” made clear was that when we look at these shadow qualities, whether within ourselves or society as a whole, the feeling can be extremely uncomfortable. It can bring us to places and uncover a world that is unnerving and painful. 

The idea is not to run and deny, but to look directly into the areas of darkness. When we do this, “fear becomes an opportunity for courage. Pain is a catalyst for strength and resilience. Aggression is transmuted into warrior-like passion. This wisdom informs our actions, our decisions, and our interactions with others..” (highexistence.com).

If we seek to accept the shadows as part of who we are, if we allow them to come forward without condemnation, we may be able to heal not only ourselves but the world as a whole, and people like those featured in the “The Florida Project” may have a fighting chance.

What the World Needs Now is Self Love

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As a woman, mother, wife, and healer, my tendency is to take care of those around me. I have always felt a responsibility for the happiness of my children, husband, friends, family members and clients (really, anyone significant in my life). Whenever things get difficult emotionally, I fall into action and begin the process of consoling, re-arranging, compromising, supporting, comforting, rescuing. I do whatever I can to assuage the anger, sadness and hurt, even when it means sacrificing my own needs. 

I have been under the assumption that by keeping everyone around me in a state of joy, I would secure my own well being. It’s taken me over 50 years. I’ve been through a divorce and experienced my children leave the nest, but I’m finally seeing that this is not at all the case.

I have realized that I had been shouldering the emotional baggage of my family for years and had grown tired and resentful. What’s more, the pain and discomfort always came back. In attempting to solve the problem, I was actually preventing my loved ones from learning and growing, and I was sabotaging my personal journey along the way. In trying to make everyone else happy, I was missing the point. 

Recently, I have been thinking about the concept of self love. What would it mean to treat myself as if I were worthy and loveable? What would it feel like to console and comfort my inner being with soothing words when I was upset? What if I spent time and energy rearranging my schedule so that I could do something that meant a lot to me? 

According to an article in Psychology Today by Deborah Khoshaba, (March 2012), “when we act in ways that expand self-love, we begin to better accept our weaknesses as well as our strengths, have less need to explain away our short-comings, have compassion for ourselves as human beings struggling to find personal meaning, are more centered in our life purpose and values, and expect living fulfillment through our own efforts.”

The steps Khoshaba prescribes are; be mindful, act on what you need, stay away from automatic patterns that get you into trouble, keep you stuck in the past, and lessen self love, practice good self-care, set boundaries, protect yourself by bringing the right people into your life, and live intentionally. 

Full article: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/get-hardy/201203/seven-step-prescription-self-love

The Law of Attraction.com also recommends that we practice the art of self love by having fun by yourself, travelling once a year on your own, forgiving your mistakes, starting a journal, taking a break, making a list of accomplishments, creating a vision board, pursuing new interests, challenging yourself, giving yourself credit where credit is due, and working on self trust.   Full article: https://www.thelawofattraction.com/love-yourself/

Learning to self love is a process. It takes time and consistent effort to nurture our own growth. It takes regular practice to change the negative internal dialogue, to let go of perfectionism, and to find the beauty in all that we are. It takes effort to change old habits and beliefs.

I have begun to pay attention to my own destructive patterns and negative self talk. I have realized that I am harder on myself than anyone else in my life.  I have noticed that when I am angry with something I’ve done and my self esteem is low, I take it out on others. I become angry quicker. I make hurtful comments. 

I am a better person when I am loving myself.

Sometimes I wonder what the world would be like if everyone practiced the art of loving themselves more.  Would there be as much hatred, anger, defensiveness, hostility, and aggression? Perhaps if we each loved ourselves more fully, there’d be less room for injustice, violence, abuse, and inequity. 

I wonder. 

If the hate that feeds on human weakness is replaced with love, it will have nowhere left to go. Once it loses our attention, its power will diminish, and the next time it comes knocking, we won’t even notice. We’ll all be too busy enjoying our own company.