Dancing With Your Shadow

Transforming Our Fear

This is an excerpt from the transcript from the audio course Transform Your Fear.

If you’re reading this its likely because you feel like some fears you have are holding back your full potential in life. They might be creating recurring patterns of thinking or behaviour that you feel you can’t really change but really want to.

Well the good news is that everybody feels like this, even if they don’t always say it. The stuff we’re going to dive into is applicable to absolutely everyone and I encourage you as you experiment with it, to share your wisdom and learnings with friends and family so they can benefit as well.

Having open, honest and vulnerable conversations about our fears and how they can undermine us, is a really important aspect of the growth and transformation process.

So to understand our fears or what we will call the shadow, I’m going to go deep into the inner workings of our minds, talk about where fear comes from, why it continues to produce itself over and over in the same ways, and how you can transform through these fears with a conscious awareness of the process and by gradually and safely learning to lean into these fears.

When you start to understand your fear properly you can see it as a messenger, a helper rather than bully, and as you befriend that messenger it becomes one of your greatest allies in the pursuit of your highest potential.

By putting this material into practice, you should begin to notice a pretty major change in yourself, as things that you were previously scared of fall away and you actively change your mindset to one where you want to look deeper into other fears and transform them too.

So this is the beginning of a life-long process that I hope you can take with you and continue onwards. But for now, with all of that said, if we’re going understand our fears from the core foundation, we’re going to have to start from the beginning.

When you start to understand your fear properly you can see it as a messenger, a helper rather than bully, and as you befriend that messenger it becomes one of your greatest allies in the pursuit of your highest potential.

Growing Up

Have you noticed how incredible babies are?

Even the most hardened person, when left alone with a baby in their arms for a few moments, will melt under their gaze.

Babies are pure love.

We might think of ourselves between one and two years old as having a 360-degree personality, pure love, pure being. Energy literally radiates out of our body and psyche and we beam that out with unstoppable force onto the world.

Until one day we notice our parents don’t like certain aspects of that energy. We need to “be quiet”, “settle down” or “stop fighting with your brother.” As humans we want unconditional love no matter what, and as children we want that from our parents more than anything else.

So, in order to meet that goal, we change our behaviour. We start to edit out and suppress the parts of ourselves that we think our parents won’t like, to maximise our potential to receive love.

These suppressed aspects of ourselves do not just disappear. Let’s pretend – using the same analogy of the wonderful American poet Robert Bly – that we put the suppressed parts of ourselves into an imaginary bag that we carry around behind us.

For the first seven years of life, this dynamic plays out for the most part in the family setting, slowly putting things in our bag, let’s say for argument’s sake, 25% of ourselves.

Then for the next seven years, we start to attend school, and keen to make friends and socialise into this new community, we do everything we can to win the love of our school friends by ‘fitting in’ and editing out our instinctual, natural behaviours just as before. Now we’re starting to put quite a lot of things in the bag, let’s say another 25% of ourselves, so now we’re at 50%.

By around 14 to 15 years old, you’re coming into adolescence and other adults look at you as a young adult, capable of assuming early responsibility like a first job, babysitting younger children or being left home alone. Now you are interfacing with wider society and for the next seven years you try to integrate the best you can into society through the same editing process. This includes all kinds of more complex behaviours like finding a romantic partner, having sex, negotiating, and everything else you now do as an adult.

By this point you’re carrying around a big bag, another 25% has gone in during these early adulthood years and you’re left with just 25% of yourself left!

This bag of things that contains everything inside us that we have disowned, avoided and kept in the dark – this is what we call the shadow.

The Shadow

This bag weighs a considerable amount.

Its weight is measured in your fears, doubts and worries about bringing all of it out into the open.

This shadow is where your life force gets trapped and is no longer available to you. Because you have suppressed these natural instincts, it is energy that is not integrated with the rest of your being. It’s frozen in your unconscious and conscious mind.

How can you tell what’s in your shadow?

Think of something you would feel extremely self-conscious about doing.

Let’s imagine that could be singing or dancing in a room with 100 strangers watching you in total silence. Or standing naked in front of a crowd of people (our bodies are one of the first things to be suppressed and shamed by both our parents and society). Or approaching a guy/girl you really like in front of all of their friends to ask for their number.

Starting to feel that awkward feeling? I thought so.

Here’s an interesting exercise:

Make a list of the 5 things you would absolutely hate to do for fear of judgement. Now write down next to these what you think the reasons are for that. In each case you’ll probably find you have an assumption about how others would respond to your behaviour.

This bag of things that contains everything inside us that we have disowned, avoided and kept in the dark – this is what we call the shadow.

Truth is Beautiful.

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Turning Fear Into Dreams

Why is it important to recognise your shadow?

The size of your shadow determines how much your true self is both available to you and to the world at large.

Think of it this way, what deeply held fears have pulled you back from pursuing your most cherished, yet still unrealized, dreams?

These fears are in your shadow along with all the dreams you want so desperately to achieve for yourself.

Only by courageously, deeply and vulnerably leaning into these fears will you metabolize this fear, release your life force and open the potential to manifest your dreams.

Many people in our society, particularly in the West, feel they can cling solely to the life-raft of positive thinking and feeling, ignoring their shadow. This is gross redaction of a huge and vital aspect of our psyche and an extremely reductive way of being with ourselves.

This is not to say you should abandon a positive outlook on the world, but make space to look at and appreciate the unloved aspects of your character.

What is really needed to manifest your full, glorious potential in the world and with it your deepest sense of personal contentment, is not a tyrannical commitment to perpetual positive thinking, but a deep appreciation and integration of all aspects of yourself.

An absolute understanding that no aspect of you is invalid or unloveable, it is all valid, all perfect and all beautiful just as it is.

Light and Shadow

Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychologist and the father of the concept of the human shadow, knew of this deeply. Talking of realising our truest selves he said:

“Filling the conscious mind with ideal conceptions is a characteristic of Western theosophy, but not the confrontation with the shadow and the world of darkness. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

The later procedure, he went on to say, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.

There is a well-known Sufi story about Mullah Nasr Id’n, out at night under a street lamp on his hands and knees, frantically searching. A friend comes along and asks: “What are you doing?” The Mullah replies: “I am searching for my keys”. His friend asks: “You lost them under the light?” The Mullah looks up, grinning and replies: “No, actually, I lost them over in those dark bushes by the door, but the light here is so much better for seeing.”

For much of our lives, we stay in the light. Going into the shadow is hard and counter-habitual.

Many people feel a sense of blame, shame and regret about their shadow.

This is a very natural response. Don’t blame yourself for it, there’s nothing else you could have done.

Consider that children in ancient times who opposed their parents likely suffered severe punishment. We did, as children, the only sensible thing under the circumstances. The proper attitude toward the shadow, at least initially, is mourning.

It takes a lot of heart and courage to lean into our fears, stare into our shadow and bring up what we have suppressed. Now we must turn towards pain, not away from it.

The dreams you seek are there in your shadow. The gold your heart desperately wants is in the back of the dark cave you must step into.

Where you stumble, that is where your treasure is.

An Interesting Exercise

To inspire yourself on this grand quest into the dark recesses of yourself, write down 5 dreams you have for yourself that you have been putting off. They can be anything from learning to play an instrument, writing a book, learning to dance, whatever you like.

Write these down, keep them safe because you will return to them in the coming days.

This course can be continued by listening to the full Transform Your Fear course.

The dreams you seek are there in your shadow.

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