I’ve been talking a lot about Shadow in the last few weeks…
Probably because I’ve just completed a six-month ‘journey’ exploring my ‘psychological shadow’ and the ‘Jungian Archetypes’, where I got to spend a lot of time looking at the parts of my psyche which I’ve been trying to keep in a box.
Everyone has their own particular shadows, their own life events that form what they believe is appropriate behaviour and what is not. Everyone’s history is different.
My own shadows were developed through my childhood interactions with a narcissistic mother and a largely absent father. My father died about ten years ago, making him more absent, and the lack of a companion for my mother has gone a long way to increasing her narcissism.
One of the last things I remember my father saying to me was to try not to upset my mother, to do what she wanted for a quiet life. He always longed for a quiet life with my mother, and eventually, he decided the best way to achieve this was through myocardial infarction. So I was left with my mother and her view of the word being a disappointment, and my performance in that world not being good enough. What would the neighbours think, even though they were rather disappointing neighbours?
It has taken literally 48 years for the lights to come on, and – to some extent – push the shadows back. As I write this, I feel the rage rise up in me. My inner teenager screaming about how fucking unfair it all is, and my inner child just wanting someone to tell me that I am absolutely fine the way I am.
It’s the early steps in the journey to me becoming more me, and less a shadow of my parents’ insecurities. In the midst of all this teenage angst, I also get the chance to see that my parents were both deeply flawed, beautiful human beings too. The had their own programming by parents that were themselves only trying to do what they thought was right.
I will lie and cheat, obfuscate and confuse so that you will believe that my inability to achieve what I said I would do is because of external factors that were beyond my control…
Being angry is a great first step. It is cleansing and empowering. It allows me to really feel what’s going on and ‘let it all out’. It is cathartic, and – once it has passed – allows me to be clearer about where I am now. Bottled up emotions are a problem precisely because, when the bottle is full of negative emotions, then there isn’t room for anything else.
By really looking at my stuff, and really letting the more primitive parts of myself out of the bottle, I’ve been able to properly look past them for the first time, and see what I could achieve if I could move past it.
I can easily get lost in all this anger, and it can quickly turn to blame. “It’s your fault I’m so fucked up and have wasted my life…”. I can see how that could quickly turn into a narrative for me. “I’m just going to sit here and play video games because my parents fucked me up”.
Blame is a very easy thing for me to turn to because I have allowed myself to be programmed that “it’s not my fault”.
What I have realised through doing the shadow work is that my default position is “whatever happens, it must not appear to be my fault, and no one must ever find out that it was”. I mustn’t do anything that would jeopardise my value in someone else’s eyes.
I will lie and cheat, obfuscate and confuse so that you will believe that my inability to achieve what I said I would do is because of external factors that were beyond my control. Now bugger off, I’m busy playing space invaders.
I have noticed that when I am honest that I have made a mistake and say “yep, that was me, completely dropped the ball on that one, totally wasn’t paying attention, I have no excuse…”, two very interesting things happen:
- Firstly I feel really good about myself, as opposed to feeling secretly smug that I pulled the wool over someone’s eyes.
- Secondly, people call me a knob, forgive me and somehow end up trusting me more, rather than them being externally understanding but internally distrustful and suspicious.
The other place I can go to with my anger is to be hugely self-critical, another skill I learned from never being quite good enough. It’s not your fault, it’s actually mine.
“I am angry that I have wasted so much of my life getting to this point”
“I am angry that I wasn’t strong enough to stop this happening”
“I am angry with myself for being so weak”
That can rapidly get to “What’s the point”, and we’re back to marathon video game sessions.
So, when I do get the chance to express this anger, I want to make sure that it is, I am trying to be very clear about it just being an expression of how I feel without it being directed at anyone or anything.
It’s not your fault, it’s not my fault, it simply is.
“I am Angry.”
“I am here and I’m as angry as fuck”.
“In this moment I am angry, and I have no idea why”
When I can get to this point – and so far it has only happened a few times – I can just be the pure unadulterated rage, expressed to the atmosphere in general.
I can still hear my mother telling me that that is ‘not the way that normal people behave’… even when I’m in the midst of my expression of this great vulnerability.
My magician (the part of my psyche that tries to protect me and keep me safe) tries to tell me that behaving like this isn’t safe and it will make people not like me because I’m not normal.
But the new me is getting better at listening, and hearing, in the middle of all this.
“Mum, I hear you, but normal is why we’re all in this fucked up mess.
I don’t want to be normal anymore.
I want to be the best man that I can be.
In this moment that involves screaming obscenities at a tree in the middle of a forest.”