Afraid of Your Shadow? 4 Steps To Prevent Your Shadow from Sabotaging Your Life
Everyone has a Shadow. Stop Your Shadow from Sabotaging Your Life.
Is your shadow sabotaging your life?
Let's face it. Your shadow follows you wherever you go. Everyone has a personal shadow. And no one can hide from his shadow.
What is the Shadow? Sometimes it is called the dark side. Yes, something like Darth Vader and the dark side of the Force! Imagine carrying a huge bag on your back filled with everything that you believe is inferior, unacceptable, weak, evil, flawed or bad within yourself. Most of what is in the bag is not your fault, because your shadow also includes parts of you that were rejected, abandoned, shamed, abused, or hurt by others in your family, school, neighborhood, or society.
A lot of guys just try to ignore it or pretend that their shadow doesn’t exist. But, all that you refuse to face within yourself only gives power to your shadow. When you deny, cover up, or self-medicate your hurts or shame with addictions to drugs and alcohol or by acting with uncontrolled anger or aggression, this only intensifies your shadow and makes it stronger and more harmful to you and potentially to others. Whenever you act out to sabotage a relationship or undermine your success in school or on the job, your shadow is at work.
Many guys ask, “How can I get rid of my shadow?”
Ignoring your inner pain does not make your problems go away. When we don't find healthy ways to deal with our shadows, our shadows can cause serious problems. There is a saying, "When you don't deal with your shadow, your shadow will deal with you." We don't get rid of the shadow. It stays with us throughout life. However, if we face our emotional wounds, we can create an awareness of the shadow that allows us to prevent it from sabotaging our success and happiness.
As a young man starting out in life, it is important to face your shadow so that you don't have to suffer like so many older men who did not deal with their shadows in their younger years. Too many waited until their lives were wrecked and too much time had been wasted.
4 Steps toward Preventing Your Shadow from Sabotaging Your Life
It is possible to experience a healing reconnection to your shadow that diminishes its power and keeps it from sabotaging your life. Begin with these 4 steps:
1. Radically accept the parts of yourself that have experienced rejection and hurt.
Accepting your shadow does not mean acting out all of the dark impulses and desires, but rather it is a process of accepting and showing care toward the parts of you that were reject, abused, or shamed. Facing your shadow becomes a way to reconnect to lost parts of yourself. Radical acceptance is a total and complete acceptance of yourself including your shadow! Self-acceptance is the key to deep inner healing and creating wholeness within. This can be a difficult process, so be patient with yourself and take your time.
2. Embrace your authentic self.
Ask yourself, “Who am I?” Now take your time and allow the answer to come to you. If you don’t know, it’s an opportune time for you to begin to explore and learn new things about who you are underneath the exterior or the mask. All the hurts and wounded parts of your shadow are included in your authentic self. When a young man learns to embrace the good and the not-so-good parts of his nature, he can be honest with himself. When he understands that his not-so-good parts or what he deems to be the dark side really comes from being deeply hurt and rejected, he can start to make peace with his authentic self, his shadow, and begin to experience healing for his wounds.
Being authentic means you no longer need to put on a performance for your friends and family to make them believe that you are perfect or good. Just be you! Sure, no one needs to know everything about you, but when you are authentic, you get to chill out, take it easy, and not take yourself so seriously! You get to be real with yourself and others.
3. Practice self-compassion and forgiveness.
Being hard on yourself may be a habit in which you have dealt with perceived flaws or shortcomings in your character and behaviors. Being self-critical is probably how others, such as your parents, teachers, or coaches motivated you when you were younger. However, being self-critical has probably not worked very well if you are still stuck with trying to overcome your imperfections and inadequacies. Self-criticism is a form of self-shaming. It's toxic!
Your past is your past. Your past is not who you are today or who you can become tomorrow. It is important to understand that you, like most people, misbehaved because of hurts, shame, or some deep insecurity. Everyone needs forgiveness and compassion at some point in their lives. Healing your shadow begins by letting go of self-critical judgments. Instead, practice self-forgiveness and self-compassion. When you are compassionate and show forgiveness toward yourself, you can admit your mistakes, take responsibility for your behaviors, and make amends to yourself and others. Then start over!
4. Turn your hurts and wounds into your gifts of understanding, wisdom, and empathy by sharing your experiences with others.
This is where you look to turn the negatives into positives or your wounds into your strengths. When you begin healing your shadow, it is important to find individuals who are also working on healing their shadows. By sharing your experiences with others, you are able to turn your hurts into strengths by offering empathy and encouraging feedback to others with similar struggles. I have met many young men who turned their dark pasts filled with drugs, violence, and rebellion into sobriety and happier, healthier lives. They turned their self-sabotaging behaviors into positive habits and healthy patterns for self-improvement.
The Benefits of Working with a Therapist
It is important to remember that all human beings struggle with their shadows. Healing your shadow does not happen overnight. It takes time. It is often a work-in-progress, so be patient with yourself. Give yourself the chance to explore and discover your authentic self and your inner strengths.
Sometimes the process of healing your shadow and preventing it from sabotaging your life may need some professional guidance or assistance. Many young men experience anxiety, depression, alcohol or drug abuse and find that working with a therapist/life coach in a positive, affirming environment is extremely beneficial. Positive growth and change are possible.
Daniel P. David, PhD
Therapist & Life Coach
Atlanta Men's Counseling Center
at APPA (770) 674-0553