We can allow ourselves to be happier, warmer and more present with our children when we release the shame and disappointment of not being the ‘perfect parent’ and embrace ourselves and each other with greater compassion and authenticity. Nonviolent Communication (NVC) allows us to express our realities of suffering and ‘imperfection’ as well as our joy from a place that doesn’t “ask” (unconsciously) our children to feel responsible for it. For me it’s a tangible way to role-model courage and emotional self-responsibility.
It’s challenging just a little (!), the notion of offering our children a legacy that includes emotional courage and self-responsibility. I’m still working towards it myself, and actually for me, that’s the legacy… working on it… improving towards what I’ve come to see is deeply important to me.
From an NVC or compassionate point of view, I would say that “I’m simply not contributing as much on my darker days to those loftier values”, and perhaps finding other ways to deeply know, mourn, and express myself as fully human. Suffering after all is our birthright, and isn’t it honestly through the suffering that we discover our deepest longing for connection and expression of love?
How could we know courage if we have never known fear? How could we know happiness, if we have not known sadness? How could we know the light, if we didn’t know dark? It is our shadow that distinguishes for us the light within us too.
I enjoy working with my shadow simply for the capacity now to be able to uncover these lighter, more wonderful aspects of my being. It’s a road with a pot of gold at the end every time.
Regularly though I still experience resistance and denial of my ‘shadow’ stuff. Actually as a parent, partner, daughter, sister, I’ve been regularly enticed to seeing my shadow stuff belonging to these lovely others, in fact the community and the world at large is not free from my projections when I’ve lost sight of my own self! I do love my shadow as best I can, and I’m learning more each day… but my shadow is currently still quite “high maintenance” that’s for sure :-)
I’ve written some more about the shadow self here, for those of you who are interested…
Often when we are very young, we have emotional situations, thoughts, random events, that we consider and interpret as ‘unacceptable’, bad or wrong. We have responses inside ourselves that cause ideas of shame about ourselves, and rather than being honest, we bury our thoughts, desires and impulses, to deeply avoid our responses and feelings, we “forget” this part of ourselves at the conscious level, although the impulse and feeling still exists in us.
We then avoid this ‘truth’ that we’ve buried, by attempting to ‘fix’ the problem in the outer world. Unconsciously we attempt to destroy the “danger” outside that we actually fear within ourselves. The truth is WHAT WE RESIST, PERSISTS in our reality.
These shameful thoughts are our shadow, our enemy, the idiots and perpetrators in our world, our community, our family. We judge ourselves indirectly by judging the bad and wrong in other people.
When we are projecting our shadow selves onto others, it sounds like this; ‘she’s so self-centred’, ‘he’s so full of himself’, ‘these people are idiots’, ‘what a loser’. (In NVC we call these Jackal thoughts, criticisms, attacks, blame and judgment thoughts).
“Afraid of our own unworthiness, and simultaneously afraid of our own greatness, we unconsciously transfer these qualities onto another rather than owning them ourselves. Those we project on, then appear to ‘own’ the pieces of our unclaimed darkness, as well as pieces of our unclaimed light. Until we take back all that we have projected away, we remain entrapped in a prison of our own fear… WHAT WE CAN’T ‘BE WITH’, WON’T LET US BE”. – Betty Ford.
But is there a positive way to re-think the shadow?
The reality and existence of our shadow, rather than feeling painful to acknowledge, can also be a joy to recognize… that it is simply “how we work”, and where our inner learning, growth, wisdom and greatness then comes from. Our shadow once realized and embraced, becomes our greatest gift.
“All experience is a result of contrast, light and shadow, pleasure and pain, up and down. In order to have manifestation you need opposing energies. You need your ‘enemies’, to be who you are. The human soul is simultaneously divine and diabolical. Sacred and profane. Sinner and Saint. In eastern wisdom traditions we have a saying, the sinner and saint are merely exchanging notes… to understand that then the first thing you realize is that to have a shadow is normal. If you only had truth, goodness and harmony on your side, and the complete absence of the other, there would be no creative impulse.” – Deepak Chopra
“The reality then is that the very quality that we can see in another, exists within us. In fact, we possess every human characteristic and emotion, whether active or dormant, whether conscious or unconscious, there is nothing we can see or conceive of, that we are not. We are everything. That which we consider good, and that which we consider bad”. – Betty Ford
When we heal these judgments about ourselves, and cease to project on others outside ourselves, we grow in our inclusive consciousness towards others and all living things.
The potential exists then for a deep peace, respect and trust in the greater design of who we are, as a unique but inextricable part of the total human experience – our oneness.
The shadow, when embraced, can become the celebrated birthplace for our full self-realization… the source from where our greatest wisdom and freedom is experienced in relationship with our self. The result is known as living consciously, because we live in relationship with our whole selves, and have the capacity to make CONSCIOUS CHOICE about our responses with the people in our world, and our families, rather than react unconsciously to a part of ourselves we are in denial about.
SO how do you know if you’re projecting, if it’s your stuff or theirs?
Ken Wilbur says that “if a person or thing in our environment informs us, if we receive what is happening as information, a point of interest, we probably aren’t projecting. On the other hand if it affects us, if we are pointing fingers, judging, if we’re ‘plugged in’, then chances are, we’re a victim of our own projections”.
A lot of times we react to projections – we project back, which becomes a negative cycle, the ego responds as a survival mechanism, but it’s reactive. When an aggressive, negative energy is directed at us, the ego immediately wants to defend and react. But, WHEN WE REACT TO A PROJECTION, WE BECOME THE PROJECTION. We unconsciously validate what is being said about us, we are saying YES to the criticism inside ourselves and defend ourselves to bury the shameful thoughts even deeper.
It’s crucial to be able to recognize and express any kind of pain, anger, fear or envy feelings without judgment and with empathy – without that loving acceptance, the pain stays with us and lodges in our body and causes us to react, to live unconsciously.
“The unresolved issues that people have in their bodies, their emotions, has an absolute direct correlation with their physical health and wellbeing. Our health and emotions are intimately connected. What we think and feel that we’ve held on to over years are toxic to wellbeing. The science is now indisputable that thoughts and emotions affect the organs of the body”. – Dr Jason Deitch
When we embrace authentically who we are, without shame, we experience freedom and love. As we move through our shadows, we reclaim our light and authentic relationships with those we love.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure”. – Marianne Williamson
“It’s our light not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who I am to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous. But actually, who are we not to be? Playing small does not serve the world, there is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around us. We are all meant to shine. When we shine we unconsciously give others, our loved ones, permission to do the same. Our liberation from fear, liberates others”. – Marianne Williamson
In coming to see and embrace our whole selves with empathy, we come to an understanding, appreciation and compassion that goes beyond mere intellectual ‘forgiveness’ of the wrongness. When we ‘let go’ and accept compassionate empathy for ourselves, there is no longer any wrongness, and we release ourselves into a loving and safe awareness for all that we have ever experienced. In letting go of our deep self-judgment, the body releases it’s pain, the heart aches in a large and wonderful way, and we are opened into a vast love that can embrace and influence all those around us.