Rule #1 requires honesty and accepting responsibility. Both those things require knowing one’s self, including the Shadow. And that’s not easy, because the Shadow is that part of ourselves that lurks deep in the background where we don’t want to acknowledge it. Why is it hidden? Because it’s not acceptable. So the thought scares us – seeing things we don’t like about ourselves.

In fact, this may be the hardest “rule” of all. Those shadow places are pretty well closed off. But if you can do it, be prepared to hang on to those shadowy things when they pop up. And even if you reject it when someone suggests something about you that you don’t like, take it home with you and examine it when no one is looking. Nothing says you have to tell them you’ve discovered they’re right. (Though it might not hurt.)

It does help us, though, to understand – even empathize – with those “others” out there. And when we understand and empathize, we’re better able to come up with a way to handle the situation to our own benefit as well as for the general welfare.

There’s a funny thing called attribution. We can look at the same thing and attribute different causes depending on who’s involved. Someone else walks out of the store without paying the bill. They’re stealing. I walk out of the store without paying and I’m forgetful. It plays right into the blame game.

From my adult vantage point, I can get pretty uppity about violent kids in “good” neighborhoods. Then I remember when I was ten years old, visiting someone with my parents. I went with their ten-year-old daughter up to the privacy of her bedroom. There she described the gang she belonged to, the idea being to fight with the other gang – and win. The funny thing is, I remember it to this day because I was jealous. I mean deep in my bones, to the bottom of my well of emotion, jealous. The Shadow practically filled the room.

So it’s important to acknowledge our own unacceptable parts. And besides, folks tend to like others who are as flawed as they are. “Perfect” people are pretty boring, or maybe just not believable.

But here’s the funny thing. For some of us – my fellow Scandinavians may recognize this – part of what’s unacceptable may be stuff that other people think is great. “You shouldn’t think so highly of yourself.” “Don’t puff yourself up.” “Being humble is a good thing; don’t brag.” It may seem weird, but good things can lurk in the Shadow because those childhood warnings drove them there, and the general culture keeps them there. How many good assertive contributions are lost because one isn’t willing to admit to positive virtues?

My apologies to the Shadow. It’s so much more powerful than I make it sound here. But because it’s so powerful, it’s worth getting to know and accepting.

The path to forgiving [or any other healthy thing] means accepting your own dark side. Preface to “Forgiving One Page at a Time: The Diary of your Journey to Restoration and Confidence.”

8 responses to ““RULE” #2. APPRECIATE YOUR SHADOW

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  1. And somehow it is not true that Only The Shadow Kows. We know, too.

  2. Oh yeah, I’ve been there, trying to ignore my shadow.

  3. Once i attended a workshop in clay and spirituality, given by father Donagh O’Shea, Monk and potter, in Cork in Ireland. It changed my life. F.Donagh explained to us that our demons are that which we reject the most within ourselves. That which is out of control, what we most detest and abhor, that which we will NOT see … and which therefore pursues us. Demons cannot be “cast out” said Donagh gently, “they only take another form, and will return proportionately stronger.”
    He asked us to SEE and UNDERSTAND the demons: in this understanding and accept they will be transformed. And he pointed out another important characteristic with demons: if they were really important, one would suffice. But they are so many! That’s why they don’t have much power individually, says Donagh.
    This view has helped me a lot, relating to the shadow 🙂

  4. Referring to the last paragraph in Rule #2, is it Scandinavian “policy” – or policy in general – to be so sure of what is “healthy” in the first place?

    Transitions are taking place in my life – let’s talk some time.

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