Shadows and Nature

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"Dragging the adversary when there is no adversary will cost you your inner treasure."

The shadows we observe in the natural world are not really things in themselves. We see an area lacking in light only because something more real is just outside of the picture, blocking the light. In the same way, to understand the Shadow within ourselves, we need to turn 180 degrees and look backwards.

We cast the Shadow of our unacknowledged inner life onto the Other, only while this valuable part of ourselves remains hidden. We can spend our lives believing the Shadow is real if we lack the courage to own the part we play in what is unfolding.

Dreams tell us alot about our unacknowledged inner life.

The Shadow that appears in nightmares can stalk or chase us. This is just an unidentified part of us coming into the picture. We may take on a new set of behaviors at work and while non-integrated, the old part of us may confront the emerging identity as a threat in a dream. 

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An adult who has suppressed a difficult relationship with a parent may have a black sheep identity that was never acknowledged. They can spend their life proving their worthiness and dream of a character in the shadows stalking them. This part of them just wants to be understood and integrated. The Shadow will always come with a rich reservoir of new possibilities that had previously remained untapped. There is no such thing as a blacksheep because we are unique, even unto our families. The power to achieve is an achievement in its own right.

Shadow and Projection

During self analysis, the Shadow will be the first archetype to appear. A person on a spiritual quest will often have an epiphany followed by a disturbing Shadow dream. We can detect elements of the Shadow in the type of conflict that appears around us too. If life is a battlefield, the Shadow is an insecurity. If life is about rejection, the Shadow is a fear of intimacy. If life validates failure, the Shadow is a sense of not being worthy. Because we do not own the life of the Shadow, we can only see it through projection. All of life becomes an expression of our unlived self.

When we turn 180 degrees to observe what the Shadow really is, we are no longer a prisoner of what we experience. When we own the experience as a message about what we have hidden away and therefore protect and project, the Shadow transforms into acknowledged power. This actualized part of us comes into the light.

Guilt as Shadow

A person with unprocessed guilt will create the exact circumstances that allow them to distance themselves from responsibility. This type of Shadow will always manifest as drama and retreat because they have a misunderstanding with responsibility. They believe carrying the Other's burden validates their worthiness. This is an impossible task and when they fail, they merely validate their guilt.

Guilt is a sign of a critical psyche stalking itself. When we understand the source of the inner critic, generally from our parenting, the Shadow can dissipate and reveal the gift of compassion.  Just as a doctor has compassion and attends to another without drama, there is a stark difference between compassion and feeling responsible for why another suffers.

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Fear of Intimacy as Shadow

The shadow in nature is caused by something more solid and real, and the Shadow that appears as rejection is caused by how we block intimacy because of our fear of revealing our vulnerability. We observe the rejection, but it is better to look at ourselves and how we are blocking the light. The opposite of a fear of intimacy is expressing vulnerability in a way that allows us to be more intimate with others. We believe showing vulnerability is a sign of weakness when it actually comes from fearlessness.

If we experience anxiety about our ability to provide for ourselves, perhaps adopted by a lack of stability in the early life, then the remedy is to acknowledge what we do have. Chances are we have positioned ourselves in way that our financial resources are solid. If we can be present rather than project our fear, we will see that we have always provided for ourselves.

Fear is a projection into a future that validates its own existence. We have what we need and when acknowledged, we can quiet the immature perspective that overworks the idea of being destitute. The Shadow isn't real. Our power to thrive comes into full view.

We Cultivate Opportunities to Meet the Shadow

Until the Shadow is identified as something to embrace and not fear, we can move through life like a victim. If the complex is not observed to belong to us, we project it onto the Other.

In Taoism, there is a saying "to understand what is important to a person, we can observe it in what they actively cultivate." While we may be puzzled as to why we meet conflict, the importance we place on proving its existence 'out there' will always be in proportion to the treasure that is hidden away."Dragging the adversary when there is no adversary will cost you your inner treasure." To tap this inner treasure we must give up the idea of adversaries.

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In Native American beliefs, the shadow is the reflection of the spirit as it walks on the earth. We acknowledge our carbon footprint and can relate to the heaviness we place upon the environment by using its resources. In the same way, to leave people in a better place than when we found them, we need only own the part we play in projecting our insecurities upon those we meet. The totality of a spiritual life means to identify the Shadow in the conflict we meet. If we meet conflict with gratitude, we can allow it to guide us back towards our inner light and power.