4 min read
I recently participated in a Writing and SoulCollage® workshop exploring the Shadow, “the realm of the unclaimed parts of ourselves, waiting to be known and received for the gifts and energy they hold”1. I know – very cool right!
Our shadow is not just the negative aspects we try to keep in check or hide, like greed, jealousy, and laziness. According to Melinda Burns, the workshop facilitator, “the Shadow contains all the unclaimed parts of ourselves, positive and negative”. When any aspect of us (and we have them all) becomes out of balance, when we have too little or too much of it, it becomes a shadow aspect.
We did some writing exercises in the morning. We wrote about the things we strongly disliked in ourselves and others, as well as people we greatly admire. We can find our shadow by looking with curiosity at what we have a strong reaction to and asking “what do I need to see or learn here?”
I wrote about people who were selfish and greedy and caused harm to others through their behaviour. I also wrote about people who were giving and abundant with love – think Mother Teresa and foster parents. And when I put it all together to see what Shadow aspect I was drawn to, it turned out to be fear.
Fear is a large warm hug. She wants to keep you safe – “Stay here with me where it’s warm and cozy. No need to go anywhere else”. Fear is welcoming and enveloping. She feels safe. Fear will distract you with stories of what could go wrong or how you are not equipped to handle life, while life plays on without you. She wants no harm to come to you. Fear is generous and loving. She has your best interest at heart. But she can’t keep you safe if you venture too far.
Once fear was personified through my writing it was easy to ask her the questions Melinda provided. These two questions sum up my dialogue with fear.
How and why in our history did you originate? I’ve been around since you were born. You were little and new to the world. You needed someone to keep you safe and help you navigate through a confusing and unfamiliar world on your own.
What do you want/need from me? Acknowledgement that I am here to help you. That I love you. That you have heard me and my warnings. That you have weighed the situation and looked at the consequences. That you understand the circumstances and can handle the situation. I need to know you will be careful and keep yourself safe even as you move forward. I need to know you have grown up and are wiser now and don’t need as much protection. But that you appreciate my presence and all I’ve done for you and that you hear me and take my advice into account. I need to know that you love me and you know I love you. I want you to appreciate me.
This exercise was very freeing for me. It helped me to see that having or feeling fear doesn’t make me a coward or weak. It is actually just a part of taking good care of myself. In fact, when I read my answer to the last question, I realized that it is exactly what I want for, and from, my daughter – the person I most want to protect and to be happy.
From this new perspective I could see that fear really is a large warm hug. But like the parent of a growing child, the key is knowing when to let go – finding balance. Because, when in balance, fear is love. Self-love. Not something to be hidden away and ashamed of. But something to be listened to, acknowledged, and appreciated.
The challenge is letting fear keep me safe, but not so safe that it keeps me small or as Dr. Gay Hendricks2 describes it “trying to keep you imprisoned in the zone of the known, where you are safe.” He suggests that “When you are feeling fear, breathe in the direction of the sensations … feel the fear in your body and breathe to embrace it … like you might greet a friend: you nod hello and then give him or her a hug … When you love your fear, you give it room to breathe, and this is often all it needs.”
Thank you fear. I love you too.
1 Melinda Burns, Deep Play: Writing & SoulCollage® Workshop, www.melindaburns.ca
2 Conscious Living: Finding Joy in the Real World by Gay Hendricks, Ph.D.