The Shadow Self: Loving Your Anger

“The shadow, said celebrated Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung,  is the unknown dark side of our personality. It is dark because it tends to predominantly consist of primitive or negative low based human emotions and impulses such as selfishness, greed, envy, anger or jealousy.” (sounds like a day at my office)

Due to the unenlightened nature of the shadow, these things are completely obscured from our consciousness.

Whatever we feel is evil, inferior or unacceptable and deny in ourselves, becomes part of the shadow; the counterpoint to what Jung called the persona or conscious ego personality.

The Freudian defense mechanism known as “projection” is how most people deny their shadow, unconsciously casting it onto others so as to avoid confronting it in oneself. Such projection of the shadow is engaged in not only by individuals but by groups, cults, religions, and other situations  in which the outsider, enemy or adversary is made a scapegoat, dehumanized, and demonized.  Sort of  what I like to call The Jewish Inquisition – the she-devil emerging from my grandmother when I would try to pass my Christian boyfriends off as nice Jewish boys. Oh how I loved to torment her.  My shadow and I were always well acquainted.

The shadow is most destructive, insidious and dangerous when habitually repressed and projected, manifesting in a myriad of psychological disturbances ranging from neurosis to psychosis, irrational interpersonal hostility, and even cataclysmic international clashes.

Wow, that sounds like Donald Trump, doesn’t it? No worries for Trump lovers though. I’m an equal opportunity hater. Trump may be psychotic but Hillary is insidious.  Hey, do you think she’s getting any? I doubt it. Maybe someone really needs to grab HER by the *****. You gotta know that Bill isn’t doing it. Crap, I promised my guides I wasn’t going to go there.   Sorry, my shadow made me do it!

(You know, originally writing this I actually used the word “pussy”. I realize it’s crude and all that but we’re all adults here.  I decided to use the ***** because I didn’t want people choking on their coffee. You’re welcome but it is what it is!)

The shadow or “shadow aspect” are those things about ourselves that we are not fully conscious of. Under this broad definition, such things may be positive or negative. However, generally the reason we are not conscious of such things is because they are the least desirable aspects of our personality.

So why open that can of worms?

To grow and learn more about ourselves.

If we don’t become intimate with our shadow it can control us and we can lose ourselves in its darkness.

From a spiritual perspective, to engage in shadow work is to encounter the shadow, confront it, understand how that bad boy operates, find its origins, accept it and assimilate into our conscious lives. This process helps to free us from destructive or self-sabotaging behaviors. It helps us come to terms with major life transitions, regain our confidence and grow.

The shadow is meant to be understood figuratively. It is not an evil inside of you or a split of your personality.  And I don’t care what my husband says – it’s not hormonal either.  There is nothing wrong with you. It is part of the human experience.

“Shadow work is a process of psychological integration by which we take greater responsibility for ourselves and our actions to achieve wholeness and balance.”

It allows us to embrace our weaknesses, find new strengths, be more compassionate and become more creative. It gives birth to an authentic spirituality.

Shadow work isn’t something you do once in a few hours or even a few days and then you’re done. It’s ongoing.  Ground yourself. Center yourself. Learn to be okay with not being finished. The nature of this work requires that it be put aside so you come back to it time and time again.

If you’ve never done this kind of work, start by asking yourself some key questions. You may not have clear answers for these questions and that’s okay. You might want to journal or meditate on them.

  • What don’t I want others to know about me? (I have vaginal dryness)
  • What do I tend to have a disproportionate reaction to? (Payless Shoes)
  • Which emotions am I uncomfortable expressing? (pretty much nothing is off limits)
  • What am I most scared to express in a relationship? (telling hubby how much my purse cost)
  • What traits in others really annoy you, wind you up or make you angry or frustrated? (people who leave the shopping cart in the parking lot at the grocery store)
  • What traits do you most admire in others? (men who put the toilet seat down)
  • Who do you look up to? Who are your idols? (not Michelle Obama)
  • What do you find yourself doing over and over “by accident”? (peeing my pants when I sneeze)
  • What is the worst insult someone can give you? (Hey look, Dana – you’re starting to get a turkey neck! – thanks mother)

All kidding aside, ask yourself these questions. Then ask yourself why. Ask yourself why a lot. Try to recall moments in your life when these feelings emerged and keep going back in time to try to find where it all began. I think you will find a lot of it is rooted in some childhood event.

When you have identified pieces of your shadow, you can do a meditation in which you meet it. Ask it its name. (Mine is banshee) Ask it questions. What is important to you? What do you want? What can I learn from you? How I can honor you? (buy me that pretty diamond necklace in the window)

Remember that this process is not about eliminating our shadow aspects. The purpose is to recognize it and accept it; establish a new awareness so it doesn’t control you any more.

Shadow work is a painful and lengthy process. There can also be a great sadness when we realize that what we thought was true about ourselves was just a defense against things we were afraid of. This will pass. When you emerge from the work, it will be as if a great burden has been lifted. You will find the rainbow and you will find yourself.

In my opinion, one of the mistakes that spiritual people make, is denial of the shadow self. Spiritual people are supposed to be all fluffy and zen like, breathing like we’re in labor and chanting “om” all day. Some people are of the opinion that “spiritual people” should be above reproach.  I call BULLSHIT! Don’t doubt my sincerity when I can’t live up to that expectation. Give me a break, I’m human and trying out this life the same way you are.

The shadow is the part of ourselves that we repress or deny, the part(s) which have gotten us into trouble or even embarrassed us in front of others. Anger is one of the most potent parts of the shadow.  We’ve learned over time to bury those facets of ourselves down deep so they never see the light again. We are taught to deny them, and we learn to be ashamed of them.

But those feelings don’t go anywhere and they are not dormant either. They stir and bubble under the surface, later showing up in the body as discomfort or pain; even disease. They fester within us energetically, and then they begin to manifest physically.  They ache to be released. But what does that mean?

Some part of you is angry and rages. That is your fire. That is the seat of your power and, that is the place where the transformation will take place. That is your alchemy, your invitation for change and renewal. Anger and rage can be tools for spiritual growth. Allow yourself to experience them in a safe way and most importantly, integrate them into something more productive in your life. If you’re angry and you know it, change your life!  Channel that fire into something productive and move on!

One of the very personal lessons that I am currently learning in life is that people who cross your path, even those closest to you, have anger and rage issues that manifests in different ways.  Try to understand that most rage really isn’t about you –  try not to take it personally. (Easier said than done, I know, believe me, I know)

Most of the displays of rage you will see from others in your life are projections onto you because you are mirroring something to them that they struggle to process. (Did you get that? 🙂 – If not, read it again because it’s important. As my grandfather would say, “let it penetrate.” 🙂 ) Love you, Poppy. Thank you for watching over me.

I think the greatest gift we can give ourselves in this life is complete and total loving acceptance of who we are. We are the good, the bad; the ugly. We are the happy and the sad, we are the kind and the unkind, the forgiving, unforgiving and the unforgiven. We are the lost and the found. We are the dark and light, both of which we cannot live without.

I urge you to take those skeletons out of the dark recesses of your mind and no longer allow them to jump out and scare you. Ask yourself, what part of myself is most unknown to me? Look at those things. Examine them. Talk to them. Dissect them and soothe them.  Work to express these things. Create. Journal. Meditate. Once you do this, they will lose the power to sneak up and surprise you. It is better to meet them on your terms.

May your rage and anger become your gift of enlightenment.

And so it is.

Love,

Dana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marriage and Mother-in-Law Problems

Last month, I celebrated my 19th wedding anniversary to my devoted husband, Al. He puts up with all my crazy shit and, he does laundry too!  It doesn’t get much better. Plus, I can happily say that I never had mother-in-law problems in this relationship. Al’s mom was a wonderfully kind and gentle woman who only wanted her kids to be happy.  The best part was that she wasn’t Jewish which meant NO GUILT TRIPS!

When Al was a kid and he misbehaved, his mom would hit him in the head with one of her flip-flops.  The cool thing is, now, she smacks him from the spirit world.  All I have to say is, “hey mom, Al’s being a dick again” Next thing you know he’s walking into a wall or something falls on his head.  It totally freaks him out.

My first marriage was another story.  Mother-in-law problems were rampant in my household. The woman would get drunk and actually send me hate mail.

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On my first wedding day in 1985, I remember walking through the hotel lobby on the way to the altar, when suddenly, I had an epiphany. I didn’t want to get married. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be with this man until my dying day. I refused to walk through the chapel door but my ever helpful mother pushed me in. She thought I was just having nervous jitters. (That wasn’t the bride tripping in the wedding video, that was her mother shoving her in the door. God forbid we should keep the rabbi waiting.  What would the guests think if the bride didn’t walk in?  Oy, I’d be mortified at the Mahjong group next Thursday)  Everything was a whirl after that. I felt like someone who was stuck in a dream. Before I knew it, I was married.

My mother-in-law had obviously been “in the booze” before the ceremony –  she stumbled down the aisle. She wore an absolutely lovely lavender gown (her daughter picked it out) but refused to purchase matching shoes.  Who does that? No one could convince her that she looked ridiculous with the black open toe suede shoes peeking out from under her gorgeous silky dress.  Wearing suede in May in 1985 just wasn’t done – let alone black suede with lavender silk? If the fashion police were at the wedding they would have booked her.

Walking down the aisle in a drunken stupor, she tripped and fell on her ass,  flask flying from under the folds of her dress.  I could see my grandmother having conniptions and jabbing my grandfather in his side.  The smirk on her face when she looked at me said “I told you that you should have married a nice Jewish boy”. It didn’t matter that I was getting married under a Chuppah by a rabbi.  As far as Grand-mom was concerned a reform rabbi wasn’t really a rabbi – he didn’t wear a yarmulke. Oy, Dana, dear. You couldn’t even give me nachas on your wedding day? Such a disappointment you are. A goy with a schickered mother? Thank God your aunt Esther is dead. This would break her heart.

Years later, I remember telling my grandmother that I was going to  marry Al. We were sitting at her kitchen table where she was trying to shove a bowl of borscht in my face.  Her kitchen smelled like a combination of  cooked beets and melted tea kettle. Yes, that’s what I said. Grand-mom would put the kettle on and then forget about it. Hours later the metal would literally be melted from the heat. How they never had a fire, I’ll never know but, Macy’s sure did sell my grandparents a lot of tea kettles.

Me:  Grand-mom, you know I hate borscht.

Grand-mom: Nu? Eat it anyway.

Me:  I came over to tell you that I’m getting married.

Grand-mom:  Is he Jewish?

Me:  No

Grand-mom: Another goy? You didn’t learn your lesson the first time?  You have a lokh in kopp?  (hole in the head) Here, just take this knife and cut my heart out.  You want some chicken soup instead of the borscht?

Me: His name is Al and he is wonderful to me.

Grand-mom: Is he a doctor?

Me:  No.

Grand-mom:  Is he a lawyer?

Me: No.

Grand-mom: What does he do?

Me:  He’s self-employed

Grand-mom: How much money does he make?

Me: Really, Grand-mom? That doesn’t matter. I love him.

Grand-mom: When money flies out the door, love flies out the window. You want your tuches to be cold? Here, have some strudel. I just got it from that Bar-Mitzvah I went to last week.  They’re delicious.  That affair must have cost a fortune but I wouldn’t know -after all,  it’s not my business.

Me: Anyway, Al’s in the glass business. He does well.

Grand-mom:  Oh? Glass business? Can he put new windows in for me?

Me:  I can ask him.

Grand-mom:  If he’s a good businessman he probably has some Jewish blood in him.

Me: (time for this conversation to be over and seeing a way out) You know, you’re right Grand-mom. His mother’s great-aunt was Jewish. (Liar! Liar!)

Grand-mom: Are you sure it was the mother’s side?

Me: Positively.

Grand-mom: Okay, tell him to come over and bring his wrench. I need my sink fixed.

There are so  many outside influences that can put strain on a marriage; mother-n-laws, grandmothers, Nordstrom cards, children (yes, these precious bundles of joy sometimes turn out to be over-opinionated adults with superior attitudes who try to tell you what’s wrong in your relationship). Marriage between two people is sometimes difficult enough without adding these and other influencing factors.

Romance can fail. Money can fail. What we need in our marriages is something deeper; something that can’t fail. We need our relationships to have a spiritual meaning.  What we need is a belief that our relationships are special but more importantly, a belief that they are sacred. Marriage should be a place of healing, growth, mutual respect and acceptance. No matter what is going on around you, you should always keep in mind the love that brought you together.

When you feel angry or disenchanted in your otherwise healthy relationship, don’t keep score. It will only lead to more anger and resentment. Relationships are always equitable; never equal. The balance constantly shifts and changes over the weeks, months and years. Dis-contentment can sometimes remind us that we need to go back to basics and cultivate the love that brought us together.  Make your marriage impenetrable to outside influences. Whatever struggle you have, share it together.  The problems you are encountering are an opportunity for your relationship to grow.

Forgiveness is key in any relationship, especially in marriage.  But, what meaning does forgiveness have if it’s only given when the anger is no longer there? Giving forgiveness is not a sign of weakness. It’s also not an excuse to ignore the problems in our marriages. Forgiveness is the gift we give our relationship so that we can move forward. We must refuse to let difficult issues fester and tear down everything that was built from a place of love.  Yes, it may feel “better” to stay angry and sulk.  This attitude kind of makes you feel superior – you have totally convinced yourself that you are right.  Your partner deserves your scorn and withholding of affection. We’ve all been there. But, what’s the point? Why cultivate anger and resentment when it can feel so much better to forgive and move forward? Think of all the time that’s wasted on anger; hours, days, weeks or even months that you just can’t get back.

Honor your relationship with spirituality. What if we brought God into our marriage each and every day, not as a weapon (you’re going to hell if you divorce me) but as an example? God loves us unconditionally.  Can you bring that unconditional love to your marriage?

I couldn’t bring it to my first marriage.  Sometimes it’s just not possible. The relationship lacked the basic tenets of  mutual love and respect. I can’t stress enough how crucial I believe these things are to have in order for a marriage to flourish and endure. I didn’t love my ex enough and I certainly didn’t respect him enough for that marriage to last. Unfortunately I ignored the warning signs until I stood at the chapel door.  I don’t consider the marriage a failure though – it was a life lesson. I do believe I was exactly where I was supposed to be at that time. The lessons I learned helped me to love and appreciate the marriage that I have now.  And, without the first marriage, I wouldn’t have my beloved daughter and grandchildren.

Marriage is a work in progress. In order for the “for better or worse” clause to work, there has to be a joining of the hearts and souls.  This doesn’t always happen when people say “I do.”  But, that’s okay too. Not all relationships are meant to last “forever”.  Try to remember that right now, in this exact moment, you are exactly where you are supposed to be and someday you will understand exactly why.  Then slowly, put the frying pan down and back away. This too, shall pass.

Oh and completely forget this happy crap I’m spouting off if your partner cheats on you – all bets are off. With all of my talk, I would be at the head of the parade leading Al to a pool of testicle eating piranhas surrounded by a mob of bloodthirsty wives whose husbands were cheaters. Or, just get a good Jewish lawyer. Same thing.

Love,

Dana

P.S.

It didn’t take long for Grand-mom to realize that Al didn’t have an ounce of Jewish blood flowing through his veins.  When he asked for his lox with Ritz crackers and not a bagel, it was game over!

And now, Al is forever known as the “goy with the wrench.”