Embracing the Shadow
Summary: Sunday, July 10-Friday, July 15, 2016
Only an in-depth spirituality can fully accept the paradox of our flawed humanity, indwelled by God’s presence, where both light and dark are allowed and used by God. (Sunday)
Our shadow is often subconscious, hidden even from our own awareness. It takes effort and life-long practice to look for, find, and embrace what we dismiss and what we disdain. (Monday)
Jesus and the prophets deal with the root cause, which is always our radical egocentricity. Our problem is not usually our shadow self nearly as much as our over-defended ego, which always sees, hates, and attacks its own faults in other people, and thus avoids its own conversion. (Tuesday)
Liminality keeps one in an ongoing state of shadowboxing instead of ego-confirmation; it can keep us struggling with the dark side of things, calling the center and so-called normalcy into creative question. (Wednesday)
Jesus’ phrase for the denied shadow is “the log in your own eye,” which you instead notice as the “splinter in your brother’s eye.” (Thursday)
The movement to full wisdom has much to do with necessary shadow work and the emergence of healthy self-critical thinking, which alone allows you to see beyond your own shadow and disguise and to find who you are “chosen in Christ from the beginning of the world.” (Friday)
Practice: Shadow Work
There are many ways to do shadow work—the work of seeing and integrating your hidden and denied self. For example, your subconscious appears in images and stories as you sleep; paying attention to your dreams can give you insight into shadow. One of the easiest ways to discover your shadow is to observe your negative reactions to others and what pushes your buttons. Most often, what annoys you in someone else is a trait in yourself that you haven’t acknowledged.
Byron Katie has a simple process to help you own your judgments and turn your focus to the plank in your own eye. The following is adapted from Katie’s Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet and Four Questions.
Recall a stressful situation that is still fresh in your mind. Return to that time and place in your imagination.
Name your frustration, fear, or disappointment, and the object of this feeling in a simple statement. For example: I am angry with John because he never listens to me.
Now ask yourself four questions with an open heart, waiting for your truest answer to arise:
- Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react, and what happens when you believe this thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
Turn the thought around in three ways: putting yourself in the other’s place, putting the other person in your place, and stating the exact opposite.
- I am angry with myself because I never listen to me.
- John is angry with me because I never listen to him.
- John does listen to me.
Find ways in which each “turnaround” is true in this situation.
This practice brings your nebulous shadow into focus, giving you something tangible to embrace. Do this necessary work all your life and you’ll discover more and more freedom and greater capacity to love self and others.
Gateway to Silence:
Help me see as You see.
This exercise is adapted from The Work of Byron Katie, thework.com/en/do-work.
For Further Study:
Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life
Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality
Richard Rohr, What Do You Mean . . . Falling Upward? (DVD, CD, MP3 download)