Most of us have burdens that we carry through life which might include past shame, guilt, or remorse that can overshadow our lives, paralyze our progress, and never really let us know what it means to feel happy. There is a darkness in even the happiest of beings that hides our secrets, impulses, repressed thoughts, and desires. All humans have a dark side or shadow but how we understand and use it to gain wisdom is how we create more happiness and mastery of our lives.
The shadow is there to teach us, but it can also be overpowering and unnecessarily cause too much unhappiness and misery. The shadow is strong and can feel overwhelming. When we ignore the shadow, it leaves us feeling incomplete and uneasy. Know that your shadow does not define you but helps us understand life’s mysteries and obstacles that are forever holding us down and keeping us from feeling happy and content with our lives.
Psychiatrist Carl Jung first described the shadow as the unconscious and disowned parts of our personalities that the ego fails to see, acknowledge, and accept. It is any aspect of ourselves that is rarely exposed in the full light of our consciousness.
We all have our shadow and it’s part of what makes us human and part of our identity. Each of our worlds is created by our awareness and alignment with our subconscious mind. When we understand our shadow, we can always find ways to shine more light into our lives and move forward with intention and well-being.
It’s taken me decades to understand my shadow and the overwhelming power it had over my early life. As a young man I lived by creating an outside persona for the rest of the world but felt terribly alone and incomplete. I felt ashamed of myself for not being authentic and living in a lie. I felt trapped and anxious about the unknown and fear of rejection. My conservative Southern upbringing made it even harder, and I hated myself at times and wanted to lash out and hurt myself. I ran with a fast crowd and used alcohol and drugs to mask the pain in hopes that it would help me forget. I was reckless and didn’t value my life as I do now. It was no way to live for anyone and it created a lot of dysfunction and regret. The past is behind me now and I’m grateful for its lessons. The shadow is long gone, and I live in the happiness with a mindset for living in the present with self-awareness as my guide
As The Happiness Warrior I want to help you understand how the shadow or darkness affects all our lives. How we understand and use it is how to create happiness and greater self-esteem to help us be our best and authentic selves.
THE SUBCONSCIOUS RULES
The shadow grows every time we repress an emotion or feeling and becomes embedded in our subconscious thoughts and actions. What goes into our subconsciousness is everything we reject about ourselves, both the unacceptable and unwanted.
One of the biggest factors that helps the shadow grow is how we talk about ourselves and the words we use for others. Being critical of ourselves is important in small doses but believing we are bad or stupid only reinforces the notion and strengthens these negative patterns in our daily lives. The minute you say something about you is “bad,” you have a reason to suppress, ignore, and deny it. Even though the shadow is unseen, it affects everything we do in our behavior and relationships.
When we deny an aspect of ourselves it doesn’t disappear. It just fades away from our conscious awareness and lurks in the background. The shadow has a life of its own and will affect our actions and life experiences heavily if we don’t pay attention to it and respect its power.
The shadow is why we do things even though we may not understand why we do it. This helps to explain compulsions and links to addictive behaviors.
We must face trauma to overcome self-created feelings of shame and guilt. We can forgive ourselves and make amends, but we can move forward and live in our natural light. Don’t listen to others that tell you that you’re too much but listen to those for whom you inspire. Stop listening to what others think you should do or how you should act and use the shadow to embrace your authenticity. When we understand our shadow, we can:
--Heal past trauma.
--Live in the present.
--Reach a more spiritual path.
--Better understand the gift of our intuition and inspire more confidence in ourselves.
HOW TO IDENTIFY THE SHADOW WITHIN YOU
Separation and division are natural states. I’ve always been good at compartmentalizing and tackling my problems by giving them less space in my head. This method helps me to make them smaller and go away. Learn to face the darkness and know that there is a light and welcoming place for you on the other side. Move forward in your intention and create the reality that you deserve!
Self-awareness is a tool that we can all develop further that will only help us find more peace and happiness. No one is immune from the darkness and know that it can be overcome, and your self-esteem will rise. Consider these actions in your own life and how they keep you feeling trapped and uncomfortable with yourself:
1. Projection is like looking in the mirror. How do you cast your personal issues on others?
2. Be honest in considering your public behavior. Does it reflect who you are?
3. Pay special attention to triggers; they are often the root of much of our unnecessary unhappiness and disconnection. Triggers are past trauma that we can overcome. Don’t use your triggers as a cop out for bad behavior or to find fault with others.
4. Repeated patterns are expressions that our shadow holds over us
5. Ask yourself honestly if you were completely accepted as a child or did you feel out of place? How did that change your life experience?
6. Are you ready to forgive yourself and others to move on with your life?
All too often when we live under the shadow, we don’t allow ourselves to enjoy life as much as others and we can feel alienated and alone. It’s important to realize that there are millions of other people living the same way. People who are living half-lives without a change in perspective or trajectory. One of the main reasons is that as humans we tend to take life too seriously and make everything too personal and hard to ignore. We are bogged down by worries that might never happen and trapped in memories from our past.
A change in perspective and attitude are often all that’s needed and one that will reap huge rewards. Embrace change and appreciate what you’ve accomplished so far in your life. Take inventory of the good and bad and realize that there is more to live for and create your own happiness.
LEARN TO OBSERVE IN SILENCE
Look for clues as to how others deal with their shadow lives. Can you feel more empathy? Is it always necessary to comment or even to “help” when it’s not wanted or needed? Silence and thoughtfulness are the gateway to creating more empathy and equity. Empathy and understanding are much more powerful than harmful words or pointless criticisms. Look inwards and know that you are not more perfect than anyone else. Empathy gives us superpowers!
FOCUS ON THE GOOD THINGS
The key is to start focusing on the good things happening for you in your life rather than the bad things that have happened to you. If you feel the darkness encroaching, take a moment, and close your eyes and take a deep breath. Open your eyes and think about the first three things that make you happy. This is a mind-blowing trick and one that is so easy and rewarding.
When we focus on the good thing’s life has a way of working out and new opportunities and choices will abound. I know that it doesn’t always feel this way but there are more good people than bad and more miracles happening every minute than tragedy. Life has never been easy for humans in any time period, and we have more to be grateful for when we live in the present and are at peace with ourselves.
CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY RIGHT NOW
Happiness is a state of mind and the antidote to living in the shadows is to employ a serendipitous mindset. Serendipity is a magical process for living our lives and is filled with belief in ourselves. Live in the present and know that even the smallest things build greater happiness. Serendipity can become a way of life when we believe that our possibilities are endless, and life can be magical. Stop putting off your lives for a future that might never happen and develop a serendipitous mindset to bring magic and wonder into your life.
BRING ON THE LIGHT
There’s always an opposite to any condition and an opportunity awaiting. Lightwork is the practice of maintaining a higher vibrational frequency that shines positivity into our lives. Whereas shadow work is a methodology to bring awareness to the shamed and repressed elements of our identity and come to terms with. Both shadow and light work are complementary to each other and can both bring us to a higher state of consciousness, happiness, and personal well-being.
Learn to look inside yourself and see the good and how much it outweighs anything negative in your life. This is the path to a happier life filled with light and purpose. The darkness is there to teach us. Learn from it and let it go!