Shadow Bags [The Twelve Days of #QUEST2015 Day 9]

Stop Being Nice, Make Friends with your shadow

The ninth prompt in Quest 2015 is from Eric Klein.*

How will you face your shadow bag and stop the stink, so you can bring forth what is best within you in 2015? 

This prompt came with a dharma talk and needs some unpacking

Klein borrows the term shadow bag from Robert Bly. It refers to the personal part of what Carl G. Jung called our Shadow. It consists of all the parts of ourselves that our parents and communities disapproved of, the parts of ourselves we disowned to be lovable or to fit in. Klein develops the image by imagining those pieces of psyche in the shadow starting to rot and smell.

I am not wild about the rotting and smelling analogy. It doesn’t resonate with me. But, I can tell you that I have felt myself being dragged down by the weight of all those parts of myself that I have banished to my shadow bag. 

When the shadow is unconscious, it shows up when we project it onto other people, hating things about them that we hate in ourselves, or act unconsciously from that shadow material, with rage, or find ourselves committing indiscretions or having accidents that seem meaningful.

To be complete as a human being is to acknowledge the whole messy package of humanity, to see ourselves clearly.

Some of what we put into our shadow bags is our genius. What makes us unique is often uncomfortable to those around us, especially when we are children being enculturated into a particular communities way of being. Our unique qualities threaten the community because it will have to stretch to embrace those qualities.

To face our shadow can be challenging. But the process is simple.

All we need to do is notice our own experience and claim it as our experience.

The better we get at observing ourselves, the more likely it is we will notice the moments that we hide a part of ourselves away. Later on, we develop the awareness of the experience we had previously hidden and start to have choices about whether we acknowledge the formerly unwanted experience internally or act on it. Either way, we will have shed light on the shadow and have reduced its power to drive us from unconscious places.

But, more importantly from the perspective of Quest 2015, by seeing the parts of ourselves that we had hidden, we can choose to bring our forbidden genius to our work.

And it all starts with simple self-awareness. Simple, not easy. But stunningly powerful.

*The founder of the Wisdom Heart School and a longtime internationally respected spiritual teacher, Eric Klein has been a pioneering voice in bringing more spirit, meaning, and authenticity into the workplace. He’s worked with over 20,000 leaders from Fortune 500 companies, healthcare, governmental and non-profit organizations as well as mid-size companies. He’s author of the bestselling book Awakening Corporate Soul: Four Paths to Unleash the Power of People at Work, To Do or Not to Do: How Successful Leaders Make Better Decisions, and You are the Leader You’ve Been Waiting For (a 2008 Nautilus Award-winner as a world-changing book in the conscious leadership/business category). His online meditation program The Meditation Habit is used by corporations and individuals globally. www.wisdomheart.com

Pay Attention to What’s Working

Blasts from the Past: While I am busy finishing the current revision of The Red Oak, I am running a few of the most popular posts from this blog that were published at the old WordPress.com site. Enjoy.

1-2012-09-02 07.23.40

Notice the Good Stuff and Choose More of It

Notice the Good Stuff. It sound so simple, but for many of us it requires a huge shift of focus. Notice the good stuff. Not the peeling wallpaper, the nasty thing someone said in passing, the cleaning that didn’t happen, the new wrinkle around your eyes. Not those.

Pay attention to the beauty of a dew drop on a leaf, the smile from a stranger, getting up from the sofa without the twinge in your back you have come to expect. Pay attention to the part of your writing that works, the warmth of a cosy sweater, the email from your spouse asking if they can pick you up something as they stop at the store after work, the relaxation that follows a deep exhalation.

In almost any moment, you can find something to smile about and something to frown about. Choosing to focus on the smile doesn’t make the frown go away, but it does make the frown easier to take.

Creatives are creative because we notice lack, lack of beauty, lack of meaning, lack of clarity, lack of external things that expresses our lived reality. Our creativity springs from an impulse to improve – even when we create playfully, we are making something from nothing, which means some part of us noticed the nothing.

That part of us will always be there: the critic, the worrywart, the internal editor.

But, we can choose to see also the beauty, the love, the joy, the peace. Even if it is only for a moment.

We need those moments.

Noticing the good stuff gives us the ground from which we can create more good stuff – more stuff to fill the void we cannot help but see.

What is the good stuff you see around you right now?

Me, I hear children at the nearby school laughing as they play at recess and the soft purr of the warm cat curled up next to me. I hear my breath as I exhale through my nose – still somewhat stuffy, but clearer than this morning when I had to breathe through my mouth due to the congestion caused by my fall cold.

It is a rough day in a rough week for me. I have too much to do and I am sick and saddened by bad news in my family. But, even in my illness and my emotional pain, when I look, I can see the good stuff too.

How about you? Can you notice any good things about this moment?

Notice the Good Stuff

I have a new post on working with Emotional Intensity over at An Intense Life. Although I never say so in the post, it draws heavily on an InterPlay technique. Like all InterPlay techniques, it seems simple but has profound effects.

Notice the Good Stuff and Choose More of It

Notice the Good Stuff. It sound so simple, but for many of us it requires a huge shift of focus. Notice the good stuff. Not the peeling wallpaper, the nasty thing someone said in passing, the cleaning that didn’t happen, the new wrinkle around your eyes. Not those.

Pay attention to the beauty of a dew drop on a leaf, the smile from a stranger, getting up from the sofa without the twinge in your back you have come to expect. Pay attention to the part of your writing that works, the warmth of a cosy sweater, the email from your spouse asking if they can pick you up something as they stop at the store after work, the relaxation that follows a deep exhalation.

In almost any moment, you can find something to smile about and something to frown about. Choosing to focus on the smile doesn’t make the frown go away, but it does make the frown easier to take.

Creatives are creative because we notice lack, lack of beauty, lack of meaning, lack of clarity, lack of external things that expresses our lived reality. Our creativity springs from an impulse to improve – even when we create playfully, we are making something from nothing, which means some part of us noticed the nothing.

That part of us will always be there: the critic, the worrywart, the internal editor.

But, we can choose to see also the beauty, the love, the joy, the peace. Even if it is only for a moment.

We need those moments.

Noticing the good stuff gives us the ground from which we can create more good stuff – more stuff to fill the void we cannot help but see.

What is the good stuff you see around you right now?

Me, I hear children at the nearby school laughing as they play at recess and the soft purr of the warm cat curled up next to me. I hear my breath as I exhale through my nose – still somewhat stuffy, but clearer than this morning when I had to breathe through my mouth due to the congestion caused by my fall cold.

It is a rough day in a rough week for me. I have too much to do and I am sick and saddened by bad news in my family. But, even in my illness and my emotional pain, when I look, I can see the good stuff too.

How about you? Can you notice any good things about this moment?