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.