~ September 2007~
Claiming Your Bright Shadow: Do What You Fear
"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." ~ Anais Nin
How can we stand up to what Abraham Maslow called The Jonah Complex, the fear of our highest possibilities? What are the keys to claiming the vast richness of our true nature, to unearthing the buried treasures that reside at our core? The Bright Shadow is the reservoir that contains our deepest potentials - creativity, intuition, compassion, wisdom, inspiration - which are often relegated to the unconscious dimension of the psyche. Many of us repress our gifts as much or more than our dark sides. Robert Desoille called this tendency to disown our light, ‘the repression of the sublime.’ How can we come out of the shadows, claim our light and shamelessly shine bright?
It is dangerous to deny our potentials. In denying who we really are we are abandoning ourselves. We become cut off from the vital life force that is the truth of our being. We feel empty, often despairing, with a deep lonely ache inside. This denial of the fullness of our essential nature leads us to look to externals to fill the void. We were taught, and advertising reminds us, that the answers are ‘out there.’ We search for the magical other to complete us, we turn to food, drugs and alcohol to fill us up and raise our spirits. In addition to harming ourselves we deprive others of the benefits of our gifts. The world needs your love, power and wisdom.
What are we craving? How do we satisfy this deep hunger? Referring to one of his former patients, psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote, "His craving for alcohol was the equivalent…of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness…" Our true yearning is for wholeness; it is to experience ourselves as full, whole and complete. We claim our bright shadow so that we may feel whole.
"Do what you fear. Watch it disappear." My mother has this message taped to her bathroom mirror and, at age 81, she’s one of the most energetic and dynamic people I know. She’s a firecracker, always learning, trying new things and meeting new people. Risk taking is one of the ways that we claim our Bright Shadow. This is not easy and it doesn’t come without fear. One of the reasons that we choose safety over growth is so that we can avoid the fear that accompanies risk. To the degree that we insist on living the safe life and are unwilling to experience the natural anxiety that is a part of growth, we will remain stuck and cut off from our true nature.
A helpful way to deal with the fears that accompany change and expansion is to create small, realistic goals and build up to bigger risks. If, for example, you are shy and wish to start dating, but are terrified of talking to people you don’t know, start with baby steps. I love baby steps because they work! For a week, practice smiling or saying hello to one stranger a day, work up to two and so on. Set a goal of four weeks, when you will go to a singles event and start a conversation with someone you’re attracted to. Or, perhaps you have a dream of sharing your insights about green living with large audiences, but you have stage fright. Invite a small group of friends to your house and give a practice talk. Next time, invite a larger group, sprinkled with people you don’t know. Before you know it, you’ve conquered your fear. Then you’ll be ready to take on the next one!
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