The “bright shadow” is the repository of your unclaimed, and often unrecognized, gifts, talents, and strengths – your deepest potentials. Buried treasures are hidden in our psyches. Many of us disown the positive dimensions of our nature as much or more than our dark sides. A psychiatrist friend told me that his patients are more afraid of their light than their darkness. Just as it’s important to acknowledge, unearth, and integrate our repressed anger, fear, and sadness, it is equally important to recognize and free up the contents of the “bright shadow,” e.g. our wisdom, compassion, joy, personal power, and creativity.
How do our rich potentials become repressed? Why is it easier to acknowledge our shortcomings rather than our strengths? Perhaps you received repeated messages from family members or teachers and religious figures that you weren’t good enough or smart enough. You didn’t live up to others’ expectations. You were unduly criticized. Your gifts were rejected or devalued. Perhaps you internalized messages, such as “Don’t outshine your friends” or “you have to be born with a special talent to be able to sing.” Maybe you were shamed for bragging or told that you were “too big for your britches.” Many of us grew up without the empathy, unconditional love, and nurturing we so deeply needed. We didn’t form healthy attachments. This can result in a sense of deficiency, unworthiness, and feelings of being unlovable and inadequate. It’s no wonder that we fail to see our own worth.
It is never too late, though, to find the path home. Rich qualities are already present within you. They are your “seed potentials,” and only need the proper attention and nourishment to come into full bloom.
Because imagery bypasses the linear, analytical mind and takes you into the unconscious, it is a helpful tool for all types of shadow work. Here is an exercise that can help you discover what some of your gifts are.
Unwrapping Your Gifts
- Find a comfortable place to sit for about fifteen minutes. Close your eyes and let yourself settle into the chair or couch. Bring your awareness to your breathing and follow the breath for two or three minutes, as it comes in and goes out, letting yourself relax as you align with the rhythm of your breathing.
- Imagine that you’re walking into a very nice room, perhaps in your home, or create any kind of room you like in your imagination.
- A number of wrapped gifts are in the room. Each one has your name on it. What you will find as you open each package is something that represents your strengths and positive qualities. Unwrap each one, and take your time to reflect on the contents. For example, you may find a red heart and, upon reflection, discover that you are a truly loving person. A heart may represent different things to different people. Be curious and open to what a heart uniquely means to you. Objects or aspects of nature may be in the boxes. You may also find words such as courage, sense of humor, or openness in your packages.
- When you feel complete, write down what you discovered. With each of the gifts, take time to deeply sense and take in the knowing that this is an aspect of you.
- Repeat this process whenever you want to. Different gifts may appear or gifts that appeared in one form may show up in another.