How to Heal the Human Shadow
Hello darkness my old friend. I’ve come to talk to you again. – Simon & Garfunkel from the song The Sound of Silence
The Shadow Effect promises a journey from our darkest thoughts to our greatest dreams. The movie provides an overview of how this journey could unfold and offers some compelling reasons to begin the trip sooner, rather than later.
Debbie Ford, the New York Times best-selling author of The Best Year of Your Life and Why Good People Do Bad Things, is a recognized expert in the fields of emotional and spiritual education. Ford created The Shadow Effect to help people address the shame, guilt and anger they often feel about their dark side.
The movie also features Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, James Van Praagh and Mark Victor Hansen. These renowned spiritualists join Ford in providing a clear description of how our Shadows are created along with exercises for bringing our dark sides into the light.
These exercises, located on a separate disc, encourage viewers to begin their Shadow Work after watching the main presentation. Debbie Ford invites us to face parts of ourselves we have tried to deny for too long. She suggests our Shadows are responsible for every goal we have not achieved and for every dream we have not fulfilled.
At its core, The Shadow Effect challenges us to embrace the power hidden in our shadows and use it to transform our lives in meaningful and sustainable ways. It reminds us that to make a dynamic change in our lives we need to acknowledge the need for the shift in the first place. The following clip provides a succinct overview of both The Shadow Effect movie and process:
Lost in the shadows
Our shadows are dark and secretive and resist seeing the light of day. We hide things in our shadows we don’t want others to see. Recently, I have been attempting to bring my shadow into the light.
While some make impulsive purchases, blow a diet when no one is looking, or surf the net while at work, I do a good job of sabotaging my happiness.
My shadow was created when I was young and has followed me most of my adult life. Its origin is from a learned behavior which I thought to be normal. The result of not receiving genuine maternal nurturing caused me to believe that something was wrong with me – that I was damaged and not worthy of having good things, like love and happiness, happen to me.
As a adult, when happiness would begin to creep in to my world, I would push it away by my actions or words to make sure it wouldn’t stick around for very long. I would end, or not pursue friendships; pick fights with Mary Beth and allow anxiety to trump peace. I preferred living in a place void of sustained happiness because it’s what I knew and where I felt the most comfortable.
It was in this empty place where I allowed my shadow to grow and consume me. It was also in this place where I eventually lost my confidence and created a mask to hide my fear and disappointment.
The masks we wear
Masks hide who we are. They give us freedom to operate in plain sight because our actions can be associated to the persona wearing the mask rather than who lives behind it.
Shadow Work teaches us that our masks provide the opportunity to wrap ourselves in a new package and ignore our true and authentic selves. Our masks prefer the secrecy of the shadows and rebel against the light. But worn for too long, our masks become a prison and make it harder to escape when the pain and loneliness becomes too much to bear.
My masks have been a crutch; an excuse not to live my life in the light. My most often worn mask has been that of an overachiever. I once confused career and financial success with happiness. My mask kept me from seeing that my children didn’t care how quickly my business was growing – they just wanted me to be a bigger part of their lives as they were growing.
I was once compared to a pink Cadillac. Cool and put together on the outside; but inside, nothing – vapor lock. This comparison made me realize what my masks were costing me. I began to understand people wanted to see me, the real me but I lacked the courage to show them. So, I stalled out and stopped running.
Shadow Work, however, reminds us that every quality we see in another person is one we possess as well. Therefore the reason why I could see courage and confidence in others for removing their masks is because I realized the same confidence existed in me to do the same.
About a month ago I made the decision to remove my masks for good. It’s work I’ve been avoiding for a while, but it occurred to me after my mother died the reason for the masks has gone, too. I’m looking forward to the day when my naked face is shown and then kissed with forgiveness.
A divine recipe
Watching The Shadow Effect reminded me I haven’t started the work too late. Even though I have given away things of tremendous value, there is plenty of time to take these things back.
Moving into the light, I can see what I want is more time with my children, more time to appreciate the here and now and more time to feel comfortable in my own skin. By acknowledging the Shadow I get to claim my worth and I get to take back the happiness that belongs only to me.
Shame has created my shadow in the past. Resistance to change has kept it alive. Now, it’s time to continue the shift to forgiveness. Not forgiving keeps me stuck in the dark place where I feel insecure, drink more than I should and demand others to love me more than I am able to love myself.
No matter the sins committed against us or the ones we own, we are all children of God and we have a right to be here – I have a right to be here and to feel alive and happy. My journey is well underway now. It is one that will help me experience more love and a journey that will take me to a place of greater joy.
I forgive myself for being the overachiever, for requiring constant reassurance from the one closest to me, and for believing I had to be perfect to keep the shadow from growing larger.
It’s no coincidence that what’s making my shadow dissipate and the light grow brighter is relying on myself for the love I require, backing off the gas more often and delighting in my imperfections. By unearthing the parts of me that has caused the most pain, I’m finding forgiveness. I’m finding the courage to provide that kiss of forgiveness.
And in that forgiveness, I’m finding happiness that feels divine to me.