On occasion I can write like that. More often I am not that disciplined. I want to tell the truth about myself and my experiences, but in such a way that it is helpful for others and not just as an “online journal.” Even if it simply encourages someone to know they aren’t alone, that’s a success.
I’m currently struggling with something specific, and I THINK it is useful to share because all of us struggle with this issue. We all call it something different, but through years of therapy I’ve chosen a name for it: my SHADOW.
I previously wrote about the Shadow concept at length:
Any sort of exuberance, any sort of self-confidence, was not to be trusted and was therefore relegated to my Shadow. So, when I experienced other people exhibiting these traits (exuberance or self-confidence), a few things were happening, internally, in rapid succession:
- I was seeing something that I had rejected in myself as bad.
- I was projecting this “badness” or “wrongness” onto the exuberant/self-confident person.
- I had a strong reaction of distaste and judgment toward them (and, in effect, toward myself).
- I had a longing to be like this person because it was a part of me I had neglected long ago. (I didn’t know the reason why at the moment; I only could feel the longing.)
- I hated myself for wanting to have these traits; for the jealousy and envy I felt.
- Because of the intense feeling of self-hatred, I started hating the person even more for making me feel so horrible.
So, here’s the deal: I am still tumbling around in this cycle. There are times when I think I’ve overcome negative feelings toward “exuberant and self-confident” people. The Shadow sneaks up on me, though, and prevents me from being the type of person I wish to be (i.e., a person who loves well). Let me give you two specific examples. For both Shadow examples, I explain the Case History and my attempt at Integration.
Shadow File 01Case History
I love to sing. Whether it was church, school, the car, the shower, you name it. I’m always up for a karaoke night. When I moved to Portland, I started singing with the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus. PGMC was a great find for my partner and me; we made great friends by being involved in the organization, and I loved being a part of a singing group again. HOWEVER.
As time went on, my Shadow grew. I became more anxious and more self-critical, and projected this critical nature onto others. Along with the social anxiety, I found myself easily irritated and annoyed by others. I held onto odd resentments. It eventually became too much, and I decided to take a break, perhaps permanently, from the choir.
Integration: In Progress
Instead of shaming myself into oblivion for taking a break from the choir (“you are a quitter,” “you are a loser,” “you are socially awkward”), I realized that by taking the break, I was honoring some very real, if misdirected, feelings. Stepping back also gave me some space inside my head to do some soul-searching, which led to writing this blog. Now that I have a better understanding of what was happening internally during the last year or so of choir, I am planning to rejoin PGMC in the Fall!
Shadow File 02Case History
I’ve found some amazing new friends through blogging. Whether I’ve met them directly through interaction on my blog, on other blogs, on Twitter, on Facebook, or a combination, I have been so encouraged to find other strugglers on the journey of faith, spirituality, and humanity. HOWEVER.
There is one person on this corner of the blogosphere who brings my Shadow into focus. (Don’t worry! It isn’t anyone who reads this blog, or anyone that I read/follow on Twitter or Facebook! No, it’s not Tony Jones! And no, I’m not going to tell you who it is!) This person seems to trigger everything inside me about which I feel ashamed. I understand that some of my annoyance and irritation is rational, because this person doesn’t exactly exude grace and humility. But the feelings are very familiar. It’s an overwhelming cycle of loathing and shame, loathing and shame.
Integration: Just Started
This particular “Shadow work” is on the forefront of my mind today. I am experiencing some very negative emotions, and because they are so raw I don’t know how to process them yet. Here’s what I’m doing, though. (1) Writing about it, vaguely, here. (2) Telling a few close friends so they can help me process.
Readers: can you relate to these types of feelings? Do you know individuals who bring your Shadow into focus? What have you done about it? I’d love to hear your thoughts because I could sure use some advice!