You Can't Get Away From Your Shadow

You’re finally doing it. You’re booking that dream vacation, the one you’ve been wanting to go on for years. You go online to book your tickets, and you start weighing your options. Do you go with a non-stop flight for convenience or save money by choosing one with a layover? Do you choose your itinerary based on departure or return time? So many choices.

You’re getting more excited as you continue thinking about this trip and before you make your final decisions, it happens… 

A critical thought appears.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

“Who do you think you are?”

“Can you even afford this?”

“Do you really want to go there?”

The thought could be any of the above questions or any other critique of your choices. The thought might not even be a question at all. It might a self-critical statement.

“Something is going to happen and ruin this trip.”

“You don’t deserve (or can’t afford) a vacation.”

“You’re going to be afraid to go at the last minute and you won’t be able to get a refund.”

What happens after the appearance of this thought shows you who is in control of your life. Are you in charge or is it this critical and often scathing voice that I refer to as the shadow aspect of our personality or more simply the shadow.

The shadow often controls your behaviors more than you realize, but when you become aware of it and create a relationship with it you can start taking back control of your life.

The shadow always knows the right thing to say to make you question and feel bad about yourself. It has been with you your entire life and will be with you for the rest of it as well, and it knows you better than anyone else. It knows all of your buttons and at any moment it can cause a thought to appear in your mind that will take the wind out of your sail immediately.

The best way to deal with your shadow is to give it an image. The next time you recognize that inner voice criticizing you, take a moment and picture who that voice belongs to. Is your shadow a version of yourself or does it look like someone or something else?

When I first did this exercise, my shadow looked like Calibos from the original 1981 version of Clash of the Titans and stood about two-and-a-half foot tall on my left. As I started working with this image it eventually morphed into more of a 12” tall satyr from Disney’s Fantasia and has since continued to get smaller. The smaller it gets the more comical it is to me so that I can laugh at its criticisms when it chimes in.

I recently led a client through this exercise whose shadow was a version of himself that ended up being 2” tall and standing on his right shoulder. Once she saw this image she could laugh at its small stature and flick it off her shoulder when it made a comment to her. Then he could get back to being in charge of her own thoughts and actions.

The next time your shadow chimes in to criticize or shame you, pause and imagine what it looks like. Once you have the image then you can start diminishing its control over you and reclaim your power. Let me know how it goes and feel free to share the descriptions of what your shadow looks like in the comments section below.

Until next time, keep living from your heart.