Have you ever have the feeling that your life feels normal when it’s not? Is there something missing? Or is there something we’re hiding out of fear?
Saturday afternoon, I stumbled across a book called “The Shadow Effect“ by Debbie Ford, Deepak Chopra, and Marianne Williamson. As skeptical as I’m of self-help books, this one was interesting enough for me to read through.
The “shadow”, as the authors described it, consists of feelings and behaviors that individuals suppress, out of fear or to block out of our mental psyche. When a past or present event occurs, our “shadow” brings out the worst in us. In other words, our shadow follows us everywhere in our lives.
One theme stood out to me in a psychological sense. We tend to “project” what we see as a wrong or something we want to change, but we have a hard time controlling and addressing these problems ourselves. An easy example is a public official voicing displeasure of something immoral, only to have him or her self get caught doing the very thing he or she was trying to suppress.
Here’s another: a person who says that they hate closed-minded people and consider themselves liberal in their views. The person then learns that their child or someone in their family have announced they are gay, dating someone of a different race, or what ever. That same person becomes upset and objects to it, not realizing that what they say contradicts their reaction and attitude.
Do we do these things because we want to punish the other person for doing it, or are we hiding something that we are unable to address internally ourselves and in turn letting these behaviors destroy us?
Let me strip the buzzwords and lay out what this book is saying: we live in fear. In fear of being rejected, ostracized by family and friends, embarrassment, failure, and fear of ourselves and what we’re capable of doing that could hurt everyone. We are afraid of what the shadow will show to others. We run away from it, hoping it will go away and not shame us.
Fear is what has shaped me as a person, for the very wrong reasons. Consider this a psychological assessment, if you will.
- I’m not an entrepreneur: my father ran a bar while working his day job. It failed and the decisions that went with it broke up my parents’ marriage and the life I thought was perfect as a child. I’m afraid I’ll fail if I’m put in a position to operate things as a leader.
- It has to be perfect: if I didn’t bring an “A” home, then I failed. Same goes with everything I do from writing to running the admissions table at the Art Center. I know that I don’t have to be perfect, but if it’s not to my standards, then I rather not do it at all.
- I want to be married: That’s bull. I’m afraid of dating and marriage. I don’t want to end up divorced like my parents. So, rather than embracing marriage and dating, I keep making excuses not to take the risks. In the process, I internally give myself conflicting signs and sabotage my chances without ever trying. I’m not lovable, good enough, and I’ll go out of my way to prove I’m not worth it.
- Genial and diplomatic: I bet none of you knew that I have a temper that is so volatile, it would frighten you. You don’t know how many times I have come close to snapping. Everyone’s achieving their dreams, moving to better jobs, and I’m stuck writing a blog to keep me sane. Hell yes, I’m jealous. My “script” was taken away.
That’s just a start of the large “shadow” that have set me on a path of destruction, unless I stop running from it and embrace my faults and vices. It wouldn’t hurt to lose my temper sometimes. It wouldn’t hurt if I failed (in which I’ve done so many times in my life).
All of us have something horrible or shameful that is keeping us being being our real selves. We’re afraid to face it, only because we don’t know how to break it.
Those who are participating in Startup Weekend Des Moines have embraced their “shadow” and are doing something that may change their lives, give them confidence, or provide life lessons for the long-run.
Many of us are still running from our shadow. We are still afraid to face it.