It was 84° out here on Friday, so after a long and busy week, we decided to take the day off and drive out to Hippie Hollow - one of Austin's lake beaches. We got there early enough to grab one of the few tree-shaded spots, looking forward to a quiet afternoon of reading and napping in the sun.
As more people started showing up and filling the beach I saw my relaxing dreams slowly fade away. Whenever I spotted someone surveying the area near us I noticed myself getting anxious: "great, there goes our quiet afternoon. This person's gonna blast their music/party with their friends/try to start a conversation". You can already tell, I got some social anxiety issues.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about shadow aspects: these traits and behaviors that make our jaws clench and trigger a strong visceral reaction when they're on display - by ourselves or others. Sure, people can do really hurtful things to us, so I'm not referring to that. Yet we can get really bothered when someone is acting a certain way around us, even if it has nothing to do with us directly. More ironically, we can spot these behaviors a mile away, and they can take all of our attention, regardless of what we're doing or how much we really don't want to pay attention to it. Trying to relax on the beach, just the thought of these behaviors (none of them actually happened around us) raised my anxiety level.
So what makes us have such a strong reaction in these situations? The keyword in the description of shadow is rejected. Debbie Ford, in one of the most popular books that talk about shadow aspects (The Dark Side of the Light Chasers) describes the holographic model of the universe: “every piece of the universe contains the intelligence of the whole... Each of us possess every human quality. There is nothing we can see or perceive that we are not, and the purpose of our journey is to restore ourselves to this wholeness". For one reason or another, we decided behavior x is bad, and that (often early, unconscious) decision is what's steering our conscious wheel now.
Regardless of the specific approach to the topic (and there are endless possible angles out there, from analytical psychology to new age to quantum physics to Buddhism) the starting point in addressing one's shadow aspects is identifying what they are. Triggers and projections are great signs for what your shadow aspects might be (and also advice you find yourself give others - that's probably advice you'd want to act on yourself). For me, I could definitely do some work on not feeling all charged up over casual conversations with strangers (or god forbid even enjoy them) - who knows, my beach experience might actually become relaxing...
Can you already tell what are a couple of your personal shadows? What behaviors get a (somewhat unreasonable) reaction out of you?
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Surprisingly, shadows can also cover aspects that we consider as positive. Some our of shadow aspects are where our greatest talents are buried, so next week I'm going to share more about our Golden Shadows and how they could be the key to your motivation.