May 25, 2010
Posted: 04:32 PM ET
by Debbie Ford, special to LKL blog
Debbie Ford is the author of eight books including the New York Times best-sellers The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, The Secret of the Shadow, Why Good People Do Bad Things and her latest book The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self, co-authored with Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson. She is the founder of The Ford Institute for Transformational Training. To learn more about her, to go her website: www.DebbieFord.com.
The Shadow Effect is everywhere. Evidence of its pervasiveness can be seen in every aspect of our lives. We read about it online. We watch it on TV, and this week we can examine it in the behavior of Sarah Ferguson, Lindsay Lohan, and Jesse James.
Why would the Duchess of York try to sell out her relationship with her children’s father? Why would Lindsay Lohan, after many warnings and consequences, continue to disobey the law for one more night of partying? Why would Jesse James, the man that some of us would have deemed the luckiest guy in the world, do so many stupid things and throw it all away?
We can label it addiction or pathology, corruption or revenge. But we must dig deeper into what causes a person to do bad things and destroy their lives and the lives of those they love. When does the impulse arise to hurt oneself or another? When do the decisions get made that drive people to do inexplicable things? Remember the old radio show adage, “The shadow knows.” Well maybe this is the truth. The great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung called our darker side “the shadow,” the hidden, denied, and often feared parts of ourselves, the parts of ourselves that have been wounded and buried deep within our unconscious minds. The birth of our shadow occurs when we are very young, before our logical thinking minds are developed enough to filter the messages we receive from parents, caregivers and the world at large.
From its invisible home deep within our psyche, the shadow wields enormous power over our life. It determines what we can and cannot do, what we will be irresistibly drawn toward, and what we will do almost anything to avoid. It explains the mystery of our attractions and our repulsions and determines what we will love and what we will judge and criticize in others. Our shadow influences our choices and our deep compulsions that override our logical thinking minds. It tells us how much money we are entitled to earn and determines whether we spend it wisely or piss it away like Sarah Ferguson. It is our shadow, our hidden self, that dictates how much success we’re entitled to create or how much destruction we’re doomed to experience like Lindsay Lohan. The shadow determines how much love and connection we can receive or if we will destroy it in dishonest and violating acts of disloyalty like Jesse James. The shadow drives us to behave in ways that we never dreamed possible for ourselves. Unbeknownst to us, the shadow is the author of a prewritten script that springs into action in times of fear, pain, or conflict or when we don’t feel worthy of the success that we are experiencing. If left unexamined, our shadow will emerge from the darkness in the form of addiction and other self-destructive behaviors like lying, cheating, drinking, stealing and on and on.
If we do not counter the force of the shadow by examining, understanding and ultimately making peace with the part of ourselves, it can potentially wreak havoc on our lives and the world around us. We must be careful not to just point our fingers at others’ shadows because in doing so, we become trapped in the denial that tells us we ourselves could never be this out of control, unconscious or destructive, that we could never cause irreputable damage to ourselves and others, or that we could never be so weak to succumb to our own bad behaviors. When we point our fingers, we fall prey to one of the biggest signposts for disaster – the arrogance and entitlement we see so beautifully displayed in our shadowy figures of the week.
Working with the shadow is counter-intuitive. It’s not something to be suppressed, hidden, conquered or numbed with drugs, cigarettes food or other substances because the shadow can’t be beaten down for long. As you may have noticed, most of our bad behaviors arise time and time again at the least opportune moments. But we don’t deal with the shadow we’re scared. We’re scared that we’re going to find something so ugly and so horrible, we don’t know how to deal with it. The exact opposite is true. If we know that to be human is to have a shadow, then we can start to open up to the gifts and the wisdom that the shadow brings. When understood, the shadow supports us in becoming more loving and compassionate human beings. When embraced, the shadow allows us to learn from our past, to accept our insecurities, to let go of our resentments, and to uncover what Carl Jung would call the “gold in the dark.” The shadow becomes the teacher, the trainer and the guide that support us in uncovering a truer, more authentic self.
So as we watch a few more celebrities get caught in the trap of their own shadows, we might take a moment to reflect and see where our shadows may be lurking. And if we are brave enough, we can beckon them to come out so that we don’t have to get caught in the shadow effect.
Learn more in the New York Times bestselling book The Shadow Effect by Deepak Chopra, Debbie Ford and Marianne Williamson. For more information, go to www.theshadoweffect.com
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