I have been enthralled with the Shadow as of late, and I devoured The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self by Deepak Chopra, Debbie Ford, and Marianne Williamson. The shadow is an idea that keeps resonating with me, and I am continuing the exploration of my shadow and beginning to understand when I am projecting.
I often sleep walk through life, unconscious of the many motives that drive me, and in this state the shadow thrives. I have stuffed down all those undesirable things and have denied their existence. I have covered over my anger, my fear, and my desires, and I have gone on with life as normal. Though buried in the unconscious, the shadow manifests in many ways in my everyday life, and it finds way to sabotage my peace of mind. I just need to pay attention to these moments so that I can begin to embrace and disarm the shadow. Only then can I find peace and bring a sense of wholeness to my life.
How do I know when I am projecting?
Projection is actually quite easy to spot, and I am amazed at how readily the shadow shows itself when you know what to look for. However, when I am not mindful, the shadow easily stays disguised, but I am learning to recognize its disguises.
I am projecting anytime my temper flairs for the littlest reason and I lash out. I am projecting when I get defensive and I make others wrong so that I can feel right. I am projecting when I blame someone else and feel that it’s “us vs. them”. I am projecting when I am repulsed and disgusted by others or when I feel good at another’s suffering.
It’s all too easy for me to see these reactions as justifiable - as merely reactions to bad situations or bad people. But this is how the shadow stays hidden. It cloaks itself in reasonableness. But these outbursts and gut reactions are indicators of my shadow lashing out and projecting my fears and my anxieties onto others. When I get angry and lash out at others, I am really angry at myself for certain failings and certain feelings. When I get defensive and see the world as “us vs. them” I am justifying behavior that is probably hypocritical. I seem to say, “It’s not me. I’m not that way. It’s them. It’s their fault.” But it IS really me. I AM really that way. When I am repulsed or disgusted by others, I am only projecting my own revulsion and disgust at myself. In all of these cases, I see something of myself in others - something about myself that I do not like, something that I am ashamed of, something that I fear about myself. These are the dark and negative aspects of my shadow.
The shadow’s projection, however, is not always negative. As Robert Johnson says in Owning Your Shadow, we bury a lot of gold in our shadow. We bury a lot of our strengths and a lot of our potential in our shadow afraid to be seen as bragging. We have learned it’s better to be humble, it’s better to dim our brightness then to shine. “Who does he think he is?” and “Don’t get too big for your britches!” are the sentiments of society that often echo in my head. So, I bury these strengths in my shadow afraid to shine, and whenever I am enthralled, inspired, and overwhelmingly drawn to another, I am projecting. Like the negative projection, these are times when I see something of myself in others, but it’s a much more positive. In The Shadow Effect, Debbie Ford says, “Whatever inspires you is an aspect of yourself.” If I am inspired by someone’s amazing creativity, then I see a glimmer of that creativity in myself even though I may vehemently deny and downplay my creativity. If I am drawn to someone who is spiritual and compassionate, those are qualities that I, too, possess even though I may feel myself to be cold and apathetic. If I am inspired by someone’s charm and charisma, I have these same aspects buried inside of me even though I may believe myself to be socially awkward. All of these qualities that attract me and inspire me are aspects of myself that I see in others. I may need to coax them out of my shadow. I may need to develop them to their fullest potential, but they are there. I possess them, and I can shine brightly if I can only fully embrace them.
The key to embracing the shadow is to catch myself at those moments when I am projecting. Then I can shine a light into my shadow and begin to recognize what’s triggering the projection - the darkness and the light. Only then can I become whole.