Shadow 3, final shadow installment.
Apparently i’m still early on in my learning curve with this and this is the 3rd try now to post this on Happydaysangha. I hope third time will indeed be the charm.
This is the final aspect of shadow content I’ll be covering. Then back on course with more school and sangha specifics.
While editing this material I saw that even if we have worthy plans with committed actions yet have significant un-owned shadow connected with what we are up to, then we will still be tripping ourselves up to varying degrees or at least feeling needlessly unhappy. So these ideas are important and useful for successful functioning.
I’m seeing that though I’m intellectually working with this material I am still getting blindsided by my shadow on a regular enough basis. It seems to me that you would have to read this shadow material twice daily, in the AM and evening, for it to have a good chance of making an immediate difference and no one is going to do that.
So what’s the point of this presentation I now ask myself? (Maybe your memories are better than mine is and so this information pops to mind when you need it.) Other factor needs to be active which I would guess are a stable witness with a sense of curiosity about life. Then this background information regards the shadows workings would spontaneously be brought forward as insight.
External Is Internal
This is another area where shadows pop up. We often don’t see that, when others confront us and we get defensive, the others are simply presenting an unseen, repressed aspect of our personal story.
External pressure from others is internal drive. We will call that the pressure shadow. External criticism from others is really internal self-criticism.
The Pressure Shadow
All external pressure is internal drive. Let’s illustrate this with an example:
For the last several years, John has been meaning to paint his house. In the last year, painting the house fell off of John’s priority list. Other things became more important, like work and his hobbies. His drive to paint the house never actually left. It just became overlooked, repressed. It stopped appearing as a story or a drive within awareness. One day, John’s wife says, “I thought you were going to paint the house! It looks awful! Are you ever going to do that?” John gets automatically defensive. “Stop nagging me,” he replies.
John doesn’t see this as a shadow. To John, it’s his wife’s problem. She is nagging again. “If she would only stop nagging, everything would be ok.” He doesn’t realize that his defensiveness carries great wisdom. The external pressure he feels from his wife is really internal drive. The external pressure from his wife is revealing or bringing back into his awareness his own internal drive to paint the house. His drive to paint the house fell away. It became repressed. Other things became important. John’s wife is just reminding John of his own drive to paint the house. But because John doesn’t see it for what it is—internal drive—he mistakenly feels it only as external pressure. It’s experienced as an “other.” So instead of “I have a drive to paint the house,” it’s interpreted as “My wife is pressuring me again.”
Here is the kicker: all external pressure is internal drive. There aren’t any exceptions. We know that statement is accurate by examining something obvious in our own experience. We never get upset when others pressure us to do things which we have no internal desire to do.
For example, imagine if John’s wife had said, “I thought you were going to paint the neighbor’s house! It looks awful! Are you ever going to do that?” You see . . . John never had a drive to paint the neighbor’s house. Chances are the neighbor hasn’t asked John to do that. There is no internal drive within John to paint his neighbor’s house. And so no defensiveness appears when his wife asks him about painting the neighbor’s house. He doesn’t experience her request as pressure because there is no internal drive.
Re-owning the Shadow (This author states that witnessing the shadow is not enough rather one needs to dialogue with the shadow.- KK)
What does it mean to re-own the shadow? It means to stop pretending that there is a self and an other. Specifically, it means to look at your own story, what is happening in your thoughts, and see that the very trait that you are reacting to in the other person is a trait operating within your own story. It means to actually re-own the trait. It means saying, “I am controlling.” “I am greedy.” “I am whatever story I’m reacting against.” It means to actually list the ways in which you have exhibited the very trait you are attacking in the others. Feel how that feels, to own what you have been denying. See where you are or have been controlling or greedy. By re-owning it, the self-deception ends. The trait is no longer being placed on the other side of the self boundary—out there in the imagined “other.”
Postscript: This shadow material becomes of greater import for us as a group. Organizations, like individuals, have shadows. The opportunity to expose or clarify the shadow is both increased and made more difficult in a group. With a number of people it’s more likely that someone(s) are sensing or seeing something is amiss and is often more difficult to address those concerns. We can be uncertain as to our own perception, unable to articulate it, afraid of group censure of some kind. My take is our sangha, for me that’s the AZ contingent of the school, is doing well with having the spaces and open atmosphere for speaking up. Yet it is still up to each person to individually to present their concerns and insights.
Can anyone, in other regions with a group of sangha that meets regularly, or irregularly, comment on what they are seeing?