Understanding Your Shadow

DR JOHN DEMARTINI   -   Updated 2 weeks ago

If you perceive that you have a shadow self or shadow side and are inspired to embrace and own your shadow, then Dr Demartini’s insights might be a powerful first step in the process.

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DR JOHN DEMARTINI - Updated 2 weeks ago

Like many people, you may perceive that there's a light side and a dark or shadow side to your nature. I'd like to confront that concept by exploring the moral hypocrisies you may have subconsciously injected into your life, leading you to label your traits and behaviors as either positive or negative, light or dark. In doing so, I hope you'll consider a different perspective - one in which you learn to embrace all aspects of yourself, both positive and negative, light and shadow equally. This can help you to acknowledge your authentic self instead of beating half of yourself up for striving to meet unrealistic, one-sided expectations. You do not have to get rid of half of yourself to love yourself.

Where do these moral hypocrisies come from?

Children are often encouraged from early on to be kind not cruel, generous not stingy, peaceful not wrathful, and giving not greedy. However, the same people who encourage that behavior often tend to behave in the opposite manner to what they are encouraging.

These are moral hypocrisies that many people tend to buy into. They mostly originate from authority figures: mothers, fathers, preachers, teachers, conventions, traditions, and morals that people inculcate into their life either consciously or unconsciously. Then they tend to compare themselves to those ideals (one-sided fantasies) and beat themselves up because they can’t consistently live up to them.

What happens is that we live in a world where the majority of people spend their lives trying to achieve the unachievable, and trying to avoid the unavoidable, by expecting themselves or others to be one-sided (nice never mean, supportive never challenging, generous never stingy, etc). They also try to get rid of traits they perceive to be “negative” and keep only those they perceive as being “positive”.

The pursuit of a one-sided existence is futile.

The Buddha is claimed to have stated, the desire for that which is unobtainable (the one side) and the desire to avoid that which is unavoidable (the other side) is the source of human suffering.

Yet, society collectively continually tries to provide mass solutions to help you become one-sided, instead of helping you realize the true perfection of the WHOLE of who you are so you can embrace both sides.

Consider this. If I was to come up to you and say, “You're always nice, never mean. Always kind, never cruel. Always generous, never stingy. Always giving, never taking. Always considerate, never inconsiderate. Always peaceful, never wrathful. Always positive, never negative,” your intuition would let you know this was untrue and that you have another side to you.

If I said, “You're always mean, never nice. Always cruel, never kind. Always negative, never positive. Always wrathful, never peaceful. Always stingy, never generous. Always taking, never giving. Always inconsiderate, never considerate,” your intuition would once again remind you of your other side.

However, if I said, “Sometimes you're nice, sometimes you're mean. Sometimes you're kind, sometimes you're cruel. Sometimes you're positive, sometimes you're negative. Sometimes you’re peaceful, sometimes wrathful,” your intuition would immediately say with certainty that it is true.

Yet, so many people spend their lives trying to get rid of half of themselves – the half they perceive as being negative, their shadow. And, because they’ve never questioned the moral hypocrisies that they’ve inculcated into their lives, they often pass it down to other generations.

moral-hypocrisy

The shadow is essentially the byproduct of moral hypocrisies.

If you have a fantasy that you're supposed to be nice, then when you’re nice, you tend to be proud of yourself and want to show off. If all of a sudden, you’re mean, you’ll tend to feel ashamed of yourself and want hide. That desire to hide is because of social instruction - you don’t want to have that so-called ‘negative’ trait and you don’t want other people to perceive that you have that negative trait.

However, the truth is you do. You're kind at times and cruel at times. I can be very kind at times, and other times, people can perceive me as being cruel. In fact, I’ve gone through the Oxford dictionary, and I found 4,628 different traits. In doing so, I discovered that I have each and every one of those human traits, actions, or inactions. I am at times nice and mean, kind and cruel, giving and taking, generous and stingy, honest and dishonest, deceptive and forthright, and many more.

If I look at my life, I’ve exhibited every single trait in different moments in my life. At times, I didn’t want to acknowledge that I own traits that I originally perceived as being “negative”. However, when I looked, I couldn’t deny the evidence of displaying every single one of those traits in my life.

How are you going to love yourself if you're trying to get rid of half of yourself?

So, having gone through all 4,628 traits in detail and discovering that I have all of them, I realized that I could never truly love myself if I was constantly and futilely trying to get rid of the half of me that I perceived or misperceive as being negative.

This is something that I teach in my signature 2-day online Breakthrough Experience program – that self-love, self-mastery and being your true authentic self is not a matter of gaining or getting rid of traits, but instead a matter of knowing that they're all there and that you're going to use them when needed.

I believe that the shadow side is just as valuable and essential as the so-called light side.

The light side has within it a shadow, much like the concept of yin and yang. For example, you might think, "I’m going to be nice to people because I’ve been raised to be nice." But, I've seen people who are nice to others but end up repressing their own needs to fit into society’s expectations of niceness. As such, they tend not to speak up for themselves and go out of their way to help others, often resulting in those individuals becoming juvenilely dependent and reliant on them. This can also create a situation where those being helped feel obligated to them, so the act of being nice can also have something inside it that is actually mean.

I’ve also seen people who are tough and who hold others accountable, which can be perceived as being mean. Yet, this can help to encourage independence in others who are then more self-sufficient and entrepreneurial.  So, meanness can also contain a form of niceness. I have had quite a few people tell me, "When you were really tough on me in the seminar and held me accountable, I broke through and grew." This is just one example of how a so-called shadow side is just as essential.

It's also wise to beware of labels because what is considered a shadow can vary across countries and different cultures. For example, in South Africa, their previous president having nine wives was a source of pride for him, whereas in America, having multiple wives can lead to legal trouble and is considered a shadow side. So, these definitions of light and shadow sides can be quite murky and culturally dependent.

light-and-shadow

How does your shadow side serve others?

During the Breakthrough Experience, we take the time to explore how whatever you think you've done that you feel so terrible about has SERVED and BENEFITTED others and yourself. Otherwise, you may walk around carrying a sense of shame or guilt for no reason.

The opposite applies – the things you're so proud of, what are the DOWNSIDES?

Here’s why these are wise questions (extracted from the Demartini Method) to ask yourself:

If you don't know how to govern yourself and bring yourself into equanimity, the world around you will do it for you. Your physiology, psychology, and sociology will come in to humble you. So, the second you feel proud, you tend to attract criticism, challenge, and humbling circumstances to bring you back down. When you feel down or have a sense of shame, you tend to attract people who will try to lift or lighten you up.

Nature is trying to get you to own both sides of yourself and honor the authentic you. So, I'm not here to help you get rid of any part of yourself; I'm here to help you love all parts of yourself.

I've been teaching the Breakthrough Experience program for over 35 years now. People come in with all kinds of resentments, infatuations, guilts, shames, self-deprecation, or fantasies. I show them how to dissolve their infatuations, resentments, prides, and shames, bringing them back into equanimity and equity, allowing them to love themselves and others. This leads to a sustainable, fair exchange dynamic with people who are more fulfilled and inspired, enabling them to do what they love instead of what they feel obligated to do according to some moral imperative and hypocrisy.

I’m currently working on a textbook about morality, which I've been studying for decades. It's interesting how vulnerable people are to different moralities in different cultures and times. We often assume our morality is right, but it's just a social contract within our group, not necessarily universal.

That's why I teach people in the Breakthrough Experience about universal laws, things that are inviolate, instead of human laws and moralities, which people often violate. You can't completely live by some of those ideals, but you can live by the universals. I'm trying to teach people how to study those universals and live according to what stands the test of time instead of the fluctuating emotions of the times.

For instance, marijuana was illegal when I was growing up. Now it's legalized and used for therapeutic effects. What was once a shadow side activity is now acceptable. It’s wise to be aware of these transient moral hypocrisies that people get trapped in, labeling themselves light and shadow when all parts of you may be needed. You have times when you need to be tough and assertive, and other times passive. There was a song by the Byrds in 1965 about a time for everything under the sun - a time for sowing and reaping, a time for peace, a time for war, a time for joining with people, and a time for separating. I believe that old biblical chapter and series of verses is meaningful and applicable to our daily lives.

yin-yang-light-shadow

It’s one of the reasons why I go through the Value Determination process during the Breakthrough Experience (and why I offer it free of charge on my website). When you live congruently with your highest values, you tend to be more objective, neutral, and embracive of both sides of your life and the two essential sides it takes to achieve. You also tend to be more resilient, adaptable, informed, and efficient. The Demartini Method that I teach as part of the Breakthrough Experience also helps you to dissolve all the baggage you're carrying around because you may not even be aware that you've injected values of others, judged yourself for actions that are perfectly normal, and thought of yourself as terrible.

I meet people almost every week in the Breakthrough Experience who feel down, depreciative, and self-critical. We then look at the benefits of that behavior, something that many of them have never thought to do. Instead, they assume it was bad and a shadow, wanting to hide or avoid it. Then they discover the benefits.

For example, a gentleman came to the Breakthrough Experience feeling guilty and ashamed because he didn't make it to his mother's deathbed. He had been beating himself up for years. I asked him, "What was the benefit to your mom that you weren't there?" He couldn't see it initially, but eventually, he realized that his absence allowed his mother and sister, who hadn't been speaking, to reconcile. This realization lifted his burden of guilt and shame.

We often compare our lives to fantasies and injected ideals about how we think we're supposed to be. If it doesn't match, we tend to think it's bad and want to hide or repress it, considering it our shadow.

But you need both sides in your life.

You don't have to get rid of half of yourself to love yourself. The magnificence of who you are, the totality of light and shadow, is greater than any fantasy (or nightmare) you could ever impose upon yourself.

Every trait has its upsides and downsides. When you see this, you realize you're worthy of love no matter what you've done or not done.

To Sum Up

The pursuit for one-sidedness is futile. We live in a world where the majority of people spend their lives trying to achieve the unachievable, by expecting themselves or others to be one-sided (nice never mean, supportive never challenging, generous never stingy, etc).

Society continually tries to provide you so-called mass solutions to help you become one-sided, instead of helping you realize the true perfection of the WHOLE of who you are so you can embrace both sides. As the Buddha says, the desire for that which is unobtainable (the one side) and the desire to avoid that which is unavoidable (the other side) is the source of human suffering.

The shadow is essentially the byproduct of moral hypocrisies. So many people spend their lives trying to get rid of half of themselves – the half they perceive as being negative, their shadow. However, you're kind at times and cruel at times. I can be very kind at times, and other times, people can perceive me as being cruel. Every trait has its upsides and downsides. When you see this, you realize you're worthy of love no matter what you've done.

Self-love, self-mastery, and being your true authentic self is not a matter of gaining or getting rid of traits, but instead a matter of knowing that they're there and that you're going to use them when needed.

When you live congruently with your highest values, you tend to be more objective, neutral and embrace both sides of your life.

You don't have to get rid of half of yourself to love yourself. The magnificence of who you are is greater than any fantasy.


 

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