Once upon a time, there was a man who was afraid of his own shadow.
He didn’t know what it was, but he knew that there was a dark, scary monster that would sometimes be behind him, and he was terrified.
He tried everything he could to get rid of it.
He ignored it
He yelled at it
He despaired at it.
But he was so scared, that the one thing he never did was to turn around and look at it.
The shadow would sometimes come out when he was with his friends, and all he could do was apologise for the black monster that followed him.
But the shadow didn’t go away. He ran and ran, but not matter how far he went, the shadow was right behind him.
He ran and ran, until he could run no more.
Now out of options, he decided to do something different.
Something he had never done his whole life.
He was going to stop, turn around and look at the shadow for what it was.
Slowly he approached it.
He stared at the very shadow he was afraid of straight in the face.
Suddenly, he came to a life-changing realisation.
The shadow came from him.
The shadow was him.
He didn’t want to accept it. That big black monster that followed him all his life, was an extension of him?
But as time went past, he decided to look more closely at the shadow. He started to get to know it better.
And as he did, he started to realise it wasn’t so scary after all. It may be black and gloomy but it couldn’t actually hurt him.
It was only a shadow after all.
He realised that what was hurting him was his fear of the shadow. The way he had spent his whole life running had drained him for years.
After finally seeing the shadow for what it truly was, he decided to try something new.
Why not love, instead of fear the shadow?
Instead of running from it, why not embrace it?
The man decided to shine the bright light of his attention to the shadow, enveloping it with love and warmth.
It was a part of him after all.
And then the unexpected happened.
The shadow disappeared.
Because to transmute darkness, all you need is light.
This was the lesson that he learnt from the shadow.
To this day, sometimes when the sun sets, the shadow reappears behind the man.
But the man no longer runs. He is no longer scared.
He simply turns around, smiles and lovingly shines his light on it.
Probably the first thing people may think when reading this story is that the shadow represents something like depression. But actually, your shadow is any side of you that you don’t like. Like anger, jealousy, arrogance, anxiety, grief or longing.
We often feel that those emotions are there, but we don’t like them. So we push them away instead of fully embracing them.
In fact, we often reject them as part of our identity completely. If we get angry at someone we may later say, “Sorry, I wasn’t myself”, or if we’re depressed we may think, “I want to be myself again”.
This, on a certain level, is true – you are not ‘yourself’. But only because you are rejecting something that is fundamentally a part of you.
Remember, these shadows aren’t separate from you. They are a projection of you. In pushing them a way, you are actually making yourself feel worse.
We are raised by society to believe that we must be happy all the time. Being positive should be our baseline, and if it’s not, there is something wrong with us. We must ‘fix’ ourselves, and ‘fix’ our lives.
But there is nothing to fix. You are perfect just the way you are, emotions galore.
We are here on this Earth to experience. We subjectively add labels such as ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ to the emotions that we feel. But at the end of the day all emotions are just another way in which we experience being a human.
It’s just that some emotions are just harder to accept within ourselves than others.
The first step towards healing your shadow is to acknowledge that it is a part of you. Take responsibility for your shadows. This is not saying if you get angry/sad/depressed/[insert emotion] it’s your fault. I’m saying simply acknowledge that it is an emotion that is part of your experiential being.
The next step is to lovingly accept it. When you relax and fully accept the emotion that you are feeling in the present, it is actually released. The light that you shine on it will conversely make the shadow dissipate. This is because you are allowing yourself to be who you are. You let the emotion run it’s natural course, rather than pushing it deeper and deeper inside yourself.
“But I do acknowledge my tough emotions but they don’t go away!’, you may be thinking.
Perhaps ask yourself, are you just feeling the surface of the emotion? Are you like the man who knew his shadow was there but didn’t look at it? Are you wishing that you weren’t feeling the emotion that you are now? Do you want to get rid of that emotion?
If you are, consider instead saying to yourself:
“I am feeling angry/sad/etc. and I love and accept myself just the way I am”
That very emotion you’re feeling is wanting to be a part of you too.
When you finally embrace the emotions that you have fully, you will soon discover that the very thing you fear inside yourself the most is actually your best friend and greatest teacher.