Doing our own interior work around finding and facing our Shadow Self can be intimidating. Often we are afraid of what we might see but most of us are afraid or unsure of even where to start. The contemporary theologian and Franciscan Friar Richard Rohr offers some helpful tips to helping see our shadow. He says, “One of the easiest ways to discover your shadow is to observe your negative reactions to others and what pushes your buttons. Most often, what annoys you in someone else is a trait in yourself that you haven’t acknowledged”.
Here’s a practice he offers, taken from the work of Byron Katie, that you can use to explore your shadow.
Recall a stressful situation that is still fresh in your mind. Return to that time and place in your imagination.
Name your frustration, fear, or disappointment, and the object of this feeling in a simple statement. For example: I am angry with _________ because they never listen to me.
Now ask yourself four questions with an open heart, waiting for your truest answer to arise:
- Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react, and what happens when you believe this thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
Turn the thought around in three ways: putting yourself in the other’s place, putting the other person in your place, and stating the exact opposite.
- I am angry with myself because I never listen to me.
- __________ is angry with me because I never listen to them.
- __________ does listen to me.
Find ways in which each “turnaround” is true in this situation.
This practice brings your nebulous shadow into focus, giving you something tangible to embrace. Do this necessary work and you’ll discover more and more freedom and greater capacity to love self and others.
We’re doing this work during Lent not to see how “bad” we are or all the places where we have messed up in life, but to recognize them as part of who we are and allow God to work with and trough them.