Right before my life imploded in on itself a couple years ago, I sat down for breakfast with a guy who wasn’t the closest of friends. But certainly more than an acquaintance.
As we worked our way through our omelets and black coffees, he kept talking about this concept that made me squirm a bit.
The shadow self.
I was in a stage of life where I was shoving my shadows as far out of sight as possible. And here this guy was, trying to be a friend and share some helpful stuff he was learning, but really he was just making me want to grab the check and bounce.
Avoid the reality. Choose denial over the warning signs. Hope the check engine soon light will go off the next morning.
The more I walk down this road of self-love, care and knowledge, the more I see those shadows lurking everywhere.
Pure motivation to love my wife? Not far behind that is a fearful shadow of being abandoned.
Working hard to meet a big client deadline? Tucked in close is the anxiety that the money might run out.
Genuine desire to coach our kids and their buddies? Nestled up next to it is insecurity and a longing for approval.
I could rattle off a dozen more examples, but I think you get the point.
Every true and good longing is accompanied by a shadow motivation. A mixed motive. An unspoken but damn powerful current that likes to call the shots.
And if it stays in the shadow, I used to hope that it would just magically go away. The trouble is though, that the exact opposite occurs.
The shadow takes over. Maybe not in ways that look overly harmful. At least initially.
But leave them to fester in the dark, without any acknowledgement they’re there?
Yeah, that ain’t good. Trust me.
At that breakfast table, I wished my buddy was wrong. I hoped the shadows he was talking about were just his, not mine.
But they weren’t. They were for sure mine too. And they eventually pulled the hood over my eyes and left me in the dark.
Thankfully, the light eventually shines through. On the true parts of me, the true parts of you, causing the shadow to return to its rightful place.
Not as the main character, but as the one who hides behind the light.
Because for every good motive, every good act, every true longing, a shadow part of us is hanging around. Lurking. Wanting to be the star of the show.
The good news for you is he’s not, but he’s definitely there so don’t ignore him.