How to Bond With Your Shadow
by Phil Stutz
You may be lonely, but you are never alone. Inside each of us is a second self, another being. The great Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung named this hidden part of us the Shadow. The Shadow is an archetype—a universal motif or image built in to all human beings. You can no more get rid of this inner Shadow than you can avoid casting an outer shadow when you’re in sunlight.
For most of us, that creates a problem, because the Shadow appears as the sum total of the weakest, most flawed, inferior or even disgusting parts of yourself. It’s everything you don’t wish to be, but fear that you are. It doesn’t matter how rich, beautiful, or famous you are; as long as you fear that people can see your Shadow you will be insecure.
We deal with this insecurity—in public speaking, at social events, in confrontations with authority, etc.—in exactly the wrong way. We see our Shadow as a source of humiliation that we try to hide, usually through some kind of perfectionism. The counter-intuitive truth is that when we reveal the Shadow, when we give in to its imperfections, its nature changes. It becomes a source of creativity and confidence.
PHIL DISCOVERS HIS SHADOW
I discovered this by accident years ago when I gave my first seminar on the material that eventually became The Tools. I was irrationally scared that I would forget what I wanted to say and I’d draw a blank. So I wrote out my address word for word on little cards—I was going to give a perfect performance. Instead, the cards made me more nervous. The first half of the seminar was a self-conscious disaster.
At the break I was feeling too humiliated to go on, but then a small miracle happened. In my mind’s eye I saw a scrawny, 14-year-old version of myself. But he wasn’t terrified the way I was—quite the opposite. He was not only confident; he was determined to help me. Probably because I was too weak to resist, I felt myself pick up his energy and advance to the microphone. I put aside my little cards. For the next two hours I spoke without fear—and without notes. It ended in a standing ovation.
I knew I had just seen—and felt—my Shadow. I also knew Jung believed you could integrate the Shadow into your personality by using dreams and active imagination. As brilliant as this was it didn’t come close to capturing the experience I had just had. I had felt a force that allowed me to express myself with a confidence I’d never felt before. Clearly, there was much more to the Shadow than I’d dreamed.
A TOOL IS BORN
The key to my transformation occurred when the Shadow approached me at the break; at that moment a bond was forged between us—no longer two separate beings, we became a unit, speaking with one voice. I had accepted my Shadow with all its imperfections. The reward was an endless sense of flow—the feeling that what I was saying came from a larger, deeper dimension that had its own truth.
There was still a problem. The bond I’d felt at the seminar seemed a matter of chance. The next step was to figure out how to make it a matter of choice; to gain the ability to create that bond—and the confidence that went with it—at those moments when it was most needed. That required a Tool.
The name of the tool is Inner Authority. When I bonded with the Shadow at the seminar I immediately gained a sense of authority based not on the approval of the audience, but on my acceptance of myself, hence “Inner Authority.” It’s an authority no one can take from you. Others feel it instantly and are attracted to it (usually because they don’t have it themselves).
EXTERNAL VALIDATION WON’T SOOTHE THE SHADOW
Jennifer was a divorced model, raised in a rural area she freely described as the “trailer-park capitol of the world.” Although she was intelligent and beautiful, she was convinced the world saw her as “trash.” She was most insecure around her 10-year-old son’s soccer team. More accurately, she was insecure around the other soccer moms.
She went to all the games because her son was really good at soccer and she thought it would be his entrée into upscale Los Angeles. He was already making the “right” friends. In a few years his skills would give him a leg-up in the insane paper chase for an Ivy League education and his eventual membership in the “in-group” that ruled society. Jennifer was determined he’d never have to feel the humiliation she’d felt as a “hillbilly” outcast.
She assumed the other soccer moms were charter members of the in-group she was grooming her son to enter: Range Rover-driving goddesses who might accept him but never her. This made them so intimidating she could barely speak in their presence. She’d freeze up, unable to form a simple sentence.
Finally, on a long bus ride to a game, Jennifer spoke to the other moms. To her shock they told her they didn’t see her as an outcast. Far from it, they saw her as a drop-dead gorgeous, mysterious, and aloof woman who would stop their husbands in their tracks. That revelation made her feel better for a few days, but knowing it was irrational, she quickly slipped back into withdrawal and insecurity.
I explained to her that insecurity comes from the Shadow and that no matter how much positive feedback she got from the world, her Shadow would never go away. The only solution was to accept its presence and bond with it. I explained that the hidden powers this act releases become a source of confidence that has nothing to do with what others think of you.
HOW TO BOND WITH YOUR SHADOW
You can’t bond with your Shadow unless you can see it. Visualize yourself in front of any number of hypercritical people—it may even be a single person. They make you insecure and self-conscious. Now, look at yourself from their point of view—see yourself as they see you. What do you look like? This version of yourself is your Shadow.
It may look very different from the person you think of as you. A handsome ladies’ man might have a Shadow that looks like a troll. A gregarious female executive could have a shadow that’s a lonely little girl. Jennifer’s Shadow was a pudgy, awkward 13-year-old with acne.
Once you’ve identified your Shadow, concentrate on its presence and imagine you’re forming an unbreakable bond with it. Tell the Shadow, “You’re with me at all times,” while feeling a physical connection to it. Creating a bond with your Shadow is the first step of a tool that allows you and your Shadow speak with one voice—a voice of authority.
It’s a type of authority you’re not used to because you generate it from inside yourself, which is why we call the tool Inner Authority. The tool allows you to trigger this force at will, particularly in your most insecure moments. Jennifer began to use it every time she was around the soccer moms. Not only did she stop freezing in terror in their presence, she began to see them as human beings with their own insecurities—and their own Shadows.