The Road to Integration: Self-Acceptance and Acknowledging your Shadow Self

The idea is to be integrated mind, body and soul.

The idea is to be integrated mind, body and soul.

Greetings, All!

I have been gone for a little over one month, and in the meantime I have been making some significant observations of things in my world and trying to make sense of it all. One of the things I have been introduced to – my older sister schooled me on this one – is the idea of my shadow self. My shadow self, as I understand it, consists of my darker self, the part of me I’m not particularly proud and fond of, that part of me that I perceive as repulsive to the world, or (with pinkies up and lips twisted) behavior unbecoming of a civilized human being. Hmph. My shadow self consists of repressed emotions that I choose to hide from myself and others because they’re uncomfortable. And when they do show up, I subconsciously project them onto others and then criticize these “others” because it’s easier for the ego to criticize others than to look critically at itself…

How it Went Down

 This entire year has largely been devoted to self-improvement and personal development, and I don’t recall requesting this journey on a conscious level, so many of the things that I’m experiencing have largely been experienced “unbeknownst” to me, if you will. Recently I’ve needed things to be done quickly, or so I believe, because I’m racing against a relentless clock in my mind, and don’t have a lot of time to play around; things have to get done and get done NOW! As a result of this impatience and this anxious approach to taking care of business in my life, I have been running across people who have been either moving slower than a turtle on tranquilizers, or making small, careless errors that have subsequently sent my anxiety levels to new heights.

Racing against this presumed clock, I have entertained a good deal of anger as I’ve pondered and harped on how careless some people can be, how some people are so inattentive, blah blah blah. I’ve been making some pretty nasty judgments about other people based on my needs at this time, and I’ve lost my patience at least once with someone as a result of my impatience with her perceived negligence and carelessness. It’s been a mess…

Words of Wisdom

My older sister, with whom I’ve engaged in a myriad of profound conversations that have activated my chakra centers, stimulated my mind and just made and continue to make me a better human being overall (for this I am eternally grateful to Mamapalo), introduced me to this idea of my shadow self one day when I called her and needed to vent about how awful my thoughts and behavior had been over the course of several days. I told her that I feel horrible when thinking bad thoughts about other people when I’m upset, and that I also think about my karma and doing the right thing when I really want to cuss someone out, which, in turn, makes me feel even worse.

My sister explained that I cannot be where I am not, or in other words, I can’t be “super-Zen-like” if I’m not feeling super-Zen, and I can’t just jump to a super-Zen or peaceful state without doing some dirty work within myself. She then mentioned my shadow self, and stated that in order for me to become an integrated or whole person, not a “perfect” person per this world’s standards, but an integrated person, then I will have to acknowledge and accept my shadow self, without judgment, guilt or shame.

For some reason, that was the most profound thing I’ve heard in a while.

Why it Matters

 For me, I experienced a lot of guilt after I realized that I was thinking some really awful things about other people who were making various mistakes, mistakes that people make every single day because people are humans who make mistakes – period. When guilt shows up in my life I know it’s time to take a look at myself because guilt is an insidious emotion that is highly destructive in nature, and I know I have to eliminate guilt within me before it festers and metastasizes in other areas of my life. When I started to think of what I was thinking and feeling in “light” of my shadow self, I considered that 1) I was judging my anger and viewing it as a “bad” thing, and 2) These careless mistakes that others were making during crunch time were irritating me because I haven’t forgiven myself for the careless mistakes that I’ve made, which have essentially created this “crunch time” of which I speak in the first place. Again, it’s a mess…

Forgiving and Accepting the Self

 One thing I know about myself is that historically I’ve had a “repressive coping style,” and have only recently begun the work of bringing uncomfortable emotions and experiences from my past to a more conscious awareness. As I’ve examined various aspects of my life I realize that the one constant is that I have largely been angry. I’ve been angry about so many things in my life and have masked the emotion of anger with other things for various reasons. Sometimes I think that it’s not OK to express anger because it’s immature, irresponsible and “not nice.” Lord knows I want to just “be nice” to other people and have always had this desire, even to a nauseating “people-pleasing” degree. Well, the problem with this approach to handling my anger by repressing it is that I don’t allow myself to be authentic, I don’t allow myself to communicate how I feel, I don’t stand up for myself through self-expression, which de-energizes me and throws me out of whack.

To live a more integrated life, as I understand it in this moment, is to acknowledge my anger when it arises, and to recognize anger as a natural, human emotion that is nothing to be ashamed of. Anger is necessary as it is a powerful force when you need to get things done. To use a Malcolm X paraphrase obtained from an article from the American Psychological Association, “there’s a time and a place for anger, where nothing else will do.” Infants and toddlers use anger to express their needs because they are unable to fully communicate complex emotions. Activist groups have to get angry before the appropriate government entities will acknowledge them and consider their cause or else they may never be heard, and necessary change may never take place. The idea is to entertain constructive anger, which requires us to calm down and create rational solutions to the things that have angered us. If we continue to ignore our anger and repress it, then a time is sure to come when we become angered to the point of no return, and our anger becomes destructive because we’ve harbored resentments for previously perceived occurrences of victimization and we lash out at others because we decide that we’re not going to be victims anymore. This isn’t the way to go…

Then there’s the whole “other people are moving too slowly for me” thing, where I had to realize that I’ve been moving very slowly with things in my life, and that these people have shown up to show me that it’s time for me to forgive myself for my previous mistakes so that I can move forward and start making better, conscious decisions. These individuals who engaged in careless, inattentive behavior were divinely placed in my life at this time to help me become more attentive, more discriminating, and more respectful of the time that I am given to do certain things. While I’m upset with them, some may argue that I actually sent for them to teach me how to do better. While I wanted to cuss them out (and actually told one of them off) I should actually be thanking them. While I view this behavior disapprovingly within myself, I could take this time to acknowledge this as an aspect of my shadow self and invite the process of become more attentive and careful in my work to enter into my life.

And it is so.

Moving Forward

 I believe that one of the things I came here to do in this life is to fully accept myself, and to encourage and show others how to do the same. Self-acceptance has been a huge theme in my life, and in this time in history I am at the point where I am willing to do the work associated with full self-acceptance, which includes acknowledging my light and dark aspects. It’s not easy work; our society doesn’t necessarily encourage integration of our “beautiful ugly,” and it takes courage to do this kind of stuff. The ego isn’t exactly ready or excited about doing this work, either, so I imagine that it’ll take a lot of diligence and willingness to be vulnerable, as well as willingness to experience profound transformation in order for full self-acceptance to occur.

Let’s Do Better.

K. Nola Mokeyane

References

DeAngelis, Tori (2003). When Anger’s a Plus. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar03/whenanger.aspx

Expressive Art Workshops (n.d.). Integrating The Shadow. Retrieved from http://www.expressiveartworkshops.com/creativity-and-healing-articles/integrating-the-shadow/

Small, Jacqueline (n.d.). The Shadow. Retrieved from http://www.eupsychia.com/perspectives/defs/shadow.html.

Tull, Matthew (2011). Constructive Anger. Retrieved from http://ptsd.about.com/od/glossary/g/Constructive-Anger.htm

Wikipedia (n.d.). Shadow (Psychology). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_(psychology)

 

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