At one point along my path I was involved with a lovely man who did computer graphic design, had been in recovery from alcohol & drugs for ten years and was actively involved with Alcoholics Anonymous.
After one year with me he’d fallen off the wagon into alcohol relapse, partially because we weren’t on the same page & he was never the right person for me. But I did learn some valuable lessons in his presence.
On his mantel perched one of those cheap statues of a goofy-looking ghost with the slogan he’d put on it: “Have you hugged your shadow today?”
In other words, have you accepted even those dark & squirmy aspects of yourself and your behavior that you’d prefer to pretend don’t even exist?
The idea in AA is that if you CAN’T ACCEPT and even LOVE the shadow aspects of yourself, & can’t embrace your weaknesses in every way, that your recovery is doomed. Recovery simply can’t take the perfectionism (ego-mind) that wants to project your “wrongness” onto everybody else–thus making THEM the problem–the cause of everything that ails you.
Of course we know that WE are the co-creators of everything that comes up in our lives…. and if your life is not going well, that may be really hard to accept!
Here are some of the ways I allowed myself to hug my shadow in the past several weeks– a time of real grappling & self-reckoning:
1. I was challenged to state honestly what I really want out of any relationship with a man–and what kind of man I would want to be involved with–which brought me face to face with how shallow,superficial and (yes) snobbish I can be regarding where I would choose to expend time & energy. Yes, I admit it: my ego confesses I am an education snob– though I know Steve Jobs was a college drop-out!
My Self–my Heart–knows that degrees don’t make the person, but yet superficiality and Ego are running their program here, and I have embraced that shallow aspect of me. It’s a challenge.
The Bible verse says, “Judge not, lest you be judged.” What that really means is that when you judge others, you’re judging yourself FAR MORE HARSHLY. Judgment is NOT conducive to a happy, healthy life. And yet, I hug my Inner Judge. I want to pinch her scrawny little cheek-and give her a big kiss! She knows who she is–and by God, she doesn’t care!
2. If we are co-creators of everything that happens, in order to learn, WHY did it take me so long to get the lesson of no longer letting myself be overpowered (physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally) by men?
Those who know me today might marvel at this notion, but reading those old journals has been like dredging the Mississippi River.
At age 13 my mother sent me to a child psychiatrist who helped me get the concept of “a healthy degree of self-assertiveness”–but as I look back, I see it took a LOT of self-examination, self-awareness, and then PRACTICE.
3. “I am my own movie.” A friend in a poetry-writing class in college penned this evocative line that I took to heart and used as a guiding light throughout some very tough years in my twenties.
As I witness the reels spinning along, I’m happy to say that by learning to embrace my shadow, I no longer need to create major drama in order to feel fully alive. How’s your movie running lately? Have you hugged your shadow today?