Life TherapyTM
Psychotherapy & Coaching + Mindfulness & Meditation

How Can We Learn From Our Own Shadows?

This is a contribution by Guest Blogger, Yiska Obadia.
She was driving me crazy! I mean I just could not tolerate her energy. It was frustrating because I’ve always thought of myself as a loving, compassionate, inclusive person, yet I could not for the life of me find room for this woman. I found her to be clingy, needy, lost and excessively attached to being included & simply could not stand being near her. Inside I was screaming get away from me! Outside I was pushing her away & dismissive. I was resisting her with all of my being until it finally hit me. I realized there was not going to be any getting away, because there is no escaping our shadow.
Needy is indeed what lurks in the shadows of my being. It’s the part I’ve always made sure not to be. I always valued my self-sufficiency and independence. I never sought help unless I paid for it. I fed my unacknowledged needs with food. In school I always kept myself on the in crowd. I made sure I was popular. I figured out how to be liked. People would want to be in with me! I would never have to feel my desire to fit in, my need to belong or feel included because I would make sure I was the one they were trying to fit in with.
Truth is that I am all the things I couldn’t stand in her. I’ve come to get to know this part of my whole self even more so in my recent marriage. I have witnessed my desperation to be included. My need to be needed has caused me to cling where I feel utterly lost until you let me know that and how I belong. I feel completely dependent on external validation.
I’ve run from this shadow long enough.  It has now come into the light of my awareness and though it hasn’t always felt good, here’s why it’s worth the sudden realization that we are that which we can’t stand or even despise. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, I am pointing to myself.  When I saw her neediness was my own, I suddenly found room for her. Like a mother to a child, I said to myself, it’s okay. Instantly what had been driving me crazy became a vehicle for love, compassion, and attention. Where I pushed her away I welcomed her in. I stopped fighting her neediness and embraced it as I am doing for myself. I can’t even begin to describe the look of joy on her face when I invited her to participate where I had previously been leaving her out. The wildest part is that as soon as I did that she ceased to cling. She just wanted to feel she had a place, that she was needed and belonged as all humans do, including me. I could grant her that because I became willing to accept that in myself.
It’s funny how it’s exactly what we keep in the shadows that has the power to light up the world.

  • Consider someone or some attribute you can’t stand in the world. Maybe it’s someone’s bitchiness, their softness, their anger or judgment or neediness, etc.
  • Dare to look & see how that trait exists in you and notice how you’ve masked it.
  • Identify something positive or useful about that quality.
  • Share what you see in yourself with a friend.
  • See how you can embrace that quality in yourself like a loving parent. You’ll know you have when that person or attribute no longer ruffles you. You may even find yourself loving and appreciating it!

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