We’ve discovered that when we don’t recognize or accept certain parts of our own nature – positive and negative – we’ll project these qualities onto others. Through the dynamic of projection, we initiate a shadow dance with other people until we integrate what we deny back into our self-concept.
Projection is an important component of shadow dancing because it sets up the dance itself. There’s a Buddhist teaching that those who anger, irritate, frustrate, and even consciously attempt to sabotage us are our greatest teachers. Buddhists call them noble friends because they mirror the very things we most need to learn about ourselves. Always remember that in shadow dancing, the other person is you!
In other words, we’re attracting into our lives; individuals who hook us into a shadow dance to see ourselves more clearly. If, for example, you’re incapable of owning your need to be assertive and self-directed, the chances are that you’ll draw someone to you who bosses you around like a tyrant – or in extreme cases, who gets aggressive or abusive to motivate your inner warrior to surface. Or if you can’t acknowledge that you’re a narcissist and like to be the focus of attention, you’ll attract friends who always want you to make them the center of your universe without giving much regard to your needs.
Dancing With Your Dark Side
Once we understand shadow dancing, it’s difficult to continue doing it because we can no longer claim the privilege of being a victim and blame someone else. When we catch ourselves caught in such a dynamic, we’re ready for – and required to accept – a new level of self-mastery and responsibility.
As a shadow dancer, you must assume that your dancing partner teaches you something very important about yourself. This takes fearlessness, honesty, and accountability seldom found in our culture of blame, litigation, and hypocrisy. And I’ve watched many people focus far too much on the teacher in front of them, forgetting to concentrate on the lesson. They opt to resent and blame the one who’s instructing them instead of learning what they need to – sometimes for the span of their entire adult lives.
When we focus on blaming our noble friends, we miss the opportunities they bring to acknowledge the lesson and reabsorb the projection and help us transform our Self Fate into Destiny. This doesn’t mean that our dance partners don’t possess some measure of the quality we’re projecting onto them. But shadow dancing is really about self-discovery – leading us to the parts of ourselves that we don’t know very well.
Loving Yourself Despite Your Negative Side
However, I want to be clear on something here that’s very critical in dealing with the negative aspects of yourself that you discover through this process. As you begin to recognize and identify unpleasant things, it doesn’t mean that you should stop loving yourself. Also, it doesn’t mean that you should act them out. Venturing into your shadow and perhaps learning that you can be intolerant, judgmental, rude, and impatient or identifying that you’re capable of violent thoughts doesn’t mean that you should externalize what you find. (Did I describe a day in city traffic, or what?).
Rather, the potentially harmful qualities that we find down in the shadow must be held in our awareness with compassion. And we’ll uncover more than just the “bad stuff” through shadow dancing. We’ll also discover what we need to express to feel whole as individuals, which we may project onto others to act out for us, facing ourselves to dependency.
Befriending the Shadow Within
“Within everyone, there is light and shadow, good and evil, love and hate.
To be truthful, you must embrace your total being.
A person who exhibits both positive and negative qualities,
strengths and weaknesses is not flawed, but complete.”
– Deepak Chopra –
Befriending the shadow is a terrifying notion, for we know that what we discover deep down in our darkness may conflict with our carefully constructed self-concept. As a consequence, the ego resists this kind of integrative analysis. It’s so much easier to keep projecting our darkness onto others. Venturing into this territory will require a new level of self-responsibility that most of us resist.
So why do it? Not only does knowing our own darkness allow us to see another’s with compassion, but it also opens us to all of the creative aspects of the soul that are hidden within this part of ourselves. Therefore, to befriend the shadow is to befriend the soul.
Paradoxically, when we manage our own darkness and own it, the purest light can shine through us. This means that not laying claim to our capacity for negative action and thinking that we’re only goodwill inevitably own us, shoving our soul out of our life.
Transforming Darkness Into Light
It’s said that those closest to the light cast the biggest shadows, meaning that as we move toward the sacred – our soul – we gain power. And if we only see ourselves as good, we’ve just unconsciously animated a polarity within us and empowered our own “evil” – our shadows – as well.
The more we move toward our soul and power, the greater responsibility it becomes to manage our own shadows – especially if we want to transform darkness into light and Fate into Destiny.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Hay House, Inc. www.hayhouse.com. ©2008.