Like the wallpaper sticks to the wall
Like the seashore clings to the sea
Like you’ll never get rid of your shadow
Frank, you’ll never get rid of me
~ Sammy Davis Jr and Frank Sinatra in the song “Me and My Shadow”
That song is actually one of my all time favorite songs, and there’s something to learn from it.
A few days ago as I was about to get my clinic ready for the day I was suddenly overcome by the sadness that I’ve been experiencing on and off for a very long time. Normally, I can wave it off and get through my day, but the negativity of that moment seemed to be feel extra juicy. I’m not exactly sure where it could have come from, but it was there. I fought really hard to not indulge in the juiciness of it all, but that’s when all the darkest thoughts started to flood my mind.
It was my Shadow Self coming out to play.
There’s this numbing sensation that I get whenever that happens, and it’s not pretty. And whenever it gets this intense, I tend to spiral into an incredible bout of depression that transforms into rage, the energy of which is so extraordinary that I could barely recognize myself in the mirror.
But I had 90 minutes till my first acupuncture patient would arrive, so I had to sort out my heart and my mind, stat. There was no way I was going to allow my Shadow Self to treat patients. Absolutely refusing to indulge in anymore of this craziness, I dragged myself onto my meditation cushion and sat with it. And boy did I sit with it.
I sat and I sat and I sat with it. At first I fought with my Shadow Self in order to keep it under control through the use of force, but it felt like war, and I kept feeling worse. So I decided to simply to allow myself to fully feel what I felt. I did nothing but allow my Shadow Self to do whatever it wanted to do, and to let my emotions manifest themselves the way they wanted to. I allowed myself to think those Shadow Thoughts and growl the Shadow Growls. And that’s when I realized, that allowing my Shadow to manifest in such a controlled and contained way (ie. on my meditation cushion in the safety of solitude), I’m also giving myself compassion. I’m basically saying to that aspect of me, “Okay Shadow Me… have at it. Do your little thing. Throw your little tantrum. Be emo. Be sad. Be wrathful. Just let it all out.”
And so my Shadow Self did. Waves and waves of negative, violent, vengeful, and depressing thoughts pounded my heart and my mind for several minutes… then slowly it all faded away back into emptiness. My Shadow’s tantrum was finished.
Visually, when I first started the meditation, I saw a dark cloud manifest inside and around me, taking form of a demonic creature flying around me frenetically (yet never leaving my side), while another aspect of me became a cloud of white light taking form of a warrior-healer, standing at attention while it watches the demonic cloud fly around me in a frenzy. It seemed like the white cloud stood as a sentry, making sure the dark cloud wasn’t going to manifest past the meditation cushion. Which was a good thing, because boy, you should’ve seen what my mind was going through.
When the meditation was over, all of the images and all of the thoughts faded away. Both light and dark clouds merged back together and flew back into my heart. Emotionally, I was back to a centered space, a calmer heart, and a calmer mind. When I opened up my eyes, although I felt exhausted from all of this, I felt much better.
That very same day, I read a great article on lonerwolf.com about the Shadow Self. The writer, Mateo Sol, defines it as:
The Shadow Self is an archetype that forms part of the unconscious mind and is composed of repressed ideas, instincts, impulses, weaknesses, desires, perversions and embarrassing fears. This archetype is often described as the darker side of the psyche, representing wildness, chaos and the unknown. Jung believed that these latent dispositions are present in all of us, in many instances forming a strong source of creative energy.
“Creative energy?” I’ll say!
Think about all the most successful artists that have given us their absolute best, two of my favorites being Kurt Cobain and Chris Cornell. These were people who have fully embraced their Shadow Selves and found a way to express themselves in the most creative ways. They transformed all those feelings into levels of creativity that inspired the world.
Even with me, although the dark prose I write in my analog journal is nowhere near as good as I want them to be, the Shadow Self brings out the kind of creative energy within me that I couldn’t get from anywhere else. I found it to be a helpful tool to facilitate the Shadow’s expression without hurting anyone else physically or emotionally.
I really like Sol’s definition about the Shadow Self. He goes on to basically say that if we don’t embrace that aspect of ourselves, we’re not truly embracing the totality of our own being… meaning that we’re not embracing our true human nature.
As someone who practices and seeks The Way, I really liked the article a lot. More here: https://lonerwolf.com/shadow-self/
What I liked a lot about the article is Sol’s embracing of the whole. As he mentions, a lot of people tend to only accept the “nice” aspects of ourselves because it plays really well with the other kids in the sandbox in respect to the aspect of society that wants us to act a certain way. But what ends up happening is that starting from the moment in our youth when we begin to become aware of the expectations of our behavior in society, we start pushing our own Shadows deeper and deeper down into our heart-minds, to the point to where our Shadow Selves start kicking and screaming. It becomes an animal… the more you suppress it, the more violent and intense are its outbursts. The less you accept it, then the less you can control it, and the more you’ll indulge in it when it wants to come out and play. But your Shadow Self doesn’t need suppression. It needs acceptance. It wants so badly to be accepted as a part of you as much as you accept the “goody two shoes” side of you. Your Shadow Self needs compassion and acceptance, and your entire being wants to feel whole.
I think of it as just like in meditation, we have this “monkey mind” that we want to tame. Our minds are going to think thoughts no matter what, that’s what our minds are made for. But the more focused we are on “trying” to “tame” our minds, the more we feed that monkey mind and indulge in its playful activities. However, if we instead accept the fact that our minds are made for thinking, and all we have to do is shift our relationship with our thoughts to compassion for ourselves, acceptance, and allowing, then with more guidance from a true meditation teacher you’ll have a game-changing experience.
I’ve found that it’s the same thing in dealing with my Shadow Self. I have a very, very dark side, but I was taught to suppress it and to not show it to anyone. So whenever something doesn’t go my way, my Shadow knocks on the door. When I ignore it, it starts banging on the door. When I try to control and suppress it, it punches a hole in the door and yells out creepily, “Heeeeeeere’s Johnny!” From there begins the downward spiral of darkness. However, if I did the meditation of allowing, compassion, and acceptance in a controlled environment as I mentioned earlier… or use my Shadow Self constructively through creative endeavors such as writing, art, or music… then I’m shifting my relationship with my Shadow Self, and allowing myself to feel whole, to feel real.
I have a collection of my personal writings called “Diary of a Lost Planet.” Some of it is pretty intense and dark. When reading my entries, it may seem a bit emotionally indulgent, but I’d argue that it’s not. Those writings are merely a way for my Shadow Self to come out and have a voice. He needs a voice. He’s a part of me, and I accept him. And when I do, I feel whole, I feel complete, and I feel real. He’s the one who possesses my creative energy. He’s the one who draws, writes, and performs music on my behalf. And after each doodle, each piece of writing, or each song he completes, he goes back home pacified and more at peace.
Peace is when you allow your Shadow Self to shine as brightly as your “Light” Self. They’re both two sides of the same coin. It’s both you. Be at peace with your wholeness.
Just like what the song says in “Me and My Shadow” by Sammy Davis Jr and Frank Sinatra, “you’ll never get rid of your shadow.” So embrace it, learn from it, be one with it, and have fun with it, and you will have no creative limits in the art of life.