Shadow Emotions

Like a shadow, I am and I am not.


I thought I’d backtrack a bit since I used the term “negative emotions” in my last post. What I’m coming to understand is that emotions are not necessarily positive or negative; or black and white. Like so many other things in life, they are more neutral and gray.

Shadow emotions are the darker emotions that we experience, and when we ignore, avoid, or suppress these emotions we are disowning a part of ourselves—and filling a space inside of us with these ‘creatures’ that we have cast aside. Apparently they remain there, waiting to come out.

Embracing our shadow emotions, on the other hand, is a way that we can process our experiences without denial, leading to better self-awareness, healing, and change. I think of it the same way that I think of everything these days, since I came to believe… and that is that you have to bring difficult things out, into the light, where they can be seen and dealt with.

So, maybe this is my “cheater” way of lumping them together… the emotions that I experience now and then that I consider negative… like sadness, anger, fear, anxiety, shame, embarrassment, and jealousy.

I think jealousy is what my image depicts the most. I feel jealousy when I peruse Facebook. I enjoy my solitude (a great deal) and use it to help myself stay healthy, learn, and grow… but when I take a timeout and check social media to see what my friends or even acquaintances are up to… the first thing that I feel is a pang of jealousy. What they are up to always looks like so much more fun that what I’m up to myself!

But, when I embrace these emotions, and think about it rationally, I realize that my jealousy has to do with social comparison, which is not healthy. Comparing ourselves and our lives to others is never a good thing. And photographs never tell the whole story. I also believe that my feelings (or pangs as I prefer to call them) are trying to tell me something—that perhaps it’s time to get out a bit more and socialize. I’ll work on that.

In the meantime, all is well. I am here, with my shadow, and we are content.

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.

Carl Jung

Magical Makeovers

—A Page in My Journal

My best friend went to cosmetology school when she was eighteen, and I was the brave subject of her very first “perm.” It looked pretty BAD, but eventually my hair grew out. Over the years that followed (or decades I should say), she became the extremely talented hairdresser that she is today.

For many of those years, although she did exactly what I had asked her to do, I’d come away from her shop feeling slightly disappointed. Sometimes I wondered if it was just MY hair that never seemed to come out “just like” the pictures that I would bring her.

I don’t know why it took her so many years to say it; but finally one day when we were discussing my dissatisfaction, she said that sometimes people come in believing that their new color or cut will make them look just like “the woman” in the photographs that they bring in, but that just isn’t the case. And it certainly isn’t a reality.

All I can say is that I love my friend dearly—and her honesty—and she really got through to me that day. Getting my hair cut to look like Jennifer Aniston’s latest style will NOT make me look like “Jennifer Aniston.” Such a simple fact, but it took my friend’s directness to make me grasp that truth.

Today I read a post by another blogger, and I had an “Aha!” moment. I realized that sometimes I’m still looking for those “magical” makeovers—just not with my hair. I get trapped into thinking that if I do the right things, I’ll suddenly be “someone else.”

I’ll no longer procrastinate or stay in my sweats until late in the afternoon. I’ll be able to function without coffee. I’ll be a designer, a writer… or perhaps a cage fighter. (Hey, stranger things have happened!)

The point is that I’m beginning to see why I struggle with follow-through. I envision that “someone else” that I expect to resemble, and… well… I’m still me. I’m not Jillian Michaels in the gym, or [insert name here] anywhere else. And when I realize that I haven’t “magically” transformed into someone else, I feel that same disappointment I felt when I left my friend’s hair salon. Then I change directions—or I give up.

As I thought about these things, a phrase from recovery came to mind: “Just for today.

So I embraced “who I am,” instead of “who I want to be,” and I did the things that I love. I didn’t try to function without my coffee, and I stayed in my sweats way too long. And I was a writer… just for today.

Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!

Dr. Seuss

Sometimes I think Dr. Seuss had it all figured out.