Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Debbie Ford and the shadow

Painting cloth with huito in Diamante, Peru
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp

Tuesday night I went to go see one of my favorite authors, Debbie Ford. She's written several books including Dark Side of the Light Chasers, Secret of the Shadow, The Best Year of Your Life, and her latest, Why Good People Do Bad Things. She was originally supposed to come during the same time frame that Hurricane Ike hit Houston! That obviously got rescheduled and I was so happy to get to go see her - for only $15! I've always wanted to go to one of her weekend workshops, but they cost several hundred dollars, so that ain't gonna happen anytime soon.

Her talk was called "Healing the split and loving all sides of you" and she talked about many of the things she's written about in her various books. Essentially the "shadow" is the part of ourselves that we sort of disown or hide so deep we really do not believe it's in us. It's what Carl Jung called the shadow, and other psychologists call the false self. It can sometimes ruin our lives, because we so hate that part of ourselves (and sometimes project it onto others) that it drives us to become the opposite. Maybe it was a trait of our parents, or maybe it is something we just despise like greediness or meanness. Her whole work revolves around getting people to accept and even love all sides of ourselves. Because when we say the concept that we are a microcosm of the macrocosm, or all of the world lies within us, or things like that the point is that we as a single human being are capable of anything - good or bad - in the right circumstances. (I think that the Stanford prison experiment made that clear, in the negative sense).

So at the end she did an exercise where we close our eyes and she guides us through a visualization. I have a CD of her visualizations that I listen to some mornings and it was a very similar one except in this case she had us pick one trait that we do not like in others. The thing we most do not want to be like. Mine is narcissism. I do not like simple-minded, judgmental people who believe, truly, we are just furniture in their world. Their views are truth, and everyone else is wrong. There are no different opinions, everyone else is wrong. So that was my negative trait I focused on for the visualization.

In the visualization we were told to personify that trait and give it a name, and what first came to my mind was "embryo" but I couldn't picture an embryo so I pictured a baby. And as I did I realized that all babies are narcissistic, by biological nature. They don't know that the world is not their entire world. They cry to get fed. They cry to get their poopie pants changed. They do not realize yet that mom is not an extension of themselves. So in that sense, I and everyone else has within them narcissism. And I realized that I needed to love that part of me, because the reality of my life was that as a baby and child I got inconsistent love. So that inner child, that narcissistic child needs to be loved and cherished so that I do not hate that part of me. And a vision came to me during this also that in certain relationships I push to get what I want and think I know what's best for that person or for the relationship, and in a sense that is me acting narcissistic! How can I know what's best for anyone else? I can hardly know what's best for me.

So that was what I got out of it. It was actually a big shift and a big realization, and it was really wonderful. I've been happy the past few days, and feel very positive and hopeful about the future.

1 comment:

jess said...

Yeah, I've worked with kids for most of my life and it's true, we're all born complete narcissists. Compassion and empathy do not develop until later, although I've often wondered whether they are inherent or learned behaviors (I suspect some of each).