If you are in a human body and you are not the Dalai Lama, it is highly likely that you have experienced an intensely negative reaction to someone at some point in your life.
In some cases, the feeling is so strong that you might feel guilty for having it. It’s if there is an evil twin inside of you, trying to break through your chest and wrap its hands around this other person’s neck and shake them up a bit. Or worse. I am familiar with this phenomenon, especially during times when I am in a growth spurt and facing my shadow is an essential part of that process. There is no escaping it.
We all have shadow energy. No exception. Our shadow consists of unnamed and disowned parts of us that were deemed unacceptable by society. It is not OK to be lazy, greedy, jealous, competitive or even to have a high sex drive. Yet, as we are all pieces of the mosaic of life, these traits, feelings, and tendencies exist inside us, hiding in the dark corners of our psyche.
When we have such a strong negative emotional reaction to someone it is an amazing opportunity for our personal growth. That just means that a window into our shadow box has been opened and it is up to us what we do with this information. Now, we have an opportunity to accept and love a part of us that we were taught to reject.
I certainly have had more than a handful of experiences where I felt guilty for the negative feelings I had about the other person that plagued me.
At times, I was irritated by them so much that it was hard to hide my feelings. Prickly words would come out of my mouth unconsciously or I’d find myself engaging in passive-aggressive behaviors in order to get back at this person and to relieve my psychic tension, to no avail. The solution didn’t lie in changing them, it was about developing the courage to look at a shadow side of me and freeing up the energy for it to express itself authentically by accepting it.
Eventually, originating from Byron Katie’s “The Work”, I came up with an exercise that helps me work through the feelings that come up and set the stage for me to take back the projection from that person. I do this for two reasons:
- I want to get to know, accept and love all of me ( a lifelong process).
- I know the power of the Shadow and its ability to destroy relationships and lives when it gets ignored.
Here it goes:
1) Come up with one short sentence that can express your grief’judgment about this person
Example: “He is selfish”.
2) Turn the sentence around and say each of these statements to yourself (out loud is even better):
- “I am selfish”
- “I used to be selfish”
- “I wish I was selfish”
- “I could be selfish”.
- “I want to be selfish”
Sit with each statement until you are able to feel the truth of them in your body/mind consciousness.
3) The third step is for opening the heart and flexing the compassion muscle
This is also when we arrive at new truths and decisions for ourselves and access the compassion behind our irritation.
Behind every behavior is one intention: to feel good. This is universal and it includes animals. Applying this question to the selfish friend situation, your new interpretation and inner dialogue could look like this:
He believes that, unless he puts himself first, his needs do not get met. He wants to make sure that he is taken care of. I don’t know him well enough to understand where his behavior comes from. People do what they do in order to feel good, loved, effective and enough. Maybe by taking care of himself, he feels like he is relieving people from the responsibility of making him happy. Maybe there is wisdom for me to learn here. Maybe what I consider selfish is his normal. I am willing to see a deeper truth”.
4) What do I need to be more of or less of?
The truth is, even if this person is really too selfish for your taste, your intense reaction is not about their selfishness. In my experience, we react that way because we are doing the same thing and can’t accept it or we need to do more of it but hold ourselves back due to our learned beliefs. It is essentially a reflection of our ever-present desire for wholeness. A part of us, that we have not accepted into the “all of me” circle yet, is yearning to be released into our conscious awareness and accepting arms.
5) Turn it into a self-love inquiry
Making a genuine effort to get to know ourselves is one of the foundations of self-love. Since this experience with this “irritating person” has caught our attention, we can use it to take a loving action towards self-love. That is why the last step is about taking inner exploration an inch further to get to truths that can free up more life energy for us. We do this by asking ourselves a few additional questions (based on the “selfish friend” example):
“In which ways could I be more selfish?”
“How is my lack of making myself a priority affecting my happiness?”
“How have I been selfish in the past that I haven’t forgiven myself for?”
6) Make a promise to yourself that you can keep
If your inner research leads you to the truth that you have been neglecting yourself and actually need to be more selfish, then choose one area in your life where you find it fairly easy to increase self-love. Pick an area that’s already working and plan an upgrade. This will help you build energy to tackle an area that contains weaker energy (a.k. a. Resistance).
If you don’t have the answers yet, don’t fret. Just being willing to ask these questions to yourself will signal your subconscious to give out information that you need when you’re ready. This keeps the door cracked open.
I admit that it is an uncomfortable exercise to do in the beginning yet, incredibly liberating. If you make it a genuine intention to allow this exercise lead you to the truth that’s already inside, you will fear less judgment from others, start carrying yourself with more confidence and live a life more based on self-love.
As always, do your best. Don’t expect perfection and celebrate the success you have as you keep walking this glorious path.