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No. 51 – When Our Shadow is in Control

December 7, 2011

Our shadow represents all of the qualities that we reject as unacceptable to ourselves individually or collectively as safety professionals. We are uncomfortable with those who reflect the qualities of our shadow. We have particular difficulties with antinuclear activists who oppose our views and question our integrity, our ethics, and our concerns for worker and public exposures to radiation. When antinuclear activists challenge us with questions or accusations, we are confronted by our shadow. Suddenly we are facing all of the negative qualities that we have avoided and repressed our whole lifetimes.

We become very sensitive to real or implied criticism and quickly become defensive, as we perceive ourselves under attack. Our shadow and our sore spot are connected. We see the other person, who portrays our shadow qualities, as wrong. Out of our need to “be right,” “be strong,” “be good,” “be noble,” “be normal,” or “be in control” our conscious side (ego) is reinforced and brought to bear on unsettling confrontations with the shadow. When we become aware of these shadow qualities we deny that they are part of us as we project them onto others. Such projections may even give us a sense of security and power. After all, the world is wrong.

When we develop a pattern of projecting negative qualities onto others, we are actually giving more control to our shadow. This can be costly to us and to others as we give our shadow control of how we treat one another and how we view the world. Seeing others in negative ways gives them control over us. By refusing to see these negative qualities as our own shadow, we may become isolated as we relate to an illusory world of our own projection. The more we attempt to resist facing our shadow by exerting willpower, the more power we give our shadow. The more we resist seeing the negative qualities in others as our shadow, the less opportunity we have to relate to or communicate with the other person.

Real progress in communication, with those who oppose our views, cannot occur until we confront our shadow individually and as safety professionals. We need to be shocked at seeing ourselves as we really are, instead of who we believe we are. Then we are ready to take the first steps towards dealing with reality. The projected world shows us our own faces all the time. Our shadow cannot be gotten rid of. Awareness and acceptance are required.

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