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No. 52 – Embracing Our Shadow

December 14, 2011

Attempts to confront our shadow will be met with great resistance by our ego. Our ego defines who we are as a composite of favorable traits. All of the other traits, both positive and negative, which we do not accept for ourselves are pushed behind us by our ego and become our shadow. We see the negative traits of our shadow in other people as the source of what’s wrong in the world. When we try to make contact with our shadow, our ego quickly tells us that is bad and to be avoided at all costs.

Our shadow is sending signals to us when we are in situations in which we feel very vulnerable, inept, unprepared, foolish, or embarrassed. We are very likely to feel shame as we become aware of our shadow qualities, which are so obvious in others. Such qualities may include egotism, sloth, sloppiness, scheming, plotting, carelessness, cowardice, love of money, etc. Our shadow is represented by all of the little things, for which we say, “No one will notice; besides, others are doing it too.”

Finding Our Shadow

There are several ways to find our shadow. We can solicit feedback from others; however, their comments may sound critical and even hurtful. We can examine our projections. Are the negative qualities that we see in others true, or the result of our shadow projections? We can examine our slips. For example, can we see our blunders, when confronting feelings, as the work of our shadow? We can see our shadow in our humor. What do we see as funny? Are we amused by the violent ending of each attempt by the coyote to catch the roadrunner? What about the sports we like? Do we like to see our fury and aggression acted out by others? We can see our shadow in our dreams, daydreams, or fantasies. Our impulsive urges and visions may be our shadow showing.

Our Shadow has the Answers

For over 60 years radiation safety professionals have attempted to communicate an understanding of radiation risks to the public. Most health physicists agree we have not been very successful. And yet, we have tried every approach that seems reasonable to us. In reality, we have only tried the approaches our ego will let us try. The answers to more effective communication lie beyond our egos in the world of our shadows. To communicate with those who are “not us” in the world (who represent our shadow) will require that we begin seeing their traits as different, not necessarily wrong.

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