The Shadow Knows

13 10 2011

Remember that lame (but still kinda cool) superhero movie that Alec Baldwin was in way back in the 90’s? Come on sure you do, he put on fake nose, red scarf, and a hat in which he stalked evil doers? For the 95% of you that didn’t see it, the movie was “The Shadow” and while it was really cornball, I, of course, loved it because I am a total geek.

Now do you remember?

Anyway, The Shadow was about a rich playboy named Lamont Cranston (really?) who, at one time, was a naughty man. He is forced to look at his naughty bits, repents, and gains the ability to blend into shadows and, more importantly, to know the hidden evil thoughts of others.

I am bringing this particularly painful piece of the 90’s back into your thoughts, (“He throws a jab at Baldwin”) because I love the concept of a guy who by acknowledging his own inner negativity gains the ability to see it in others. This is a really cool idea; and I think Carl Jung would have thought so as well. To Carl’s thinking, the shadow, unlike Alec Baldwin, isn’t evil, (he bloodies the nose!)  Rather, it is the repository of all of the things we don’t accept about ourselves. The things we don’t choose to be part of our public personality.

"Lemon, get me a barber."

For instance, as a kid, when I was told by an older kid that it was rude to ask for a snack at a friend’s house. That part of me that thought it was reasonable to ask Mrs. Madison for a cheese stick when I got peckish from a long afternoon of shooting down Cylon Raiders on my bike, was hucked into the box labeled “not ok for use in public” right next to eating Cap’n Crunch in my Aquaman underoos.

Under normal circumstances, it is a great survival mechanism. It saves us all from the loneliness of social outcast-edness (?) But problems arise when we either by our own shame or someone else’s put a part of ourselves away that doesn’t need to be. Like asking for a snack when you need one, which is not only entirely acceptable, but a healthy and mature show of assertiveness. (Take that, Gary Emblinson!)

Some of us find it necessary; to look at those boxed shadowy items and reassess whether they need to be in there or not. However, as anyone that has done it can attest, the process of removing said items can be painful, because it took a lot of shame to get those buggers in the box, and taking them out means you get to feel all of that shame and learn to let it go.

What I meant to ask for.

Sometimes you don’t get the choice because the little shadows are insistent, when they are ready to come out, they come out whenever and wherever they want.  “Hello Mrs. Madison, I’m hungry, can I have a breast?  I mean Banana!”

The point to all of this is that, like The Shadow, when we go in there and look at what’s in the box, we get to know ourselves better. And the familiarity with those shadows helps us to recognize them in others. We get to feel compassion for those shadows in our fellow humans.  And that allows us to connect on a deeper level. We also get little hidden gifts from them. For example, I heard a story of a grown woman who rediscovered a passion and talent for art after like thirty years. She had pushed it into the shadow after a teacher reamed her for coloring the sky orange in class. She didn’t remember the story, until she looked in the box. She just knew that she didn’t like to draw.

Me, when the shadows started “whack a molling” out of the box and screwing with my life, I got help.

Unfortunately, they don't fit anymore.

A fantastic therapist can make the process a lot smoother and somewhat less publicly embarrassing. That is not to say that it has been easy or devoid of public embarrassment.

I thankfully am still working on it and occasionally, I get some real gold out of that box. I continue however, you will be glad to here, to leave the ill-fitting Aquaman underoos out of public view.


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