We have to be able to hear the ‘bad’ news about ourselves to be able to heal. There is no way to avoid this fact – to become whole we have to go through a battle with our inner ‘tiger’ first – think of “Pi”. The fight with our inner tiger, demon or dragon, helps us to find love towards ourselves and make peace with ourselves as we truly are; accepting the full potential of our human natures, the good as well as the bad. This battle with our shadow will have served its purpose when we discover unconditional acceptance and peace within ourselves about the reality of our light and dark capabilities. Then, our shadows no longer viciously haunt us. Once we accept them as part of our nature and know how to live alongside them, our shadows leave us to choose how to live freely. Pi was thrown into the ocean of life itself where he wrestled with his inner animal, a fierce tiger. This experience helped him accept all his shadow parts. He was capable as a human being of great darkness and battled with these instincts until he accepted himself. And it was this wrestling with his darkness that helped him survive and become whole. The metaphorical or symbolical story of our lives is more real than the actual events and makes more sense in terms of our growth and development.
All our experiences are thus helpful and meaningful to teach us about all the aspects in our natures and our human capabilities and potentialities. Surviving the battle with our shadows, help us behave from a place of choice. Our behavior does not have to compensate for pain, be defensive or be driven by wounds. Once we know the difference between defensiveness, denial, battling inner tigers and free choice, we can invite our Higher-Selves into our personalities, bodies, minds and spirits. That is when everything changes for the better.
A very typical scenario in couple’s-therapy looks like this: the couple struggles terribly with each other over practical household issues. When she tells him that she feels he is unreliable, he responds with passive resistance and suppressed anger. She feels distrust towards him and feels very insecure. He feels that her coaxing makes him feel incompetent and pressurized. He feels that he can never meet her demands and expectations. She points out a history of him not living up to his promises and commitments. He points out a history of her micromanaging him.
When we go deeper into their personal histories we discover that his mother often told him how bad he was. He was angry and hurt at this but never commented on her remarks. He tried to avoid the pain of his mother’s opinion by eluding ‘badness’. He tried to get others to believe in his ‘goodness’.
She was ignored and never acknowledged as a child. She felt insignificant and unworthy as if she was never good enough. She constantly fears that he will leave her because she is not enough for him, so she puts up with his unfulfilled promises and takes the blame for what goes wrong in their circumstances in the hope that he will own up like she does.
It is clear that their external circumstances are not the true problem but the consequence of an interpersonal conflict cycle that brought out their primary wounds.
This man did not want to know that he indeed did became ‘bad’ and his wife accepted his badness because she was desperate to be loved and accepted. He got away with his irresponsible behavior because all he had to do is tell her how much he loved her and she would melt and endure him. This woman did not want to know that she was suffering an unsatisfactory partnership because she felt unworthy of love and happiness. She sold herself out to misery because she relies on her husband’s words to confirm her value and not in her own true inner sense of value, therefore she does not hold him accountable. She keeps on believing in a man that keeps on breaking his promises in the hope that her sacrificial love will change him. She also does not hold herself accountable for her own worthiness.
Because he is not excelling in his promises to himself and to his wife and children, he has in reality became a ‘bad’ man; the very quality he is trying to avoid being. His badness is letting himself down as well as all his loved ones. His badness is shown in his evasive behavior. He is not allowing his full potential to be activated. He hides his potential behind passive resistance. This anger and tendency to project problems on others sabotages not only his life but also his loved ones. Only by accepting his badness can he become good and participate fully in life.
She need to accept herself fully and claim her own value deep within herself instead of giving others the right to decide her worthiness. Instead of reaching out to people around her to confirm her worthiness she needs to own and know it as a certainty. When she gives her power away, others confirm how good or acceptable she is and she becomes dependent, vulnerable and insecure. Only by accepting her vulnerability and insecurity as her own doing, can she become worthy. Her husband is not responsible for her security or insecurity, vulnerability or stability. She feels this way by participating in this conflict cycle with him. He is using her vulnerability to stay ‘bad’ and she is using his badness to stay vulnerable.
These two individuals, like many other couples, need to wrestle their internal tigers to become whole. Our relationship are sometimes a form of battle that opens our awareness of aspects we need to heal, but the dynamics need to be perceived on a deeper level and dealt with before it can transform us as individuals and our partnerships.
What does the shadow look like that you are battling with?