Like most children, I was always afraid of the dark. I always felt vulnerable and lonely. I always felt that bad things happened in darkness because you can’t fully see. I always “saw” monsters in my closet. I always felt them hiding under my bed. I used to line up all of my stuffed animals, my “lovies” along the wall where my bed rested. And another line of lovies stood guard under the bed. It made me feel safe and protected.
During the daylight I got scared, too. Afraid of things happening to me or my parents, afraid of not being loved, afraid of disappointing people I loved, afraid of failure. Afraid that I didn’t have enough. Afraid that I was lacking in what I needed to survive. Afraid I would be abandoned. Afraid that I was unlovable and flawed. Afraid that I didn’t belong. Afraid. Always afraid.
It’s not easy to discover aspects of myself that I don’t really like very much. Parts that have been tucked away in neat little Boxes tied tightly with barbed wire and pushed into the deepest darkest corners of the walls of my inner cave. When hidden there I don’t have to see them. I can pretend they don’t exist.
And I can mold a mask out of the very desirable parts that I want the world to see, and put on that mask every day.
And we all do this. You do, too. It’s just what we believe we need to do in order to be loved, accepted, to feel good enough, to please others, to feel Worthy of our existence and our place in this world. To not feel afraid.
And then we meet someone. Or we have a series of interactions and relationships in the world and suddenly the mask starts to crack.
Relationships are our greatest teachers in that others hold up a mirror for us and show us the places where we meet our edge—the point at which the mask is no longer effective. It’s the point where someone triggers in us something that clues us in that there is more to us. That perhaps we have to call “bullshit” on ourselves because something is off. Our actions aren’t in alignment with the persona of the mask. Perhaps there is something deeper.
Doing shadow work—crawling into the inner cave, shining the light, and excavating those hidden parts, even when it means that your fingers will bleed from ripping open the barbed wire-covered boxes—that’s what must be done. That’s the deep soul work that must be done to reveal our truth. To allow all parts to become integrated as a whole. To allow us to experience our true essence of love.
You can’t just read a quote about love and miraculously become love. You can’t simply hire a “mindset coach” or read the latest and greatest guru’s book or podcast on optimism and positivity and truly make lasting changes in your life. You can’t just will away the parts that you don’t like.
Nope. Doesn’t work that way. Ya gotta enter the cave. Get on your hands and knees. Get dirty. Be brave enough to seek what ultimately is seeking you.
A true warrior is a hunter of shadows, knowing that she must seek to shine her light into the dark corners. Knowing that her shadows hold the essence of who she really is—-her most treasured gifts-and only when she finds them, creates space for their existence, admires them lovingly and compassionately regardless of how ugly they once appeared to be, can she experience the glorious totality of her being. Only then can she reclaim her power and her purpose.
Marianne Williamson reminds us that All darkness in the world comes from darkness in the heart. And so it is there that we must do our work.
If we don’t deal with the “monsters” hiding within, we continuously try to slay them in the outer world. And so we resist. And so we hurt those who we are Supposed To love. We avoid. We deny. We repress. We run. We hide. We drink. We eat. We do whatever we can to numb ourselves from the truth that is begging to come out of Hiding. It just leaves us miserable, anxious, depressed, detached, disconnected, and incomplete.
We have to confront the darkness. Approach the “monsters”. Sound hard? Yeah, it is. Sound scary? It’s terrifying. And messy. And ugly. And painful, too. ….and it’s beautiful! To find buried treasure. It’s a gift!
Don’t let those positive psychology gurus and mindset coaches fool you. It’s hard work. But it’s the only work that will allow you to become whole. Complete. And powerful AF.
So each day I try to Surrender to the darkness with love, compassion, and faith. And I look at my discoveries as found treasures. Even when it’s anger. Rage. Jealousy. Shame. Guilt. Fear. Even when I know these parts have caused me to hurt people, to betray people, to betray myself. To be the wounded person who wounded others.
I know It’s the only way for me to be the change I wish to see in the world. It’s the only way for me to make an impact. It’s the only way that I can find light in the darkness that I often see around me in the world. It’s the only way to ultimately feel comfort. It’s the only way to return to my true essence, which like all beings, is love—the opposite of fear. When I am love, I am no longer afraid.
Don’t be afraid of your shadow; it only means there is a light nearby.
In the words of one of my favorite musical artists Eric Church:
“Anymore when a restless feelin’ keeps me up at night / Fallin’ on my knees is my new turnin’ on the light / I keep my faith intact, make sure my prayers are said / ‘Cause I’ve learned that the monsters ain’t the ones beneath the bed The wolf hunts a hungry man and the devil a lonely heart / A minefield of bad decisions lay hidin’ in the dark / Greed stalks, sickness steals, and pride lays a wicked trap / You can’t avoid ’em all, no, you gotta trust me on that. Cause I’ve learned that the monsters ain’t the ones beneath the bed.