The term “shadow” was first used by the famous Swiss psychologist Carl Jung to describe the part of us that we deny or keep hidden. There’s a darker shadow, which are those parts of us that can be negative. However, we also have a lighter, or golden shadow, which are our natural gifts that we refuse to accept or bring forward.
We both identify with Jung’s revelation about human nature. We each have parts of us that we don’t like and try to keep hidden. We also have qualities that we envy or long for, but deny seeing them in ourselves—we only see them in others.
It’s like we are in a boxing match with ourselves trying to keep things hidden and out of sight. When we read the definition of shadowboxing, it made us laugh because it perfectly describes this battle:
Small private fighting, in the near-dark, punching at nothing particular.
That’s exactly what we do when we are in the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™ within ourselves. Punch, punch, punch. We are both so quick to be our own worst inner-critic, persecuting ourselves with self-criticism, blaming and shaming.
What we have come to understand is that, if we are unaware of the shadowboxing struggle, it can make the trait we are trying to repress even stronger. For example, if Donna doesn’t like being judged by others but she doesn’t acknowledge how she can judge people, failure to take responsibility for her own judgments will make her more judgmental.
The reverse can happen. If David denies his own gifts (his golden shadow), but idealizes others for those same traits, he diminishes himself. What a clever way to justify feeling victimized by not being “enough.”
The beauty of the DDT is that it can help you see the internal drama fight you are having with yourself. When one or all of the DDT characters of Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer emerge, they can be a red flag that there is a shadow side to you that requires acknowledging – be it a dark or golden shadow.
One thing is certain, “having it out” with the shadow will only make it worse. What you resist, persists.
Sometimes the shadow can erupt spontaneously and surprise you. “Is this really me?” you might say when something arises totally out of the blue. Respect it and have self-compassion for yourself. Uncovering the character that is hiding requires respect and appreciation for it. The more self-compassion you can have for yourself, the more compassion you will have for others who are having similar struggles to either claim their gifts or acknowledge their darker edges.
This is where the TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)™ is so helpful. Your Creator role owns your gifts and brings them forward. The Challenger in you is strong and resilient and learns from some of your more negative qualities. And your Coach gets really curious about how your life is unfolding so that new parts of you will come forward.
We’ve learned the hard way that forcing ourselves to only cultivate the TED* roles, without doing our shadow work, may delay the real work of acknowledging and owning the Creator in us, and in everyone else.