Susan Burrell

One Sip at a Time, Blog

Synthesize Your Shadow Side


Many of us spend our lives running from our pain or hiding from it.  Who wants to run towards pain?  That sounds like a crazy person running into a house on fire.  However, pain is what helps us to reassess and self-define IF we are willing to move through it and not sit in it.  When we feel our pain and examine it, often what happens is that our shadow side is revealed.  That dark spot within us that we may not realizes exists because we have been so busy running/hiding from it.  And we certainly don’t want anyone to see that darkness that we think lives within us.  Right?

In my twenties, I was avoiding this shadowy inner part of me that was strong and powerful.  I didn’t realize this.  I just always felt a bit frustrated, weak and victimized by life. At the time, I was an actress barely making ends meet by waiting tables.   So I took a transformational actors workshop where we had to present a monologue and the workshop leaders would help us “grow” beyond our personal limits.  Oh joy - right!?!  I show up dressed in my best preppy outfit all starched and buttoned up - literally.  My monologue that I loved was from “Butterflies are Free”.  In case you don’t know,  the female lead in that play is a free spirited, bra-less (probably) “hippie”.  So here I am in my penny loafers doing a monologue about feeling free and easy.  I was anything but that.  

As I’m performing, someone from the darkened, shadowy back row of the theater yells, “Stop”.  This leader proceeds to ask me questions and I began to  feel more and more distressed and angry.  I thought my performance was going well.  What could she possibly dislike about it?  I guess my inner resistance to being open and revealing my true self was so strong that she finally startled me by saying, “YOU ARE A BITCH!” 

That rocked me back on my heels!  Now, if you are a woman, you might agree that none of us want to be called a bitch, at least back then.  That was the worst compliment.  It meant that you didn’t play well with others, that you were selfish and maniacal.  I was floored.  How could they call me that?  I was a nice person.  How could anyone see that I was a bitch?  I was angry, really angry at being called that.  As she worked with me, my anger grew so large that I began yelling back that this shadowy “authority figure” who was pushing any and every button I had.  The more I yelled, the more she pushed.  Out of breath and squinting to see this shadowy figure who was dismantling me in front of a room full of strangers, I realized that she had just proved her point.  I was a Bitch. I had just shown it to the audience.  I had secretly hidden it under so much sweetness and appropriateness that I didn’t even know the bitch existed. When I performed the monologue from that place, I felt empowered and more the character than any mental construct that I had come up with could have expressed. 

The shadow side is that part of us we have been ignoring or hiding because we are afraid people won’t like us.  It’s that side of us that feels dark and ugly and sticky. 

Yet it is a necessary part of who we are, because as we synthesize the shadow side, as we embrace it or all least look at it, we can begin to see what parts of the shadowy side can help us to be more empowered and strong. 

What I learned and witnessed that weekend was that the more I was disowning that dark side of myself, the less empowered I was, the less I could move forward in my life to achieve the things I thought I wanted to do at that time.  

Those dark places within our selves that we avoid or feel ashamed and guilty about are actually places that bring us strength and focus.   When we become more accepting of our shadow side and synthesize it, the more whole we become.  The more we have the ability to be true to our inner desires and the Divine urge within us that wants to create and be expressed.  The more we can accept ourselves within - the light and the dark - the more honest and truthful we can be with others. The more authentic and vulnerable.  And we become inspirations to others who have yet to meet their shadow side.  

Whatever the shadow side within us, it is never as big and ugly as the shame and anger we hold against ourselves as we try to keep the door shut on the shadow within.  

Whenever we go through pain and trauma, one of the first questions that comes up is, “What did I do to deserve this?”  Any unacknowledged shadow side will reveal itself for examination.  That’s all.  It just wants to be seen and heard, acknowledged for how it has gotten you this far.  Perhaps your shadow side has kept you safe, helped you to survive your circumstances.  Kept you best parts hidden and seemingly safe. 

The shadow comes up to help us to redefine, reassess and then remove any blocks that are keeping us stuck in old behavior, old relationships or thinking that no longer helps us to move more into the truth of who we are and to be the empowered person that we came here to be.  The shadow will introduce you to those parts of yourself that your have disowned or haven’t trusted.  We can begin to see where we are strong and courageous.  Where our inner bitch can become our ally and helpmate.  

By synthesizing our shadow side, we can empower ourselves from the inside out and be that radiant light we have always been but just didn’t want to face. Synthesize and Shine!