One of the most common situations in shadow work occurs when you realise that the qualities you so envy in someone else are reflections of buried parts of yourself. This experience is so widespread in shadow work that many spiritual counsellors, healers, coaches and readers have become wise to it. They will often just cut to the chase by asking you to actively look at the traits you envy in others and begin to realise that they are simply unmanifest within you. As we approach Samhain, I would urge you to take a look at this exact thing. Focus on a characteristic, talent, strength or mindset which you believe yourself to be bereft of and tend to envy in others. Ask yourself what particular incident or phase of life could have caused you to bury that trait within yourself, convincing yourself that you couldn't have it.
The truth is that we are just as likely to bury positive characteristics as we are to try and hide perceived flaws. For example, children often exhibit playfulness, curiosity, individuality and untamed, wild creativity. They are also honest and authentic, smiling when they are happy, crying when they're sad and being open about what they want to know and how they see things. Children don't judge people based on silly parameters like skin colour, financial status or sexual orientation. All of these things are wondrous and yet they are carefully trained out of a great many people so that they seem taboo by the time adulthood is reached.
Many children find that their raw talents are not nurtured or that they are actively discouraged from doing what most fills them with joy. Childhood is not just about being taught right from wrong - it's about being moulded into the family dynamic and trained to be accepted in society. This kind of conditioning causes us to quickly learn that some of our positive traits, raw talents and most joyful states of being are simply inconvenient or unappealing to the adults around us. We learn to suppress them. (I have witnessed many establish patterns in those who have found treasure in their shadowscapes. I have noticed that many people eventually realise that a parent was jealous of their happiness or talent and subsequently attacked it. Shaming a child for being joyful or for being good at something is a sad reality in the lives of those who have not diligently done their own shadow work. Shadows are perpetuated through the generations.)
Remember to be on the look out for gold as you traverse your shadowscape. There is plenty on offer! Sometimes the gold is actually just the flipside of a negative trait which you have tried to suppress. If you are hiding your anger in shadow then you may also be hiding your assertiveness and your ability to set boundaries. If you are suppressing your tendency to overshare and talk too much then you might also be hiding your ability to use your words to inspire and encourage others. Even the most heinous of behaviours and tendencies have their precious golden centre. Nothing is better off being left in shadow - we can and should examine everything.
While we're on the subject of digging for treasure -
here's some old gold from the archive:
- Samhain Soothsayer - Part 1
- Samhain Southsayer - Part 2
- One Single Moment of Truth