This article’s theme area:
Break free from all fears. There is a gift behind the mask.
Debbie Ford, April 2012
This February, one of the great influencers in the world of realizing personal power ended her earthly journey. Debbie Ford vacated her physical form here with us, but her impact will resonate with humanity for generations. Debbie Ford is a part of a team of enlighteners from this era who have been instrumental in getting folks to get real; to really simplify our thinking around what our personal lifetimes represent in the big picture and how to use and ENJOY them!
One of Debbie’s focuses was in the area of “shadow work”, identifying limiting beliefs and not simply change them, but manipulate their power to be more effective. Her relatable style resonated, and millions of people, including me, could understand her message: re-examine your perspective… and CHILL OUT!! I have more about Debbie in this week’s “QUOTES to Query”: check it out and if you haven’t read any of Debbie’s books, it’s a MUST! -SL
YOU AND YOUR SHADOW
Most of us set out on the path to personal growth because at some point the burden of our pain becomes too much to bear. The Dark Side of the Light Chasers is about unmasking that aspect of ourselves which destroys our relationships, kills our spirit, and keeps us from fulfilling our dreams.
It is what Carl Jung called the shadow. It contains all the parts of ourselves that we have tried to hide or deny. It contains those dark aspects that we believe are not acceptable to our family, friends, and most important, ourselves. The dark side is stuffed deeply within our consciousness, hidden from ourselves and others. The message we get from this hidden place is simple: there is something wrong with me. I’m not okay. I’m not lovable. I’m not deserving. I’m not worthy.
Many of us believe these messages. We believe that if we look closely enough at what lies deep within us, we will find something horrible. We resist looking long and hard for fear of discovering someone we can’t live with. We fear ourselves. We fear every thought and feeling we have ever repressed. Many of us are so disconnected from this fear we can only see it by reflection. We project it onto the world, onto our families and friends, and onto strangers. Our fear is so deep that the only way we can deal with it is either to hide or deny it. We become so good at this we actually forget that we are wearing masks to hide our authentic selves. We believe we are the persons we see in the mirror. We believe we are our bodies and our minds. Even after years of failed relationships, careers, diets and dreams, we continue to suppress these disturbing internal messages. We tell ourselves we’re okay and that things will get better. We put blinders over our eyes and plugs in our ears to keep the internal stories we create alive. I’m not okay. I’m not lovable. I’m not deserving. I’m not worthy.
“The greatest act of courage is to be and to ownall of who you are—without apology, without excuses, without masks to cover the truth of who you are.” — Debbie Ford
Instead of trying to suppress our shadows, we need to unconceal, own and embrace the very things we are most afraid of facing. By “own,” I mean acknowledge that a quality belongs to you. “It is the shadow that holds the clues,” says the spiritual teacher and author Lazaris. “The shadow also holds the secret of change, change that can affect you on a cellular level, change that can affect your very DNA.” Our shadows hold the essence of who we are. They hold our most treasured gifts. By facing these aspects of ourselves, we become free to experience our glorious totality: the good and the bad, the dark and the light. It is by embracing all of who we are that we earn the freedom to choose what we do in this world. As long as we keep hiding, masquerading, and projecting what is inside us, we have no freedom to be and no freedom to choose.
Our shadows exist to teach us, guide us and give us the blessing of our entire selves. They are resources for us to expose and explore. The feelings that we have suppressed are desperate to be integrated into ourselves. They are only harmful when they are repressed: then they can pop up at the least opportune times. Their sneak attacks will handicap you in the areas of your life that mean the most.
Your life will be transformed when you make peace with your shadow. The caterpillar will become a breathtakingly beautiful butterfly. You will no longer have to pretend to be someone you’re not. You will no longer have to prove you’re good enough. When you embrace your shadow you will no longer have to live in fear. Find the gifts of your shadow and you will finally revel in all the glory of your true self. Then you will have the freedom to create the life you have always desired.
Fall 2012 Interview with Debbie at Omega Institute for Holistic Studies
Omega: You’ve written that you can’t have the full experience of the light without knowing the dark. Why do you consider the shadow to be the gatekeeper of true freedom?
Debbie: You can’t be fully yourself if you have aspects that are hiding. The shadow holds the truth of all the authentic parts of being human — your vulnerability, your discontent, your jealousy, or an experience from the past that you haven’t digested. The only way to invite them out of the shadow is to bring them into the light. The light is a new perspective in which you see that everything that’s happening is happening to help you develop your soul. Then you’re free — free to be who you are most authentically, free to ask for what you need, free to find your joy and bliss, free to share your gifts.
Omega: For someone unfamiliar with shadow work, what would you say is the first step in recognizing your shadow?
Debbie: The first step is seeing what you don’t want to be. Look at who you don’t like and the qualities they have, not their behaviors but the qualities inside of them that you don’t like. You can start with your family, because, of course, you can always see these qualities in your brothers, sisters, parents, or children. For example, when my son lived at home, he was a procrastinator, and I would get upset and get on him about it. But the truth is, I’m a procrastinator. I have an important new project right now, but I’ll do anything not to start it. I was trying to change it in him because I need to look at it in myself.
Omega: Based on your own experience and your years of teaching, would you say that you’re ever really done with the shadow?
Debbie: Every time you grow and evolve, you find new versions of your shadow. So are we ever done? I don’t think so. But once you understand shadow work, it’s actually not something you want to be done with, because every time you embrace a shadow, you open up a new pathway for your life.
Ultimately, all of this work is about learning to love one’s self, one’s flaws, one’s shortcomings, and one’s past; and when you accept that it is possible — that that is your spiritual journey here on earth — you have a foundation for setting yourself up to live a life beyond your wildest dreams.
Omega: Your most recent book, Courage: Overcoming Fear and Igniting Self-Confidence, is about unlocking the courage that lies within each of us. What’s the difference between a true sense of courage and that sense of confidence that only lives on the surface of things?
Debbie: What is often called courage is when you muscle up and barrel through. It’s forceful, often without thinking or feeling. But the courage I’m talking about is this divine inner strength that everyone is born with, a strength to be your most authentic self and to take powerful actions consistent with your loving, compassionate heart.
So how do you tell the difference? One is filled with anxiety, force, or roughness, and the other one is gentle and tender — even if your voice is raised or you’re demanding change from somebody else, you are doing it with a loving heart.
Omega: Last year, you took the courageous step of publicly sharing your cancer diagnosis.
What would you say to somebody who has just found out the worst thing they could about their health?
Debbie: I would tell them something that Deepak Chopra said to me, “Don’t take it personally.” The first thing that happens when you get a diagnosis is that you start thinking, “I am this, my world is this,” and “What did I do to get this?” It becomes a very personal issue, but making it personal is the most painful way to deal with a diagnosis.
Omega: How do you define healing?
Debbie: For me, healing is a state of consciousness. It’s a place deep inside where one feels whole and good about themselves and their lives no matter what’s going on.
Healing really has nothing to do with being cured.
My diagnosis is considered incurable, which just means there’s no cure that they know of, which is actually a great diagnosis, because to me, healing is a process of how you feel and how you can live a life that is deeply meaningful and soulful.