This is another of my assignments from the wonderful spiritual writing course I did with Mark Matousek earlier this year. This was a challenging experience, as I had to dig deep into the past to revivify old traits and trauma, to bring them into the light for resolution and healing. Like drawing poison to the surface, this was a deeply painfully cathartic experience, but well worth the effort.
Exposing the Shadow
“Oh yes, I’m the great pretender,
Pretending that I’m doing well,
My need is such, I pretend too much,
I’m lonely but no-one can tell”
These song lyrics came bursting into my awareness last night. I was lying in the bath, surrounded by candles, watching their flames cast shadows on the bathroom walls, and there was a resounding self-acknowledgment that I have been a pretender most of my life, an avoider, an addict craving the ultimate fix, in the hope that the next hit will destroy all feelings of unworthiness and pitiful rejection, that it will kill the pain of sadness and despair. Is it any wonder that I am exhausted?
I have used so many tricks to prevent myself from truly feeling what was desiring to be felt. I made these feelings the enemy, treating them like terrorists that should not be allowed the light of day, and so it has been a constant battle to segregate these demons in a dark shadowland where they can rot and disappear. Of course, this is a futile attempt to escape the reality of my life. I now know that life desires balance. Eventually this balance must be met and the time for allowing these terrorising demons to be met is here and now. The next thirty years of my life can’t be like the last thirty years, where I have employed distractions, addictions and self-destructive ploys to abate these deep feelings of being just not enough.
Life will have balance. The yin and yang, the light and shadow, the ups and downs all must meet in the sanctuary of presence. It is only now, in my forty fourth year of life that I can allow this to happen. Ever since I received and accepted the invitation to stop, I have come to accept the dualistic dance of life, and I have come to know myself more deeply as the one who is watching the dance. Don’t get me wrong, I still oscillate between acceptance and resistance, between lying and telling the truth, but I can now find my way back to a space of peace and equanimity, not hiding from the pain but allowing it to rest where it is, where I am. But I wasn’t always like this.
I was very clever at hiding from the shadow, playing hide and seek with myself for many years. Ever since my childhood , I have bounced from one addiction to another, from academic competitiveness to overeating, from one demoralising relationship to another, from the profane to the sublime in the hope that no-one would see the frightened child within, the unworthy piece of shit that I believed myself to be. Maybe even now, I am holding myself back from truly expressing my potential, for fear that I may not be good enough. How exhausting!
As I look back over my life story, I can see the perfection of the intelligence of life, this genius of fate that only wants us to feel loved, to feel balanced. It is homeostasis on a grand scale. All the dark, unwanted expressions of myself, relegated to the lower divisions of my psyche, hidden from view have always found a way to meet the light, to be accepted and loved. Of course, when they have appeared, I have sounded the battle cry and started fighting, resisting, creating distractions, trying to numb the pain, for fear that I may be consumed, or even worse, show the world that I am just not enough.
In writing these words, I know that I am only scratching the surface. I remember describing my sense of un-fulfilment as an itch that could never be scratched. Well, I am scratching away, in the hope that what will be revealed will be fully allowed, accepted and loved. That is all I desire.
Since I started my spiritual seeking the shadow has become more distinct, more pronounced, louder and more apparent, and so the energy required to keep it out of the light is greater. Every attempt to resist what is appearing in me at any given point is futile, because it will never stop. Life will have balance eventually.
Why wait? I have waited long enough.