The exercise at the end of last week's post is a Shadow exercise. If you didn't get a chance to do it before, I strongly recommend that you take some time to do it before reading on.
You see these people the way that you do because they are holding projections of who you are at your deepest core. The people that you admire are the embodiment of what you know you can become. They are the ones that appear to embody your highest standards for yourself.
At times these standards may seem huge in comparison to where you think you are. Sometimes they may seem overwhelming, impossible even. But what you are seeing in each of the people that you admire are the traits that already exist in you. They are the things that inspire you to become the most elevated embodiment of yourself.
You see these things projected onto someone else because you need examples of how you can live your life to grow into these character traits. When you see someone that embodies confidence, power, leadership, compassion and you admire them for it, what you are doing is acknowledging the same energy, the same characteristics that are alive and flowing in you.
It is, for example, like the seedling looking up at the giant Redwood tree. The seedling already has within it all of the things that are necessary to grow into the majestic Redwood. It has all of the vital components. All it needs is the proper nourishment and time to grow. So do you. Know that your heroes, your role models, your mentors all reflect what is best in you. Yet, unless they are mythic or fictional characters, they are all just as human as you. They have flaws and make mistakes. They don’t always live up to the great image you have of them.
The image that you see is a standard for yourself, one that seems to suit the person you look up to at the time and in the context where you see her. She can guide you by teaching you how she got to where she is, how she learned to embody what you want to be. However, she cannot tell you that you will become just like her. Your path is not hers. Your path is unique. While you learn from her and incorporate her practices into your life you will find those parts of you growing, but you will also find other unexpected things about whom you are.
The same is true for those people in your life that you have little appreciation for or that you have a difficult time being around. This is often more of a challenge to accept. When we have a strong emotional charge with a person, either positively or negatively, it is because they a reflection of us on some deep level. Many times we have adverse responses to people that embody character traits we dislike in ourselves. They embody the aspects of our personality that we choose to avoid. Though we may not like it, these people can be some of our greatest teachers.
For today's exercise, take some time to notice what people and characteristics really challenged you. If you had a very strong resistance to the idea that they are reflections of yourself, ask yourself these questions:
Where am I not taking full responsibility for my actions?
How am I judging others unfairly?
What circumstances lead that person to act the way they do?
Have I lived similar circumstances in my life?
What are alternative beliefs and behaviors that person could take to positively change the way they are in the world?
How can I embody those beliefs and behaviors?
Until next time, here are some suggestions for further reading:
Arrien, Angeles. The Four Fold Way. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.
Bly, Robert. A Little Book on the Human Shadow. New York:
Levy, Paul. “Shadow Projection: The Fuel of War.”
2010. http://www.awakeninthedream.com/wordpress/shadow- projection-the-fuel-of-war/
Jung, Carl. The Undiscovered Self. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton
University Press, 1990.
Von Franz, Marie Louise and William H. Kennedy. Projection and
Recollection in Jungian Psychology: Reflections of the Soul. Peru, Illinois: Open Court, 1980.