Continuing my spiritual journey series…
As I began trying to be nice and listen to myself for a change, I came across a short story I wrote for my English class when I was 18. I hadn’t read it in a few years, and as I read it again I was quite shocked at how much the story exposed parts of myself of which I had been largely unaware. There were themes of music and jealousy and perfectionism. The violence is what disturbed me the most. I had lived with a rather unnamed fear for many years that a horrible violent monster lived within me, and in wildest imaginations, this monster awoke and went berserk. And here I had written it all out in black and white in a fictional story without even realizing it.
I sent the story to my doctor and he mentioned the concept of the shadow personality.
The Shadow, according to Jungian psychology, is basically all the parts of our personality of which we’re unaware. Often we shove the less desirable parts of ourselves into this dark subconscious. One of the easiest ways to find out what’s hidden in your shadow is to examine what you are most judgmental and fearful of. When we fail to recognize these parts of ourselves, we tend to project them outwards onto other people (for example, a person who fails to recognize his habit of manipulating others will then see others as being manipulative). In this way, we are unconsciously under the influence of our shadow personality, and I personally believe this concept can be applied to many cases of what Evangelical Christians believe to be demon possession (I may write more about this topic in the future).
This was the first I had ever heard of the shadow personality concept, and yet years earlier, I wrote all about my own shadow personality in a short story literally titled “The Shadow” (this story is also a striking picture of a snake homeopathic remedy… more about that another day).
To read my lame but incredibly symbolic story, click here.
Months later I came to a rather shocking revelation about my own shadow’s contents.
I was sitting in a parking lot waiting for my husband, and I noticed a guy about my age walking by. I had flashbacks to being a teenager and searching for the love of life in every guy I came across. I started to wonder, as I did from time to time, how different my life would be had I not been raised a Christian. It was my strong Christian beliefs that influenced my ideas regarding “purity” and dating, etc., and if I did not have those standards, how would I have acted?
I barely had a chance to consider before the answer arose: Taylor Swift.
I may have gasped and I know I laughed in mild horror. For those who know me, I’m sure you recall that for years I despised Taylor Swift. I just could not stand her. My dislike of her was almost a religion. It bordered on obsessive.
I sat in that parking lot and said out loud, “Taylor Swift is my shadow personality.” (At this point it’s more accurate to say that my idea of Taylor Swift is one part of my shadow personality.)
That was a hard pill to swallow. The truth is, I had always been fascinated with Taylor Swift because I related to her so much, but I hardly realized it. Everything I disliked about myself I projected on to her. I saw her as the opposite of me, but in many ways we are actually the same. We are both tall skinny songwriters, same age, and we have a thing for obsessive romantic infatuations. And what I did was judge her so harshly for the very things I myself struggled with.
This revelation really came home when I finally admitted to myself that I loved her song “Blank Space”. That song totally reveals a major part of my shadow personality. In so many ways, I’m crazy. Like… crazy. I’m all sorts of drama and fantasize about really screwing with men. “I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream”. I want to recklessly fall in love and then burn my ex-lovers clothes and trash his car when we break up. I want to play the whole damn game. And those repressed desires were really hard to accept about myself.
All this revealed to me my tendency to over-dramatize and over-identify with my feelings and blame others for my reactions. It also re-opened a gaping wound in my hopeless romantic heart that’s taken a long time to heal. In the years since this revelation, I’ve been learning to confront and accept my hypocrisies, and in accepting them, they have less control over me. By recognizing my unhealthy behaviors, I am able to work towards changing them by identifying the underlying needs that have not been met. I’ve also been learning to accept the parts of myself that I thought were bad, but are actually good and fundamental aspects of who I am. Exploring The Shadow can be difficult and heavy stuff, but doing the work is so incredibly liberating.
Some fun bit of trivia to add to this story:
1. In my short story “The Shadow”, I actually modeled the sister character (whom the main character is jealous of and tries to kill) upon Taylor Swift. I wrote this story BEFORE I disliked Swift. When I was writing the story I had just discovered her, as she was country music’s young new darling. I liked a couple of her songs, but otherwise I was fairly neutral regarding her and her music. It wasn’t until the release of her song “Love Story” over a year after writing my story that I suddenly grew to hate her. So my story actually foreshadowed (pun not even intended) Taylor Swift’s presence in my own shadow personality.
2. I just realized this is the 13th post in my series, and Taylor is famous as having 13 as her lucky number.
3. Totally unplanned on my end, Taylor just released a new single today, titled “Me”. Boy, do I sure see a lot of ME in her! My connections to Taylor Swift are freakish and too many to list right here (actually, aren’t most of us connected to her in some way? She is a prominent voice and face of our generation).
I have finally made my peace with Taylor Swift and admit to totally loving her album 1989. Whenever I start feeling judgy towards her again, I pause and examine in what ways I see myself in these judgments. With Taylor constantly in the spotlight, I’m afforded frequent reminders to check my hypocrisies and be nicer to myself and others.
And back to the topic of being nice to myself, discovering and embracing my sensitivity was a major turning point in healing my relationship with myself…
Next in this series: learning to embrace my sensitivity. Coming soon!