I recently found this little video where they really well illustrated the concept of shadow.
A child is being encouraged to walk. The little boy/ girl likes to play with the red ball (something you are passionately about). Father prefers the child to learn to read (= green book). The child gets encouraged to do something they are not passionate about and gets scolded for playing with the red ball. The child unlearn to play with the red ball. (Perhaps you’ve even forgotten you had a natural passion for something). It’s academic skills and successes are being celebrated.
The twist to this video is that the child, when it’s older, still plays with the red ball (still in contact or reconnected with its passion) and asks his father again to play. By reciprocating the request of his child he encourages it’s passion and possibly heals what was put into the shadow.
Shadow work is about the ‘search and rescue work’ we do with all the qualities in you that have been ignored, denied, put aside, scolded, neglected. And as a consequence you have decided, often as a child, to no longer show these qualities.
What are some of the things i’m talking about? Often people talk about relatively small things. However big or small… they all have an incredible impact on our lives. Some of the following phrases may sound familiar to you:
“Boys don’t cry”
“Children should not be heard or seen”.
Women cannot do manly things. Like chopping wood, fixing the sink, car racing, run around in the mud, wearing pants, etc.
Man don’t do womenly things. like cooking, house cleaning, taking care of the children, being a stay-at-home-dad, ect.
“In our family we… (fill in the blanks) don’t scream, don’t dance, don’t curse, are not jealous, we are intellectuals (we don’t play sports), don’t ask for what we want, are altruistic (we have no personal needs), don’t make music, don’t act like a sissy, etc, etc …”.
Often it is not even said explicitly… Perhaps your parents were fighting all the time at home. Outside the house they looked like the perfect family. The message is: Never show what your life is like. You have an insider and an outsider face and behavior. Another example could be that you kept quiet about being gay. However you would never tell anyone because you were raised in a particular environment. The message is: I’m gay. I will not be accepted. Also being raised in a world where all the man work outside the house and all the women are housewives sends you a particular message. The message is: man work outside to house and bring home the money. Women stay home and tend to the house and the children.
We all do what we think or assume is acceptable in our lives. That way we will not loose the love of our parents (family, friends) and we will not be disconnected from the ones we love. (Brené Brown knows all about the subject of being disconnected).
In my work I try to encourage you to reconnect to the part of you that got stifled. What was acceptable in your family (green book)? And what was not acceptable in your family (red ball)?