Shadows

The hot weather has continued but despite the mugginess in the air promising us rain it has been scarce. We received a few drizzles again on Friday, we are so thankful to the Water Spirits and the Cloud Spirits. I pray that they distribute water liberally over our dams. I would so rejoice if we had a weekend of rain. I’m trying to practice gratitude for the water we do have rather than stressing and focusing on the scarcity of it. Keeping a positive gratitude is the aim.

We have a houseful this weekend which is lovely. Josh is racing this weekend and Lily and his Dad David came down to stay for the weekend.

Last night we had a braai. It was windy but we were sheltered at the back of the house. Norm cooked chicken sausage, steaks and chicken kebabs and Lily and I made cole slaw and there was potato salad from woolies. Lily made garlic butter for the mushrooms and Norm cooked them on the grill.

Last weekend when Norm and I were at Pick n Pay they had an excellent special on Brie and Camembert and so we picked up some Brie. On Wednesday evening Norm braaied 2 fillet steaks for the 3 of us as I was going to slice them that was enough meat. I put the Brie into some oven proof dishes and drizzled them all with honey and Norm popped those on the top shelf of the gas braai while the steaks cooked. I made a big salad of spinach, cabbage, carrots, cucumber & tomato and for the meat and I made a sauce by chucking in a preserved fig, a green chili, a big shot of lemon juice, a glug of vinegar and some honey and blitzing it until smooth. To serve I sliced the meat and rubbed it with the sauce and lay it across the salad and served a little bowl of it for adding to the salad.

OMG this was so good!

I will try to recreate that again but as I never measure anything my dishes are never consistent. But I try to not get too hung up about that.

I have written before about mindfulness and that I am trying to focus on being in the present and conscious of my internal dialogues. A friend mentioned the work of Tara Brach on The National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine website. I subscribed to the site and they have sent me some videos on deepening our connections to others. You can click that link and sign up to the site and watch yourself. I really recommend it.

I also recommend subscribing to Tara’s YouTube channel.

Tara talks about the need for self-acceptance and how lack of this can interfere in our ability to form intimate bonds and relationships with others. I strongly identify with this as I have self confidence issues. People always find this surprising as I have no issues with stating my opinion and to those who do not know me well, I appear to be a confident extrovert. In reality I have this inner voice constantly telling me I am not good enough, that I am inadequate in many of the ‘roles’ I play, from my career to parenting to marriage to just being a woman.

In today’s culture women over 50 are invisible and are often deemed not worthy of attention. In many cultures women are not valued at all regardless of their age. If you have wrinkles or are overweight, you are bombarded with millions of media images of perfection and this can impact your self esteem. With the influx of stories about women being victimized by men and then not believed and even worse of those violators not being taken to task for those violations deepens these feelings of being undervalued.

The first video from Tara is discussing ‘How to Shift from Self-Criticism to Self-Acceptance and Love’.

It is impossible to feel negative about ourselves and still form a strong bond with another person. The two are mutually exclusive.

The second video is discussing ‘How Self-Acceptance Rewires the Brain for Deeper Connection’.

Three points which Tara mentions as a way to help us change our sense of self are:

  1. Learn to Observe your own thoughts. (Mindfulness)
  2. Mindfully Feel your feelings.
  3. Offer a gesture of care to your inner self.

The idea that Tara puts out there is that what we hide from others (and often even hide from our own conscious thoughts) can block us from forming deep bonds.  Hiding what you do not like about yourself impacts upon your ability to have a healthy relationship with another.

This is aligned to what I have been reading from Jung about the shadow archetypes. Jung believed that the Shadow archetype represents all that we are ashamed of, all that we do not like about ourselves and all that we keep secret, the unconscious parts of ourselves which we repress. As long as we repress this part of ourselves we cannot grow into a complete mentally healthy person. We have to become conscious of this aspect of ourselves and bring it into the light. Jung’s philosophy is that the act of making the shadow conscious is the starting point towards psychic health and individuation.

It is not the same as the Cherokee concept of the Shadow Walker. A shadow walker is someone who can walk the line between light and dark, life and death. So both conceptually refer to a division in the person, but very different in actuality.

Many therapists and psychologists believe that shame is the root of most addictions. Addictions in turn can then become part of our shadow self and something that we hide. We also hide various other behaviours which in turn can lead to deep feelings of shame and self loathing.

The 12 Step recovery groups have a slogan ‘we are only as sick as our secrets’. This refers to the idea that feelings of shame and regret about actions taken while not in recovery can quickly derail a person in their attempts to get clean or sober.

For me I know that my issue is around both self acceptance of my physical self and my strong personality.

Aging and weight loss have riddled my body with bags, sags and lumps and bumps. This makes me so self conscious that I cringe at the idea of anyone seeing me undressed, even my darling loving husband who loves me unconditionally whatever my weight.

This is not HIS issue or HIS feeling of revulsion I am experiencing, it is just a thought in my head. I do not have to buy into that thought, I can choose to let it go.

So for me to implement the 3 step guidance that Tara gave in the second video I will need to first witness the voices in my head and listen to what they are saying. To acknowledge that these are just my self destructive thoughts and they only exist in my own head, these are not what anyone else is feeling.

Secondly, I need to name the feelings which are triggered by these thoughts. Am I feeling shame that I have taken so little care of my physical shell? Am I feeling embarrassed that I am not toned and sleek? Am I feeling other emotions? What are they?

Labeling these emotions activates a different area of our brain. We need to think of the emotions as waves and let them just roll over us while mindfully acknowledging our suffering.

For an empath, the need to ‘dampen’ down our deep wells of emotion is a survival instinct. If we allow ‘in’ everything and tap into some of that energy it can be incredibly overwhelming and even depressing. We need to learn the skills to master it and not allow it to ‘stick with us’. To feel the empathy but not let it overwhelm us.

The third step is to offer comfort to ourselves. Tara suggested closing your eyes, putting your hand on your heart and offering emotional and even verbal comfort to yourself. When something which causes us pain rises, to even verbalise ‘ouch’.

Imagine the joy of yourself healing from these useless negative emotions.

To move away from self judgement to self acceptance is the goal.

An easy way for most of us to relate is regarding dieting or food issues in general. We set a goal for ourselves to lose weight, this is sometimes driven by feelings of self disgust or lack of worthiness. If we ‘cheat’ on our diet, we then have even more feelings of self disgust, sometimes leading us to give up completely on our goal. Instead, we should just write that off as an oops and carry on with no guilt. Just pick yourself up and go back to the original goal. It is only one meal. But if you self sabotage repeatedly then you need to address those issues. Why do you not feel worthy of self care and healthy food? Is the weight some sort of protection?

Some of these feelings of lack of self acceptance run very deep, the roots may be buried in childhood. We may have to keep hacking at those roots with a metaphysical machete.

Consciousness is our first step. I am willing to take that step, do you want to come along?

Kisses from the Kitten xxoxoxoxox

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