Is Your Shadow Haunting You?

shadowpersonsWhen the sun is shining on you your shadow falls behind you so it generally goes unnoticed. Occasionally if you look to the side you may catch a glimpse of it in your peripheral vision but rarely do you wring your head around and stare at it, yet it follows you wherever you go.

When we are headed in the direction we desire it feels good, like a warm sunshiny day. The path is graced with things that make our heart smile and we are excited to reach our destination. We are energized, our thoughts are clear and we are not distracted by our shadow. It is always with us but it has no power to hold us back or cause us to second guess the direction we’ve chosen.

Most children go through a phase where they are fascinated with their shadow. Some kiddos try to jump into it, others try desperately to grab hold of it and some try to run away from it. So it is in life. Our past is like our shadow – it will always be there following us. We cannot jump back into it for a re-do, we can’t hold onto it trying to keep it alive, nor can we run away from it. It is just there. Our life resembles it’s shape, but it has no power. Like a child who obsesses over their shadow, many of us obsess over our past yet we can’t move forward until we stop looking back. It serves us well to acknowledge it’s existence so that when we catch a glimpse of it in our peripheral vision it doesn’t scare us – we just laugh at ourselves when we realize our shadow scared us for a second!

The difficult thing about the shadow stories of our past is that they create beliefs, many of which are subconscious beliefs. These beliefs are often warped by our unpleasant experiences. It may be easy to let go of our past but it is far more difficult to change the belief it created. We often don’t realize where the belief came from. As a coach, I do not work with people analyzing the past. It can take years of psychotherapy and in some cases people have unknowingly created false memories in an effort to understand themselves. In coaching we let the past be what it is – over.

Thank God we have the choice to change the shape of our shadow! Every day we create a little piece of history that will follow us the rest of our lives. While altering our hairstyle or losing/gaining weight can make our physical shadow drastically different, every choice we make in life has the potential for creating new beliefs.

Pondering who we are and what we believe can be empowering because subconscious beliefs rise to the surface. By noting what they are, we have the power to embrace or denounce them. (This is where coaching can be helpful.)

What are your shadow stories and what beliefs have they created that hinder you? Do you identify with any of these?

Common Shadow Stories and the Beliefs They Can Perpetuate: 

* Shadow Story: I thought I had a happy family but my parents divorced as soon as I moved out. Belief: People just pretend to be happily married.

* Shadow Story: “I was brought up in a poor family and saw my rich relatives act condescendingly toward my parents.” Subconscious Belief: “Wealth makes people arrogant snobs so I want nothing to do with rich people and I certainly don’t wan’t to be one.”

* Shadow Story – “My mom had an affair shortly after she lost 40lbs.” Subconscious Belief – “My husband loves me just the way I am. If I lost weight I would be attractive to other men and could be tempted to have an affair.”

* Shadow Story – “My dad owned and operated a thriving business and mom stayed at home.” Belief: “I can’t go back to work because my husband would have to pick up the slack at home and I want his career to thrive. Plus, my kids need me at home. It’s for the best – no one knows I hate every minute of being a housewife.”

* Shadow Story – My grandmother raised me, and had a career while my grandpa and mom did nothing. Mom and grandpa drank too much but they never worried about much either. Grandma was always stressed out and angry. Belief – I don’t want to be stressed out all the time so if I do have to work it’s going to be an easy job – not a full blown career.

*Shadow Story – My parents had great careers but spoke negatively about people who were more successful than they. Belief – I can’t be more successful than my parents or I’ll lose their approval.

You may not identify with any of these Shadow Stories, or, maybe you do, but your belief is different. The point is we all have a past that has shaped us and we have adopted beliefs that do not serve us well.

Realizing that my choices today will tomorrow be the history that shapes me help me put a better perspective on today. As adults our circumstances are largely determined by our choices and/or our response to uncontrollable circumstances. We get to choose what we believe.

Thinking about how we think if overdone makes us crazy! However, it is extremely helpful to recognize the lies we believe so that we can retrain our brains with truth, putting our past behind us like our shadow on a sunshiny day.

Words Can Hurt But You Are Stronger! #1

strong-armEven the strongest characters, occasionally have their hearts wounded by words that come at them like flaming arrows.  How is it that some seem to deflect these flaming arrows, on a regular basis, virtually unscathed while others seem to be shaped by them?

A popular theory is that if parents, teachers and friends are affirming and positive that a child, when grown, will be a strong, healthy individual with great self-esteem. In a way, I wish that were true, but it only takes a minute to think of people I know personally who have overcome a terrible childhood and because of it, are now armed with a shield that protects their heart. And then there are others, like me, who came to depend on those affirming words heard as a child in order to feel good about themselves and be strong in this world but ….when the apron strings were cut, I wasn’t so strong.  Certainly every child deserves to have adoring parents and granted, it does affect a child positively, but there are no guarantees as to how a a person will survive once in the real world.

I guess it’s best that way. It keeps us all in the same boat with equal opportunity to grow into the strength intended for each of us.  So how do we do that? The strength of the Spirit within each of us is the same, yet some of us hold onto this weakness with a mighty grip quenching what the Spirit in us longs to give. Why not let go of that grip and be free?

Just imagine wearing a shield that could deflect flaming arrows. Now imagine those arrows as carrying words that have hurt you – and still do hurt you.  Wouldn’t it be cool to have protection from them? What if the only words that could penetrate the shield were words of truth? Truth, truth and nothing but the truth.

Yeah, I admit sometimes the truth hurts too – but those are the words I want to embrace, even if they hurt.  Maybe I need to do something with them – like ask for forgiveness – or take action so they are not true any longer or just learn how think about them productively.  Where the truth gives life – embracing lies can be deadly. Hurtful words are most often lies and lies, when believed, can be deadly.  It’s truth that makes us light in the world. It’s truth that sets us free. Understanding the power I have to control which words I allow to affect me has been intriguing, freeing and empowering, both in the spiritual sense and in the physical sense.  Oh, it’s good to be free from the power of unkind words!

Desiring Growth?

Some say that the desire for growth is always rooted in dissatisfaction, I beg to differ. I may be odd, but dissatisfaction rarely inspires me. Initially I feel a bit down, negative and stuck, whereas contentment gives me freedom. I realize that I’m not stuck! Unhindered by negativity, I have the clear frame of mind to look at all the options, think out of my box without pressure, and remember to keep my eyes open for new ideas and possibilities   Dissatisfaction blinds me.

growthDesiring growth is a human phenomenon.  Throughout childhood we look forward to the next phase of life marking milestones and marking walls by the quarter inch.  Once our full stature is reached we continue to look ahead still marking milestones with graduations, marriage, children, careers and accomplishing goals – until we stop, or die.

When I believe dissatisfaction is a good foundation for growth I tend to focus on the negative and that leads me in a path I’d rather not travel. Often the first negative thought is not nearly as bleak as the next, nor that one as hopeless as the one that follows – it’s a downward spiral. Worse yet, dissatisfaction wells up in me a need to blame.  Blaming myself doesn’t help me any more than blaming you or even the circumstances.

Desiring growth, movement or change is not a choice – we are human – it is what we do. Cultivating contentment is a choice that God intends for us to make. When we choose to be grateful and live with a real sense of peace, our eyes are unveiled to possibilities that are veiled when we are dissatisfied.  Untainted by negativity we make healthy, wise decisions and fulfill the longing that never dies – growth.

Besides all that, contentment is way more fun!!  Not to mention the fact that we are called to be content.  We know God doesn’t intend for us to stagnate so I’m quite certain he wouldn’t call us to contentment if that is where it led.  Wanna grow?  Try contentment.  I’ve been so very blessed when that is the choice I’ve made.