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Finding Gold In Your Shadow Side

Man in Shadow from Pixabay

The ‘shadow’ is the side of your personality that contains all the parts of yourself that you don’t want to admit to having.

Dark World

Jeremy thought about his discussion with his counselor while sitting on the bench in the school courtyard. She had brought a little light into his seemingly very dark shadow world. She said everybody is different it didn’t matter if I had ADHD or not. We’re all different.

“If that is true why does my world feel so dark, why can’t I really talk to anyone about it?” he thought to himself as he sat outside the counselor’s office. It had been a couple of days since they sat on the bench and talked. After their talk, he’d felt better about himself. It had been a long time since he’d felt that good. But, he had so many questions in his mind and Ms. Smith was the only person he thought he could trust.

His anxiety mounted. “She probably can’t help me either,” he said to himself as he stood to leave. “It’s not worth it.”

The door opened and Ms. Smith stepped into the waiting room. “Jeremy, come on in,” she said.

“Ahhh. Maybe, I think I’ll just go back to class,” he said as he picked up his books.

“No. Come on in. I’m sorry it took so long. I had to finish up a phone call. Really, come on in.”

Jeremy slowly walked into her office. His head down. Shuffling his feet.

“Have a seat. Can I get you a soda? I have several different kinds,” she said opening a small refrigerator revealing a variety of different sodas and flavored waters.

“A Coke,” he said still looking down at the floor.

“Tell me what’s on your mind. You looked happy and more positive when we talked the other day. What happened?”

Being Different

“I don’t know. After talking to you, I felt really good about myself, like it is okay to be different, that different isn’t necessarily bad, just different. Not less than.”

“Absolutely,” she said.

“But the more I thought about me being different the worse I felt. My mind kept going over all the times I’ve been told I was different and by all the different people. I had a doctor tell me once that he didn’t know how to help me, just accept being different. I’ve had a few people, mainly kids, tell me or indicate that I am less because I am different. You actually told me I have skills and talents that others don’t have. But, I don’t know if it really matters.”

“That is true. You are very smart, smarter than average, and very talented. And ‘yes’ it matters,” she said in a very affirmative encouraging voice.

“Then why do I feel like I have a really dark side that I have to keep hidden. I feel like if people really knew me they would hate me? Why do I feel like I want to hide from the world until I fade away?”

Shadow Side

“We all have a side that we prefer others don’t know about,” she said. “They call it our shadow side. Another way of looking at it is where we dump all the things in our personality that we don’t like and don’t want to deal with. Do you understand?”

“Sort of. Do you mean like me having ADHD and being different? How can I dump that in my shadow? No, I don’t understand.”

“Our shadow side is usually referring to the part of us that we fail to see or know or we try to ignore. It is often the side of us that doesn’t seem to fit into our culture or society. Let me see if I can explain it. Do you ever try so hard to do and be what everybody else expects of you that sometimes you just want to scream or run away or something?” Ms.Smith said.

“Yeah, all the time. Like that math test. What do they expect me to do, pretend that I don’t know how to work the problems so I’m like everybody else? Why do I have to fit in? Why do I have to be like everybody else? When Jack started in on me I really wanted to get in his face and scream at him, but I didn’t. If I had I’d be in the office or suspended. I’ve been there before,” he said sitting forward to catch every one of her words.

Culture Demands

She continued, “Our culture demands that we live out only part of our nature and refuse to acknowledge that the other parts exist. We have what they call our ego, which is our thinking, feeling, and will that distinguishes us from others. It’s the part of us that experiences and reacts to the outside world. Then we have the shadow side. The things that we want to keep hidden from the outside world because they don’t seem to fit in. The culture that we live in insists that we behave in a particular manner, so we stuff those other parts deep into the back corner of our shadow self, like a dark back room with a locked door.”

“So, my shadow side contains the ADHD characteristics that other people think are weird, so I try to keep them hidden, right?” he said.

“Right. An interesting thing, though, is that different cultures in the world have different expectations. For example, in our country, we drive on the right-hand side of the road. In other countries, they drive on the left. In the West, a man can walk down the street holding hands with a woman, but in India, he may hold hands only with a male friend, but not with a woman. In our country, we show respect by wearing shoes in formal or religious places, but in the East, it’s very disrespectful to wear shoes into a temple. You would be asked to leave and not return until you learn proper manners.”

They both laughed.

Different Than The Norm

“Because of these cultural norms, some really good characteristics end up in a person’s shadow. Usually, the ordinary, mundane characteristics are the norm and are what others see. We often try to fit in the middle instead of on the extreme at either end. Unfortunately, people with extraordinary characteristics hide them in their shadow, because they don’t fit into the culture.”

Jeremy sat and thought for quite some time before speaking, “The other day you told me that I was very smart and very talented. Right?”

“Yes. But, I also notice that you try to keep those gifts hidden because you do things differently. Am I right?”

Learning He Is Different

He nodded and continued to sit quietly before speaking, “When I was in kindergarten and first grade I was always way ahead of the teacher in doing things. I could read when I was three, so when the other kids were learning how to read I was reading all kinds of books. But, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I would always interrupt the teacher or someone else who was talking and blurt out the answer or ask a question that was way beyond where the class was in the lesson. I don’t know how many times I got sent to the office and had to miss recess or stay after school. It was terrible.”

“How did your parents handle it?”

“My mom seemed to understand, but not my dad. When I got in trouble at school I’d catch it double at home. Eventually, I began to think I was an alien or something weird. I thought it’d be better if I could cut it out of me, but I didn’t know what part to cut.”

“Did you start hurting yourself?” Ms. Smith asked with a worried look on her face.

“I did a couple of times,” he said as a grin starting to take over his face. “But, it hurt too much so I didn’t do it again.”

They laughed.

Gold In Your Shadow

Ms. Smith continued, “Many people resist the temptation to hide their good characteristics in their shadow and bring them out of the back room. But, it is often harder to own the good or should I say the gold in your shadow. It is terrifying for some people because it makes them stand out. They aren’t part of the norm. Some times and for some people, it’s terrifying to say, ‘God gave me these characteristics for a specific calling.’ Too many times it begins to look like the person is giving themselves too much credit, that they are better than everyone else. Usually, these special gifts are for a higher calling in life, a purpose that will only be revealed later in life.”

Jeremy seemed to disappear into his thoughts again, “I do understand. When I was in the first grade I did think I was better than everyone else in the class, sometimes, better than the teacher. But, I’m beginning to see that I’m not better just different. Because of ADHD, I do things differently. Can I say, ‘sometimes I am smarter.’”

She nodded, “So, how do you handle it? Do you get down on yourself or a big head?”

Don’t Have To Stand Out

Jeremy shook his head, “Neither, if I can help it. But I discovered that I don’t have to stand out. I know what I can do. I don’t have to make others feel bad. Like you suggested the other day, I could ask Jack if he would like some help.”

The counselor nodded and waited while he was deep in thought, “I guess I would feel better if I accept who I am and what I can do. I think I can do that without trying to show everybody up. I think I have learned that I don’t have to be right.”

“Good. Remember, ignoring the gold or special gifts can be as damaging. It’s like ignoring a part of you. I know you have had problems with hyperactivity. How is that?”

“Well, I was made fun of so much that I found ways to keep it from showing.”

“Like what?”

“If I’m really interested in something I don’t fidget as much,” he said with a smile. “I started drawing when I’m bored in class. I always keep a sketch pad in the back of my notebook. If I start to fidget or get really bored I draw. Would you like to see?”

“Absolutely.”

Sketch Pad

Jeremy pulled out his sketch pad, “I don’t show these to anyone, not even my mom. I always sit in the back so very few kids see me drawing.”

The counselor took the sketch pad and slowly flipped through it, “These are really good. Do you only draw people?”

“I guess it’s a way for me too, you might say, even the playing field. I catch all the expressions and movements of the people around me. It’s funny, but those things just stick in my mind. I will sketch the basics then usually finish it at home later. Like this one,” he said flipping to a certain sketch.

The counselor laughed as she saw it, “That is an awesome sketch of Jack and the teacher. Did she really grab him by the back of the collar?”

“No, but it fits with both of their expressions so I added it. What she did was grab the fidget spinner that he was playing with and threw it in the trash. It was so funny. I just had to add her grabbing the back of his collar and lifting him out of his seat with his feet dangling,” he said laughing.  “Maybe that’s my payback.”