What Triggers Your Shadow Self? Try This Exercise
The Shadow is Part of Your Whole Self
Have you ever considered that you may have a ‘shadow self’ lurking inside you? A side that listens to criticsm and takes it to heart. A side that uses the possibilities of what could go wrong to cause you to overcontrol others and situations? A voice that says vulnerability will be perceived as weakness?
We all have a shadow, even if we aren’t aware of it. In the language of the Johari Window, the Shadow is the part of ourselves that is unknown to others, and hidden from ourselves.
This unknown part contains information about who we are in our wholeness. It holds the beliefs we took away from the disappointments and setbacks in our lives. It is the seat of our inner, never-ending critical voice. It encloses parts of ourselves that we don’t like, or experiences that left a residue of guilt or shame. It is the part of ourselves that we hide, not just from others…but from our own awareness.
When you are unaware of your shadow and it’s contents, it is nevertheless active, and making decisions that don’t always serve you. When you get to know your shadows, and learn all that they have to offer, you open possibilities for a happier life.
“It is the opponent within us who sharpens our skills. The Shadow isn’t a problem to be solved or an enemy to be conquered, but a ferfile field to be cultivated.” –Unknown
You Can’t Avoid What’s Inside You
Many of our problems arise not from our distressing thoughts or feelings, but from the unwillingness to to approach them. It is in the avoidance or aversion to acknowledge areas that create vulnerability that our inner lives become bifurcated. Instead of viewing our distress as either good or bad, if we turn to face those thoughts and feelings, we can use the full palette of our human experiences in surprising ways.
What triggers us, pushes our buttons can give us clues to information hidden in our shadow that wants to be addressed.
Here’s an exercise to try (ABCS, Beck 2011)
Everday events that trigger or really get to you can push your buttons and demonstrate consequences (feelings and behaviors) that are out of proportion to the event itself. These are very unique to you. But there is something going on in the middle (between the activating situaiton and your reaction), a belief.
This belief is what we aim to bring into awareness in coaching. So, give it a try…
Acknowledge your own activating events
Think about events that happen that really get you going. Is it being cut off in traffice? Children not following through on their chores? A project overrun? Make a note as to how much these events get to you. You may find you have more or less in certain areas of your life.
Activating event 1:
Activating event 2:
Activating event 3:
Now think of the consequences of these actions:
How did they make you feel?
What did you do?
Now we will step back and reflect upon the belief:
What was going through your mind?
Challenging and creating alternative interpretations
Is there a way to challenge your belief? For example is this interpretation 100 percent true?
What and where is the evidence? Note down examples or support that contradict your beliefs. When you reflect on the list, what is the evidence support?
Creating alternative interpretations
If you find that your list is skewed, you can try and delve deeper and create other ways of intepreting the event. What information are you missing? What else could be influencing the situation?
Noticing our triggers and allowing them to lead us to hidden beliefs can integrate our shadow parts. Once we understand them and how they are operating, we can begin to overturn the hold they have on our lives, and reduce their negative impact and disruption.
Want to learn more about how you can get the transformation you desire? Click here to discover how Pathwork Coaching and support you in uncovering beliefs hidden in your shadow and sign-up for a FREE 30-minute coaching session with me.