Talking about the shadow

You know how it is when you plan to buy a particular new car and suddenly there seem to be a lot more of that model on the roads? I’ve been experiencing the same thing lately with a psychological idea. Not much use for driving around in, I know, but cheaper to run and kinder to the environment.

Sitting on the terrace in Cable Bay I spent a good part of my holiday thinking about the shadow side of life. It has remained on my mind, and on Monday I’m planning to record a podcast chat with Matt Moore and Annette Clancy to explore it further.

I’ve noticed stories like this about politicians running into their own shadows and thought more about people I run into who seem scared of their own shadows. Just this morning, I saw this story about a couple who discovered new lovers online with whom they finally felt able to share the misery of their marriages… only to find that their online amour was actually their real life spouse.

Even that Steve Jobs quote about being a pirate instead of joining the navy could be seen as invitiation to embrace our own shadow. Perhaps this explains the pleasures of talk like a pirate day?

And (doh) that’s what Hugh’s blue monster schtick is about, right? As I get it, the blue monster represents all the energy that keeps people at Microsoft despite its frustrations – and the idea that it needs to be unleashed.

And I’ve reflected on what parts of myself may be in shadow. The other day I twittered that I was experiencing schadenfreude and quite enjoying it. James pointed out that although we generally define schadenfreude as “taking pleasure in others misfortunes” its German origin is more like “laughter in the dark” which feels like a richer, more poetic idea, that perhaps removes the implication of meanness. I liked that because my schadenfreude felt pleasurable and not profoundly mean.

I also twittered about procrastination and I thought about how I can often procrastinate horribly about things like client phone calls. I sometimes delay or dread them as if I really don’t want to make them. I stopped and let myself feel that dread for a while and started to sense that the deeper experience was not really a fear of contact, but a deep desire for it and for it to be good. And that rather more satisfying idea had – until then – been buried in my own shadow. So my next client call seemed to move from being something to be got over with to something to actually relish. I’m pretty sure the result was a lot more satisfying for the person on the other end.

If we talk about examining our shadow, it alls sounds quite scary but the actual experience can be good fun. I’m looking forward to seeing if Matt and Annette are having similar thoughts… or some darker ones?

3 thoughts on “Talking about the shadow

  1. Jon Husband

    Johnnie, this is reall good stuff.

    I remainered convinced, after all these years now, that there is something timeless and accessible-for-all in basic good old blogging (I guess it is the journalling) that gets one to the deep and useful insights like that which you have shared with us here.


  2. patti digh

    you must know that any post containing a photo of Captain Jack Sparrow would get my attention 😉

    beyond that distraction, i was interested to see this, having just picked up again last night Robert Bly’s “A Little Book on the Human Shadow” in preparation for a musing on the letter “S”. I thought you might find it of interest, if you aren’t already familiar with it.

    I’m, admittedly, not a big fan of Bly, but this wee book on shadow has meaning for me. Bly speaks of shadow as “the long bag we drag behind us,” heavy with the parts of ourselves our parents or community didn’t approve of. Or shadow as thin gray film rolled into a can, out of sight, but ready with images thrown onto a giant screen or played out on a partner’s face.

    I think you might like the book, given your delving into shadow…


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