What can Shadows Teach Us?

From early childhood, we learned to express certain feelings, and to avoid "bad" feelings or emotions that we didn't like or knew others wouldn't approve of.  Avoiding feelings within us creates a shadow or missed lesson that is there for us.   In an effort to hide shadows, where are we bringing false light into our lives today?

May 18, 2021
Show/Hide Transcript

Melissa Albers  0:00  
Hey everyone, you are listening to the self awareness Journey podcast. This little banner is about a car ride long and features your hosts, JJ Parker, and Melissa Albers. JJ owns a tech company. And Melissa has been a coach working with influencers for the last 18 years. So in a rare departure from our norm, JJ, I'm going to start the podcast today. I'm not sure I do yet. We'll find out. So recently, I started working with my coach again. And I love working with my coach. And I get a lot of heaviness, sometimes working with my coach, because her job is to bring out the best in me and also to point out places where I am struggling or I'm I'm in my patterns, right?

JJ Parker  0:53  
Yeah. So does that do those sessions make you like, kind of uncomfortable or squirmy?

Melissa Albers  1:00  
Yes, uh huh. Like on the edge of my seat? Oh, my goodness, like is I really lean in like I really, really, really want to always be having more awareness of myself and getting better at my craft for the benefit of others to since I coach. But I think it's super interesting, because last week, I had this conversation with her about this need, I have to always focus on the positive. And how I almost avoid, and I don't even like to say the negative. I don't even like to say that, you know,

JJ Parker  1:37  
I know you don't even like saying that word.

Melissa Albers  1:39  
No, exactly. And what's super funny is, at the same time, I was having this conversation with her, you came to me and you said, you know, I've been thinking about this idea of shadow shadows, and how we have shadows in our life. And I was like, Oh, wow, that's a real weird thing that we both had that same? Because really, we're talking about the same thing. Yeah, the human condition of being up the human condition of not being great. And what do you what is that? Where does it manifest in your life? All of the opposite of all the happiness? Mm hmm. So yeah, it is coined. It's you coined it as shadows. Shadows. So what are you thinking when you you said set

JJ Parker  2:21  
it? Well, I was. That's a good question. Because I was a little bit all over the place with it. Because again, it was for me, it was like, an exercise an exploration of a thought. Right Thinking Thinking, yep. Right. It was just me thinking. But I thought it was really interesting and the way like when I think of a shadow, I think of it's like, there's light, right? And then there's darkness. And the darkness is the shadow and you can't see very clearly there. That's like the whole thing with a shadow. Is that the thing? It's the part of, you know, whatever, that it's obscuring. Mm hmm. isn't in the light. So it's darker, it's less defined? There's less definition to it, you can't see. Right. And I was just wondering is, are there lessons to be learned by trying to see what is in the shadow? Right. Like, there's something there. Like if there's a tree and it's casting a shadow on the ground? It's not like the grounds not there. You just can't see the ground as clearly.

Melissa Albers  3:43  
Hmm, that's really interesting.

JJ Parker  3:46  
So is that happening for us internally to ourselves? Are we casting shadows? Or are there shadows in our own being thought patterns been? Yeah, what are however, that we should explore?

Melissa Albers  3:59  
Mm hmm. Yeah. Well, I think yes. 100% like, your weren't asking that question. Like for my answer.

JJ Parker  4:08  
Or ugly ask. Yeah.

Melissa Albers  4:09  

JJ Parker  4:10  
I know what your answer is.

Melissa Albers  4:11  
Yeah. I think it's a great question. And I think actually, I feel it is such a such a growth place to be when we can explore what our shadows are. I think it's huge growth. And I think the natural human condition is to ignore and avoid it. Like oh, no, I don't like that. That's scary. I can't see clearly I don't I don't know I don't like this

JJ Parker  4:40  
right. Because sometimes where we'll while while we go right away is that shadow is trauma. Right? That that shadow is past, you know, past bad things that you don't want to deal with. So yeah, it just sick dark. it

Melissa Albers  5:00  
Yeah. Or you feel it, you get scared of it, and then you gloss over it in try to make it something different. So I think like our reaction to shadow can be really varied. But I think we all have it. Of course we all have it.

JJ Parker  5:18  
So when you were thinking about it, and when you're working with your coach, what was? What was the thing? Like? Yeah, to go explore those shadows?

Melissa Albers  5:29  
Yeah. So I think I kind of

JJ Parker  5:32  
like is that like, face the pain kind of thing?

Melissa Albers  5:35  
Yeah, it's just don't be afraid to face it. Don't be afraid to look at it. It isn't even like face it. Because when you say it like that, it's like, oh, that must mean there's a, a war ready to start or something. But I think that's what emotionally at least for me, if I have stuff in my past, or certain ways of being, like, I know, I like to be overly optimistic. I do that I've always done that. And it's made me feel safe. Like, I'll just overly optimize what this is going to look like. And I'll force feeling good about it, and then it will all be okay. And this will never happen again. And I think her perspective is, is that when we do that, we're actually putting part of ourselves away. And when we do that, we're not actually fully in our own aware state, we're not able to be who we really are, we're only half of who we are. So it was for more from that perspective. And specifically, we were talking about when I was how this started, like, and I think it starts for people when they're little, you know, I'm, when this started for me, I was raised in a house where it was really not acceptable to have bad feelings. Hmm, not at all. It was like, if you're not going to be in a good mood, or if you don't have something nice to say, Go away, go to your room, go play in your room. And so I learned really early, it's like, oh, no one likes to talk about that bad stuff. Yeah, no one likes to talk about if you're sad. No one likes to do that. So I should falsely be happy even when I'm not. And I think there's a shadow. That's a really, really, really big shadow. And, you know, you carry it with you.

JJ Parker  7:26  
Yes, like morphs, or and like, and that tree grows and grows and starts casting a bigger and bigger shadow.

Melissa Albers  7:33  
Yeah, yeah. And I I think Shadows are beautiful. They really can be. They really are there to show us. All of our opposition's no human beings are complex peoples.

JJ Parker  7:53  
That's really interesting. Like, I mean, we just we had earlier actually, I think, given yesterday, we had talked about the idea that how are parents dealt with emotion? Yeah, really impacts how we are. We as adults know dealing with emotion. You just hit that right? On the head? Mm hmm. Yeah. And so that caused this shadow for you in your, you know, in all of your adult life. Yeah. And you're just kind of working on it now.

Melissa Albers  8:23  
Right, right. And I have on and off throughout my whole life worked on it, but never, never with the same awareness that I have now. So like, I like it. I like that I have this. I actually like that I'm in this place, which sounds weird. But I would avoid shadow my forever. And now I'm sort of like, that's really interesting. Like, why is that? What does that what's that done for me? And what is it preventing me from now?

JJ Parker  8:51  
Yeah, yeah. That's super interesting. That's great that you're, like, open, you know, like, you're more open now to exploring it right. You're trying to figure it out. You're Yeah. Scene trying to see what are those shadows might be and explore those edges.

Melissa Albers  9:06  
Yeah. And you at the beginning, like you had some great ways that you were feeling shadows are represented. Mm hmm. You were talking about some of those. And I'd love to hear that again. You started

JJ Parker  9:21  
my big list of shadow of shadows.

Melissa Albers  9:24  
Yeah, JJ. JJ came to the podcast with I have a lot of notes.

JJ Parker  9:28  
Right. This is like the opposite approach. Like most of this speaks from our heart and I kept this giant notebook. Well, when you're talking about your experience with shadows, the thing that it made me think is a lot of times in our professional coaching work, like, like when we're just talking with employees about being better at their job. I think we say all the time is an overused, overused strength can and become a liability 100. This is almost the same thing. So if you put it into like a very tactical Yeah, work context. Yeah. Like, hey, if you over develop, yeah, a skill and ignore some of the other things that causes the shadow. And that's yeah, work context. Sometimes that's more like, maybe not even an emotional shadow as much as it is just a small deal. But it it is, right.

Melissa Albers  10:26  
It's an emotional shadow, because it's covering something up. Yeah. Because

JJ Parker  10:30  
you want to be super good at this one thing, and you're ignoring the things you don't want to do. That's right. That's right.

Melissa Albers  10:38  
It's easier to ignore them.

JJ Parker  10:40  
Mm hmm.

Melissa Albers  10:41  
It's just easier, it's easier to just turn on a light.

JJ Parker  10:44  
Yep. So I think that's a really good thing for us all to think about is where are we? Like, I don't want to say maybe over overcompensating? I don't know if that's the right way to phrase that. But where are we like, kind of like going overboard on some things that we like to do or we're good at? Or we're using it as like a protection mechanism? Yeah. Yeah. And it's a really good cooperating those shadows, because I think we're creating those those every day. Yeah, my, my big list of notes. I'll just fire through.

Melissa Albers  11:21  
Yeah, go go for it.

JJ Parker  11:23  
So first, I was thinking, Okay, if we're talking about shadows, you know, we just talked about this. Shadows kind of in within ourselves, right. That's what I feel like we were talking about, but I was also thinking about shadows. We might cast on each other. Hmm. are on other people. Yeah. Right. Like we. And again, this is an internal thing, but x the external manifestation of it. Yeah. Maybe it looks like we act much bigger in order to sort of minimize other people. Yeah, right. Yeah. That would be a classic like, overshadowing like, This person was like, I overshadowed my colleague or something, because I did something much bigger. Right. Yeah. And then, and I think you can overshadow yourselves, right. Again, like, that's a good like, using one of your strengths. Or maybe not so much like sometimes you might overshadow yourself in a negative way, right. Like, my temper overshadowed my intention or center. henshin. Right. Yeah. Right. So this some acts caused a shadow. Also singing about being in someone else's shadow. Hmm. I think if you guys sometimes all, you know, this is like a very classic. You know, I have a overachieving older sibling. Yeah. Right. And I feel like I'm always in the shadow, right, being ignored. No one pays attention to me. So that was interesting. And then it's like a shadow cast by an event or a circumstance. Hmm.

Melissa Albers  13:17  
What were you thinking about with that one?

JJ Parker  13:19  
What I was thinking about was, like, sometimes, I kind of think of it in the context of like a mountain. Like, sometimes we're like, well, that's a really big project and a really big mountain to climb. And you're actually standing in the shadow of the mountain. Yeah. Looks terribly ominous. So any big bend impossible.

Melissa Albers  13:45  
Any big goal could go there. Right? And that's really good.

JJ Parker  13:51  
So when you're in that shadow, it feels cold and dark and helpless? Yeah. But if you're able to get some perspective view, just see that maybe it's not even that big of a mountain and the shadows do, and you just happen to be in the shadow.

Melissa Albers  14:08  
Yeah, I love the these are really, really good examples. And I think like, what's your opinion on this? I feel like the shadows that you feel inside, even though they're manifesting externally, they really are representing some kind of shadow that you have.

JJ Parker  14:25  
Oh, yeah, I think it's all the same. Like I was, I was describing this like, X turtle, like, maybe how we could, yeah, notice our internal shadows by observing these external things. Yeah, that's so good. But all that stuff's internal. I, you know, like, right, like, we talk about how we're making our reality. Right? So the fact is, as I other other people and circumstances and, and things like that we're like, if our perception is that we feel like we're being overshadowed That's because we're creating that. Yeah. within ourselves.

Melissa Albers  15:04  
You know, it's really interesting in this conversation. So as I, as we've been talking, I've been thinking, there's a little missing link here. What is that? What is that little missing link, and I just hit on it as you were talking, I feel like shadows are here to show us who we really are. And, you know, we consider shadows almost to be like, negative emotions, right? strong reactions to things.

JJ Parker  15:36  
If we don't things we want to avoid

Melissa Albers  15:38  
things we want to avoid, right? And yet, we cannot know. And I've heard this many times, and I, and it's so resonates with me, we cannot know extreme happiness, unless we've experienced the equal and opposite, extreme sadness. So a level in which you can have the capacity for good can only be represented because you've experienced equal bad. I'm using very black and white phrases that, you know, I normally totally avoid and hate using.

JJ Parker  16:12  
Just as a second, like, oh, okay, so to be happier, I have to go find some extreme sad.

Melissa Albers  16:18  
No, no, no, it means the depth in which you can feel something, the depth of which you can feel something, and people will try to numb themselves out, but you can't selectively numb. So you can't, then maybe that's a better way to say it. People, I'm going to say it again. Because I think it's really important. People try to numb themselves out. But you cannot selectively numb which feelings you numb out. So you numb out bad so that you can only experience good, that doesn't happen that way. You know, only one side of you.

JJ Parker  16:54  
So if you're like numbing out, it's both happy and sad.

Melissa Albers  16:57  
Yes. So the shadows that we each have all of us have them. The amount that you are willing to look at them. Well isn't direct correlation to how much joy and happiness that you can have as well. If you avoid these shadows, and pretend they don't exist, or pretend that you're not bothered by them. It absolutely limits your capacity for true joy. Not the fake stuff.

JJ Parker  17:26  
I feel like we all need to pause for a little bit and just think about that.

Melissa Albers  17:32  
You can not pause the podcast and think. Wait, let me get my abacus. No, that's not the right tool. Yeah, you cannot sub you cannot choose what things you numb out and which things you do not numb out.

JJ Parker  17:51  
From I like I like I really like that idea. Because why I? Like I observe that modern society. i You could call it no mean. I call it entertaining ourselves to death. Like saying like people attempt to enter like, like us entertainment to just ignore everything else that's happening, right. Mm hmm. And it's a numbing technique it is. But when you're just in a constant state of sort of receiving entertainment, you said, I think there's like a finite amount of happiness that that can actually bring you

Melissa Albers  18:37  
Yeah, well, I

JJ Parker  18:37  

Melissa Albers  18:39  
yeah, it's just more of a surface level. So you know, we're not talking about the external response of joy and sadness. I'm not talking about that, like what it looks like on the outside. I'm talking about your deep inner core. You can't selectively numb.

JJ Parker  18:55  
Yeah, that's really interesting. That's a great concept.

Melissa Albers  18:58  
Yeah. And so like, if you look at shadow, and what is it there to tell us? What is it there to tell us if we take that attitude of No, no, no, no, let's, I don't want to know what it's going to tell me. Like just, like, just hop on my phone and scroll through Instagram. I don't want to know what I don't feel good. Right now. I don't want to know why I don't feel good. I don't want to explore it because it feels like there's something very big and dark in there. I don't want to know what it is. Yeah. So I'm going to just avoid it. Well, it just sits there. It doesn't go away. It doesn't go away. It sits there until we decide. Okay, time to clean it up.

JJ Parker  19:37  
And so what's the fear there? The fear there is that if you start exploring that, it's like you're standing on the edge. Mm hmm. And you don't know how deep that hole is? Yeah. Right. Like you're gonna fall off a cliff. And you don't know how far down it goes.

Melissa Albers  19:57  
Yeah, it's scary. Yeah, it feels it feels Scary. But a lot of the times, I'm, like, just flipping on a light putting a flashlight towards that shout out. It's a paper tiger. Right? Not real. It's not nearly as big as what we thought it was. And it is such a relief. Yeah. See, right. Get rid of that shadow. That

JJ Parker  20:23  
giant ravine that you're standing on the cliff turns out to be a pothole.

Melissa Albers  20:28  
Exactly. Yeah. Right. Yeah.

JJ Parker  20:32  
Yeah. Yeah. One of one of one of our friends. Once were kind of exploring this kind of topic, said to me, because, JJ, you can't know your limit until you see the edge. I was like, Oh, wow. That's like a really ominous statement. Like,

Melissa Albers  20:55  
what was the inferring? Were you supposed to just like go and throw yourself off of the? So you can see? Yeah,

JJ Parker  21:01  
well, he was he was talking about this same topic. He was talking about, like, like, understanding yourself and like until you get to, until you start exploring what's over those edges. Oh, sure. Like you don't you really haven't gotten there, I think was his point. Yeah. But he always like, illustrates things.

Melissa Albers  21:29  
Oh, yes, that's right. Yes. That John? Yes, he does. Someday, if I have enough courage, we should have him on the show.

JJ Parker  21:39  
It would be entertaining. And seven hours long?

Melissa Albers  21:48  
Well, I think this is just a really interesting conversation. Because I think that, you know, you can see people that have a lot of shadow, you can see people who have collected a lot of shadows.

JJ Parker  21:59  
So actually talk to me about that a little bit. Because what I was going to ask you next is, how, how would you suggest we start? What I guess we would just call it shadow work? How do we start this?

Melissa Albers  22:14  
Oh, my gosh, I love that phrase.

JJ Parker  22:17  
Let's talk about observing it and other people can Are you? Are you able to see other people's shadows easier than you're able to see your own?

Melissa Albers  22:25  
I feel like I I think it's way easier for me. Do you think so for you?

JJ Parker  22:30  
I think so. Mm hmm. Now that is do I have the courage to tell someone that no, absolutely no, no. And nor probably nor how would you even do that?

Melissa Albers  22:41  
I don't think it's our job to do that. Yeah, I don't think it's our job to do that at all. But I think that if you do it as an observational technique like this to notice, I don't think that that's a bad thing. Because because, you know, I always say what you see in someone else, the only reason you can see it is because you to have it.

JJ Parker  22:56  
Yeah, yeah, that's where I was gonna go is like maybe if you start observing other people shadows, you can use that as a clue. Yeah, to where your own art.

Melissa Albers  23:06  
Like, let's use, like, let's be more tactical, like let's use a different word, let's say, let's say, sarcasm. Let's use sarcasm as an example. There's a lot of people that use sarcasm or sarcastic humor. Because they think it's really funny. And I used to use sarcasm a lot until I had another coach, tell me, point blank, right in my face. using sarcasm is a way for yourself, for you to make yourself feel better and to make other people feel bad. And I was like, What? No, I was No, I was

JJ Parker  23:45  
just being funny, right?

Melissa Albers  23:46  
I thought that was funny. But if you think take sarcasm, for example, sarcasm represents your need to be funny. And to make yourself feel better about something, period, that is what sarcasm is. So there's a shadow, right? It's like, so what's in there? What is that that's making you feel like that is appropriate, or that feels good to you? What is that about? And I think again, you know, we always talk about trying not to judge it's not about judging and making ourselves wrong. It's just, it's just being in a more curious state of wondering why we have these things, you know, instead of judging.

JJ Parker  24:25  
Well, that was a super good example. Just illustrating, like, where you could where you could feel like, hey, that that little thing I did, made me feel good. Let's explore what the other side of that is. Yeah. So yeah, yeah. That's that's a perfect little everyday example. It's, it's fairly benign. Right, but it does help you. Tune. Yeah. Your self awareness. Yeah. These are little ways to help start picking up on those clues.

Melissa Albers  25:00  
because, you know, like, for me using sparkle using this example, this was quite a while ago. But I love being quick and witty and sarcastic. Like I love making little pithy, sarcastic comments. And so when this was called out for me, I was like, at first, I was actually in straight up rejection that that was true. And then I very specifically remember being in a group setting, using sarcasm towards another friend of mine, a girlfriend of mine. And everybody laughed. And for that little quick moment, I had that ego hit like, Oh, that was such a funny thing to say. And then I remembered exactly what Pam had said my other coach. And I looked at her and I saw it in her face. And I thought, dang, there it is. There it is, like, I noticed, I took the courage to look at the shadow that I just cast, and I saw it on your face. Wow. Yeah, that's a great story. And I, and I still feel sad when I think about it today. Now I shouldn't I don't want to feel sad. It's okay. It's I'm learning, right? I'm learning and there's that judgment. I want to make myself wrong for that. But I really learned I really learned about that. And now it's something that I'm different with. And I understand why. Yeah. So I think we all have stuff like that. So to go back to your question, you know, I am not the answer to every I don't know all the answers. But I do know, for me what worked is to just when something comes to my attention, just sit within a minute and ask myself, what's that all about? Mm hmm. that's causing some sort of feeling inside that doesn't quite feel right. Like what is that?

JJ Parker  26:41  
Yeah. Well, this is super interesting. I like I like that, that we explored some examples of, like, really little shadows that happen every single day, and some really big ones. Right. That seemed like scary. Yeah, very close. Yeah. Yeah. I think that this is a great practice for everybody to just think about and observe.

Melissa Albers  27:03  
Yeah, shadows are good. Shadows are not bad shadows. Give us an opportunity to see who we really are, and sort of clean out our closets, so to speak. We hope that you've enjoyed today's episode. Our mission is to help people become happier and more effective by gaining insight into their own thoughts and feelings. We'd love your support. First, share this podcast with anyone you think might enjoy it. Second, leave us a rating or review on your favorite podcast safe. This helps others discover the podcast so we can reach more people. And third, sign up for our newsletter at the self awareness journey.com. This will help us communicate better with you and build our community. Thank you so much for joining us in the self awareness journey. We'll see you next week.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Discussed in this episode

Let's get real

Meet your guides

JJ Parker

JJ Parker is a serial entrepreneur passionate about building creative strategy, efficient operations, and unique marketing perspectives. Parker got his start as a student at The Minneapolis Institute of Art, and soon after launched his first company Tightrope Media Systems (TRMS) with a high school buddy in 1997.

Melissa Albers

Melissa is passionate about developing people’s self-awareness and ability to positively interact with others. She focuses on the importance of building influence, and highlights the most important relationship we have is with self first. Ms. Albers speaks on leadership and self-awareness, and has shared the stage with John Maxwell (Leadership Author and Speaker), Lee Cockerell (Exec VP of Disney) and Les Brown (Motivational Speaker) to name a few.

Learn more about the topics in this episode

The Art of
Self Awareness Course

Have you ever wished that you could be happier inside more of the time? Does your productivity take a hit when your mood dips? Do you wish you would just do better but don’t know how?

If you answered YES to any or all of these questions, this course is for YOU.

Join The Self Awareness Journey to learn how feelings, when explored, inform us of our thoughts which ultimately cause our actions. When things don’t go as planned we often blame outside circumstances, people or timing. But most of us are unaware of our core feelings so we are never quite able to manifest our true desires.

Intrigued but want to know a little more?

Drop your contact information below and we'll keep you updated with our latest tips for increased self-awareness.