Describing my Shadow
Thursday June 4, 2020
Friend with $800 glasses writes:
What does your shadow-guy look like? Can you sketch him?
Ah. Just one? Man, I’ve got a Legion of Shadows. They are many, and ever changing. Just when I’ve reconciled with one, another begins stalking through the periphery of my consciousness…
Lately The Legion has sent out a bloviating INTJ like my dad. The kind of guy who writes these long, stinging and subjective critiques:
“Dear Marc,” he writes,
“Your mother and I read your latest email to us. You seem to think you know a lot about life. You have a lot of big ideas. Well, be that as it may, here’s what I’ve accomplished in my own life:
(Long list of scrod, from selling ice cream cones to buying a huge trucking house and three Cadillacs)
I think this qualifies me to say that while your ideas may be creative, the proof is in the doing. As the Lord says in Scripture,
(Quote from The Lord, Who has Apparently Taken Dad’s Side, which is Just Great)
I think that should be enough for now. We paid for your education. You have a lot of work to do, if you are going to prove your worth in this world. Even a simple ice cream salesman could tell you that.”
Are you getting an idea of the kind of person this is? My dad would write these letters to anyone who made him remotely uncomfortable. And part of the purpose of these letters was to push away his own regrets and emotional pain.
You could have literally just received word that you made a billion dollars by working hard and being good, and you’d feel on top of the world, and then one of these letters would arrive, picking apart your billion dollars! There was no stopping the negative vibes.
So this person is also the shadow of optimistic “idea-Marc”. It’s the “yeah, ideas—great. But what are you doing” voice.
That path is tempting in its own way. If you’ve been a working INTJ before, you know what I mean. You start talking and thinking like, “OK, but we need to just do it.” At work, everything is either an economic expedient or it’s barely worth the mental energy.
But I’m also an idea guy; it’s a strength so I use it. Idealism is turning out to be a strength. So thus, I guess, all the negativity from the shadow. It’s a fear, a fear of coming ungrounded and floating up into the metaphorical sky.
And why fear? Well, maybe it’s because I’ve never been this version of myself before. I’ve changed a lot. And that’s scary. So my past comes in and wants to discuss how terrifying this is, and how this kind of change may not lead to good things, in its frightened opinion.
Sometimes I write letters back to Dad, even though he’s long since passed away. Having my dad in my shadow is really painful at times, but writing about it has helped me find out what he’s really getting at. There’s some substance to it that was non-obvious from the start, so I kind of avoided it at first.
One day, some years ago, while I was practicing an active imagination exercise, I had a shocking “intuitive visit” from a younger, healthier version of my dad. He wore a medical smock and he was in black and white, straight out of the 1950s. He was pleasant, composed, and yet purposeful. He examined my head and seemed satisfied with my progress. Then he was gone. It felt amazing—I’ll never forget the positive emotional impact of that subjective-perceptive event.
Otherwise: Man, what else can you do sometimes, than avoid that painful shadow. It has thrown some really evil people at me. Sometimes I talk to them and things end up well. At other times I grumble and groan and just can’t be bothered.
One of my shadows previously was a large lump of mud, shaped like a boy. The epitome of laziness. Not talking, just sitting at a table eating fruit loops. At that time in my life I was a bit too active overall. At first he was a frightening and concerning vision, but over time I grew to love him and try to protect him. This also helped me discover new empathy in my relationship with one of my kiddos, who I love dearly, and yet who does a “lump of mud” impression remarkably well at times. ;-)
There’s also an effeminate dragon in my shadow, which is kind of a fun one. We reconciled long ago, but when circumstances get the best of me, we sometimes still need to reconcile. She’s not me, but she represents a part of me.
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