Do these everyday shadows sound familiar? Plaguing self-criticism; wondering if you’ll ever reach your dreams; spiritual angst; loneliness; winter blues; or plain ol’ stuck-on-the-couch days?
We each have our internal or hidden struggles — our shadows. Yes there are also the big tragedies in life that we know all too well, but today I’m talking about the internal stuff.
On a recent stuck-on-the-couch day, I drew an angel card that said, “What you perceive to be your dark side holds a hidden treasure.” Hmmm. It rang true.
After sitting with that message for a bit, it led to a major breakthrough because I looked closer at the shadow and saw the amazing gifts there that I needed to bring to my work. The light returned. What a release! It reminded me of this awakening I had earlier: Your “Worst” Trait Could Be Your Superpower.
What does this “hidden treasure” mean, in a practical sense, for coping with our shadow side?
Winter’s Wisdom for Balance and Courage
Winter solstice is the perfect metaphor for facing the dark side of life. We make our annual journey around the sun to visit the shortest day of the year, like a touchstone, which in turn leads to the returning of the light.
Notice that we never stay stuck in winter. But we do go back every year. It’s the same with down emotions. They come and go, like the seasons.
Living in New England is the ultimate place to enjoy the richness of four seasons. I see people moving back here from California so they can experience that natural cycle of the seasons. They crave it.
We need the cycles of life, just like we need to reboot the computer sometimes. Just like we need to sleep.
Most humans and animals have our parallel inward journey during winter. Ever feel like hibernating, or just hunkering down ’til spring? Ever notice feeling more gloomy when the sky is grey?
When we resist the calling to “hibernate” or turn inward, we can get stuck, or depressed*. When I allow the emotions or the inward time, it leads somewhere new and important. New ideas arise after a good rest.
The gradual returning of the light after the solstice often guides me, gradually, out of my hibernation caves. Sometimes it’s literally the sunlight that guides me. And sometimes returning light is a metaphor for finding a fresh perspective while chatting with a friend. Everything can look better after that.
I try to remember this mantra for the dark days: “This too shall pass.” That is the wisdom of winter.
What We Resist Persists
Everywhere I turn, I see how resisting the shadow side can hurt us, and how noticing it can liberate us.
Comments welcome below.
*A Word About Depression
Did you know that depression is not the same as sad emotions? It’s a state of no emotions. It can be brought on by resisting our emotions so long that we get stuck. Depression can also have chemical or trauma underpinnings.
Whatever its cause, depression feels bad because we get stuck in negative thoughts, which are different than emotions. Emotions are not thoughts.
I’m not saying all depression is solved if we just feel our feelings. It’s complicated. I’ve been there. I’ve learned that allowing emotions and connecting with others can help prevent depression or lessen depression.
This is another way of saying it: