Burnout · caregiving · Nursing · RN · Self-care

Oh hello there, shadow side….

Image result for shadow images

There is an unexpected outcome that has resulted from my writing. While I am so grateful and happy that this blog is helping others, it is actually helping me more. I guess that is a by-product of when we provide care, right? We heal some sort of personal wound or find some sort of personal closure within ourselves. While I have had my moments of selflessness, I have had just as many, if not more moments of being a complete and utter asshole. Oh hello there, shadow side. What is a shadow side, you ask? It is the dark in all of us, the less flattering parts that we really don’t fully own or let others often see, if at all. It is the side, however, that motivates us to seek the positive and good in ourselves, in others and provides that warrior that is needed in the most challenging of circumstances. 

I have been struggling with this shadow side for a long time. For many years, I just indulged her. She is selfish, dramatic, totally crazy, controlling, manipulative and likes very nice things. She likes power and money. She loves to party. Hard. She will cut you out of her life quickly when you hurt her and if you hurt her family, she will go to war with you inciting any means possible to shut you down.  She is judgmental and bitchy and not only wants to be popular, but wants to be right. Boom. These are the traits you want in your nurse, yoga instructor, boss, aunt, sister and daughter, right? Not exactly. 

When I first learned about the concept of a shadow side, there was a fear in admitting to these aspects of myself. Did it mean that I deserve my karma? Did it mean that I didn’t deserve happiness? Or worse, did it mean that I was unworthy of love? In order to deal with my shadow side, I needed to seek out practices that were healing, full of compassion and provided support to my soul. The practices of yoga and meditation helped to bring to light that not only did I deserve happiness and was definitely worthy of love, but the shadow aspects actively bring about a disconnect from my whole self, light and dark, and honestly, the behaviors of my shadow self don’t provide true or lasting happiness. When I felt this energy switch in my body, there was a sense of ease and relief that these aspects were no longer in control of my behavior. What hasn’t been so easy is finding this space of how I acknowledge my shadow side without indulging these behaviors and she tends to rear her ugly self in times of stress and dis-ease. This dynamic is complicated by my personal addictions and family history of addiction and mental illness. This dark, messy side, I realize is rooted in fear. So I recognize that actively loving my dark side and acknowledging her is the work that must occur with honest compassion to be a whole, loving and complete person. 

We all have shadow sides and while I hope that my brutal honesty doesn’t terrify you, I recognize that I cannot worry if you know about this side because it does not encompass ALL of who I am. I am also loving, kind, loyal, brutally honest, compassionate, generous, resilient and strong. This shadow side allows the best in me to rise up in the moments where it truly counts and I know this beyond a shadow of a doubt as I have witnessed her in action. I am grateful that this dark side has allowed me to fight hard for loved ones in deep trouble. She has allowed me to recognize a very powerful and formidable woman that can gather resources quickly and solve problems resulting in lives saved and tragedies avoided. She has the endless energy and creativity of many and can work when needed 36 hours straight. She has taken control of situations that have not been in the best interest of the vulnerable and the sick. Finally, she has fought like hell to bring her life to fruition, never settling for less than what she deserves or what she sees in her dreams. 

As with all things, there is balance in this work too. Find the compassion for those you serve, but be selfish in serving yourself first. Give your presence to those you hold space for wholeheartedly and then release that energy so that you may restore your light. By finding this balance, we find our whole selves and eventually, find our purpose. Do not neglect your shadow. Know that your shadow has your back and is willing to bear the brunt of your bad days so that your true and whole self can be all of the things you need to be in your true and whole life. 

Shadow Work–Explanations & Guides

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