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As I walk recovery’s road, I’ve always been fascinated with shadow. Literally, it’s a fun tool to make shadow puppets on the wall with my hands.  Metaphorically, however, it is less entertaining and more of an elusive blackness embedded in the feet, following wherever we go. I see shadows with both perspectives. They provide comfort in that they cannot be seen without light. If we are enveloped in depression’s darkness, there is no illumination to create a shadow. The fact that they are present is evidence for brilliance. But, though shadows prove the existence of stepping into the sun, they are also the lingering fingerprints of the blackness we try to leave behind. They are a sign we are healing; that we are facing the light. We can see hope in the warm rays caressing our cheek from the generous arms of a brighter future. Yet, the shadow still stands entrenched, impervious to the light.

What Are Your Shadows?

Shadows are the pain, flashbacks, PTSD moments of panic, and sadness of our past.  They are the whispers in the dark that your delusions of having it all together are a fairytale. Though you may feel moments in the sun, when you turn around, you are reminded that you still walk among the shadow people.

Everyone heals in their own time, but as long we we move forward, we are all walking out of darkness into light. We are just at different distances… Think about it, when the light is far off and lower on the horizon, the shadows grow. But, when we stand directly under the source of light, the shadow shrinks to raisins beneath our toes.

Two Types of Shadow People

Some of us dismiss that we are even affected by our past and refuse to turn and see the huge shadow laughing around our ankles. We claim we are over it; that the pain no longer affects us. But, we’ve just successfully stuffed our issues in an emotional box waiting to bounce out like a psychotic clown on springs when we least suspect. Trust me, it’s easier to deal with it now… and I hate clowns! If you stuff them away, they seem to grow in the dark of denial.

On the other side of the personality coin, some people bypass the rose-colored glasses, and obsess over their shadows while ignoring the light. It is human nature to focus on what we’ve lost, on what we miss, on who has hurt us. But, holding onto the positive and letting the pain go is the only way to heal. Many times, people focus so much on one aspect of their lives that is broken, while missing all the blessings they still enjoy which are begging for their acknowledgment. Realize that it’s in our nature to do this, and constantly work to change it. So you haven’t found that special person yet; you still have family and friends who love you! So your job is stressful; there is more to life than career. Don’t tie your job failure to your identity as a person; there are still so many things you can do with your life! So your marriage is in trouble, realize that you have the power to do all you can to change it, and if the other person still refuses reconciliation and embraces rebellion, you can walk away. So that person has hurt you deeply and refuses to acknowledge or apologize for it, you can always forgive them anyway for your own sanity’s sake. So you lost someone close to you, either through death or by choice… it does their memory no good to embrace misery. If they truly loved you unconditionally, they wouldn’t want that path of grief for you. Despite what you want to say in your pity party of one, you always have a choice to move forward or wallow in the misery of what you cannot change.

I don’t mean to sound harsh. I’m preaching to myself as well. I have recently walked away from more than an entire year of productivity lost in depressive wallowing. But, no more! It’s time to accept the past, but no longer give it power!

Turn the Monsters into Midgets!

So, how do we get rid of the shadow people? First, acknowledge that they are there by turning around to face them, but don’t give them any power over your. Then, accept that healing takes time, and they may be your companions for a bit longer on your journey. But, just because they are there doesn’t mean they deserve any fear of their existence. Each day, learn to let go of what is outside of your circle of influence and focus on what is still within your power to change. You can always impact your thinking and outlook, no matter what setbacks come. Finally, commit to find at least one reason each day to make the shadows shrink.  Embrace one more thought that brings you closer to hope.  Make a list of all of the positivity in your life and display it somewhere you can see it often. Decide to logically look at your belief systems and objectively dissect any that you know are holding you back from freedom. This makes the shadow monsters into shadow midgets.

What belief systems are you holding onto that you know are holding you back from healing? What are some steps you can take today to shrink your shadow people?