I believe in positive affirmations. They are great. And they work, sometimes. They help me now that I’m in a place I can hear them. Back in my younger days, positive affirmations did NOT help me. They either pissed me off, or they helped for two seconds never to be remembered again.
There had to be another way. So I created negative affirmations. Yes leave it to me. Let’s call them shadow affirmations. I believe now is a great time to explore our shadows.
(By the way, I just realized that this blog about “Shadows” coincides with Halloween, even if it’s a little late. This Fall, I have been walking around taking pictures of beautiful Fall and Halloween decorations near me. I have included those pics in this blog for a little shadow fun!)
Carl Jung, the famous psychologist, coined the term “shadow” to represent the unconscious parts of us. “In Jungian psychology, the shadow, (also known as id, shadow aspect, or shadow archetype) is either an unconscious aspect of the personality that the conscious ego does not identify in itself; or the entirety of the unconscious, i.e., everything of which a person is not fully conscious. In short, the shadow is the unknown side.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_(psychology).
The aspects of our shadow are with us and running the show on some level, whether we are aware of it or not. As Peter Levine quotes in his book, Healing Trauma,
“If you bring forth that which is within you,
Then that which is within you
Will be your salvation.
If you do not bring forth that which is within you,
Then that which is within you
Will destroy you.” The Gnostic Gospels
It takes no effort to see that the world’s shadow side is showing right now. I believe what goes on in the world reflects in us as individuals. That makes this an excellent time to explore our shadows within.
There is a psychotherapy technique called “Paradoxical Intention”. This technique was created by Viktor Frankl, a famous psychiatrist, German Concentration Camp Survivor, and the founder of Logotherapy (a type of therapy that helps patients find “healing through meaning”) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktor_Frankl .
Paradoxical intention “is the deliberate practice of a neurotic habit or thought, undertaken to identify and remove it.” For instance, the example Frankl uses in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is a patient who had a fear of sweating when going in public. The fear of sweating caused more sweating. It was a vicious cycle. The patient was directed by Frankl to TRY to “sweat buckets” the next time he’s in public. The patient couldn’t do it.
Frankl explains that the humor created by paradoxical intention can create space between the patient and the fear. The fear is less attached. The grip is released. Basically, you make the fear ridiculous. Best selling author, Gabby Bernstein, even said in an interview once that she had a friend she would call, and they would laugh together about their ridiculous fears in order to loosen their grips.
When I was in my 20’s, my best friend (and roommate) and I would do something similar. It all started when my friend realized she was avoiding our neighbor, because she had a fear that she parked too close to his car, and therefore he did not like her. We would laugh so hard at this. We called it “irrational fears”, and we would always refer back to the neighbor’s car as the original and Mother of “irrational fears”, which I think is quite hilarious. We didn’t realize we were using an actual psychological technique in order to help rid ourselves of unneeded fears.
I was not thinking of paradoxical intention when I created Shadow Affirmations for myself or when my roommate and I were laughing at our fears. It was later on when I was rereading Frankl’s book that I realized that was what I was doing! There is evidence this works!
As anyone who reads my blog knows, I am an anxiety disorder survivor and sometimes thriver. I have had severe anxiety my entire life. I have done a lot of inner exploration to pinpoint what exactly my “mean girl voice” says to cause such destructive anxiety. Sometimes she talks really loud. Most of the time, she whispers softly. She keeps me slightly miserable but not miserable enough to put forth the effort to find her. She whispers shadow nothings in my ear that keep me in my place, so I don’t think life is too good for too long. But she also isn’t nasty enough to make me do anything about it. She wiggles her way in, so I accept what she says. It feels like fact.
(By the way, isn’t that is the definition of the high school “mean girl”? You take what she says as Law.)
I realized that an ongoing script I had in my head, probably since I was a little girl, was “Everyone is mad at me, and I’m going to get in trouble.” Ughh. I tried and tried reframing it (Thank you Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). “Elizabeth, evidence shows that no one is mad at you, and you’re not going to get in trouble. This is logical. You have never been in trouble your entire life, and overall people seem to like you.” I would even go further “So what if someone is mad at me? So what if I get in trouble?” My stomach would knot up. My chest would tighten. Everyone being mad at me, and me getting in trouble felt like death.
Finally one day I thought, seriously Elizabeth? “Everyone is mad at you and you’re going to get in trouble?” What was I? 12? And for the first time, I laughed! It was ridiculous!
So I started saying it to myself in the morning before I walked out the door, “Elizabeth everyone is mad at you, and you’re going to get in trouble.” OMG! This worked! I didn’t even feel it when I said it like that. It was just funny and…away from me. I didn’t feel it in my body anymore. It wasn’t so attached to me.
I recently shared this with a client, and she laughed so hard that she forgot her troubles! We laughed at her shadow affirmation as well, which was very similar to mine. I am sure someday down the road someone will be mad at me. Will I be in trouble? As a 43 year old woman, I don’t even know what that means. I think I’m good. But I keep reminding myself of this in a paradoxical way.
Some people might worry that the Law of Attraction will make these Shadow Affirmations come to life. My answer to that is that our shadow affirmations are running the show at some level whether we are aware of it or not. If we fear these shadows, we give them power. The Law of Attraction responds to emotion, not words that don’t have any power behind them. When we laugh, we release the power of the negative thought, and allow it to disappear into the “nothing from which it came” as A Course in Miracles says.
Now it’s your turn! What is a negative story you have on repeat in your mind? Journal about it. Do you have any “irrational fears” that people are mad at you? The last time you were anxious, what was your fear? What do you tell yourself that causes you to feel anxious? Can you laugh at it? Is it so ridiculous that it deserves to be ridiculed?
After you identity what it is, notice if you have been trying to fight it. As a client of mine recently reminded me, “Force creates resistance”. So let’s get rid of the force by making it funny. No one likes to be laughed at right? We are going to catch that inner mean girl with her guard down.
Those negative stories will put their tails between their legs and go hide under the dog house in embarrassment when you start laughing at them. So then you can skip out of the house saying “Everyone is mad at me, and I’m going to get in trouble haha BRING IT ON.” And it will be quite obvious that most people love you, and you’re not getting in trouble (whatever that means).
Peace, Love, and Honor to Your Light AND Shadow
If you are interested in sessions with me, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.