Dr. O’Shan Gadsden explains shadow beliefs and how to begin to work through the healing.
Let’s consider the many ways in which the quality of our internal worlds have impacted how we define our realities. It’s easy for men, thanks to the process of gender socialization, to get caught up in revering the act of DOING. Our DOING often prevents us from seeing how the state of our internal worlds so powerfully impacts all that does or does not manifest externally. How many of us have taken a serious inventory of the internal variables that contribute to our external challenges and unresolved pain? I would humbly venture to say not many. But don’t be ashamed or embarrassed. After all, we are socialized early on, that good boys don’t feel, we perform. It is both modeled and taught to us (both implicitly and explicitly) that it is our performed strength that is of the most value. We are conditioned to be emotionally robotic in our childhood and adolescence. We then make our entrance into hegemonic masculinity; via the rites of passage called male adulthood. It is during this time that we are further bamboozled and lured into a rigid operationalization of masculinity; all reinforced by capitalism and competition.
Please do not misunderstand me. I see nothing wrong with purposeful living that manifests itself in production and socially responsible success and creativity but not at the expense of our souls or the essence of who we REALLY are.
If you were to define yourself today, minus the trappings of “success”, money, fame, or position; how would you describe yourself? Who are you REALLY? Do you move about in the world having internalized society’s and/or your family’s views about what make your masculinity authentic? Or are you open to beginning a process of deeper curiosity about the various dimensions of your manhood?
It is my supposition that you can never understand the multiple conflicts manifesting in your life until you first begin the process of understanding the truth that your current reality, both good and challenging, is simply a projection of your internal world. As a man thinketh, so he is. So I ask you today: How do you understand the manifestation of conflict in your life? Do you see it as externally based; things happening to YOU?
I wish to introduce a new paradigm for consideration. Perhaps, your outer reality is also an extension of your most powerful and consistent thoughts about yourself and not just a consequence of how you are impacted by others and how others are impacted by you. I would like to invite you to take this moment, as an opportunity to begin to consider the power of your Shadow Beliefs.
Shadow beliefs are insecure/negative unconscious beliefs and expectations regarding the self and others which influence how we understand and treat both ourselves and the other. These shadow beliefs also dictate to us, what we can and cannot do; and drives our subsequent behaviors. It should be noted that these shadow beliefs are not ahistorical or a-contextual. Many of our shadow beliefs are both perpetuated and sustained by oppressive systems; rigid ideals of gender and gender roles; and the internalization of traumatic developmental histories. Here are a few examples of shadow beliefs that might resonate with/for you:
–There is something wrong with me
– I will never be enough
– I am not worthy unless I am doing
-I cannot trust anyone
-I don’t deserve to have what I want
-I am worthless
-I am never going to be successful
– I could never be what I wish to be unless it is approved by the other
– My penis is my weapon and my prize
– I can never be a loving and emotionally responsive partner or father
– My race, developmental history, and/or sexual orientation are an impediment to my happiness and success
But there is hope brothers!
Although this article cannot serve as a source of sustained therapy and exploration regarding your particular shadow beliefs, I would like to offer you some fundamental steps for beginning the worthy work of healing.
Get in touch with your pain. You can’t heal it if you can’t feel it! This is often the most difficult part of working through our shadow beliefs. Since we are socialized not to feel, it often seems like foreign territory for us to enter into. The way in which you experience the pain of your shadow beliefs does not have to take a specific form or context. There will be times when this process might illicit tears. Other times anger or anxiety. The key is to allow the feelings to provide you with the context to gain an understanding of what the feeling is communicating to you about your soul. So don’t let go of it. Feel it! Understand it! And begin the process of releasing it!
Begin to uncover the etiology of the pain and how it gets worked up in you. It is not only important to feel the pain and name it; but one must go deeper and gain an understanding of how it “shows” up in your life. For example, you might realize that your fear of commitment is rooted in being abandoned and invalidated by your mother/father. This will serve to better understand why your partner’s desire for more emotional intimacy triggers a tendency in you to either: run, sabotage the relationship; or displace your fear onto your partner. This ability to observe before reacting is the development of an Observing Ego. An emotional observing ego allows us to no longer just go through life impulsively but it gives us voluntary control over how we not only manifest our pain, but what we choose to do with that pain. Understanding your patterns and how they manifest releases you to create new narratives and healthier ways to resolve your pain and dissolve your shadow beliefs.
And lastly, embark upon a healing ritual that assists you surrender your pain and anger. This process can get difficult and confusing, making it impossible to tackle alone. Having an objective and trained individual can be quite helpful in assisting you make sense of your shadow beliefs; their origin; the ways in which they get “acted out”; how they are connected to your sense of self; and the vehicles that can be utilized in obtaining healing. No one is an island. We all need someone to help us through. As men we are conditioned to going at it alone. But how has that worked out for you my brother? Isn’t time to deconstruct and create a new definition of the self that includes the ability to trust and allow the other into your sacred emotional space? There is also accountability when you include another. Healing calls for consistency, in the same way you would utilize a personal trainer to bulk up or slim down. Doesn’t it seem just as important for you to have a “personal trainer” along your side as you tackle some of the most important themes and issues in your life? Whether it is a minister, therapist, or life coach; let us invite the other to assist us in understanding and moving past the pain of our shadow beliefs.
My brothers, let us begin the sacred work of surrendering our pain, our anger, and our shadow beliefs. Let us begin the hard work of creating new narratives about ourselves and the other. Let us begin the process of celebrating BEING and not only our DOING. This is our season to walk into a new way of being. And so it is!
Photo: matthewthecoolguy / flickr