I just read this article about a Republican House Representative who is the co-sponsor of a bill stripping transgender people of the right to use a public bathroom that matches with their gender identity. This man, Jeremy Durham, has had at least 34 sexual harassment complaints filed against him, so many that his office has been moved out of the Capitol building pending investigation.
I’m not even going to go into how there are zero documented cases of transpeople sexually assaulting anyone in the bathroom and how women are in far greater danger of being assaulted by undisguised cis-straight men. What’s interesting to me here is the hypocrisy, but, more specifically, this being a powerful example of how the shadow works. The shadow is any part (or parts) of ourselves that we deny. Sometimes, people project onto others these parts of themselves that they haven’t accepted or even recognized in the first place.
There are many ways to begin exploring your shadow side. I’ll give you one of the best examples from my life. I have a dear friend who I thought for a long time was too needy. It bothered me greatly and I began to resent her for it. The point is not to determine whether or not she was actually too needy. Yes, that very well may have been her behavior. Or, my perception of the relationship might have been off. The truth probably lies between the two. The point is that the problem that I saw as on the outside of me was really asking me to look within.
Why did someone needing help from others bother me so much? We could get into a whole nature vs. nurture conversation about why I am the way I am, but I do have a tendency to assert my will and prove my independence. And, at a fairly young age, I was put into a caretaker role for my younger brother and sister, while either one of our single parents (depending on who we lived with at the time) was at work. Even though my next youngest sibling is a mere 19 months younger, my mom referred to “the kids” when talking to me – “have the kids done their homework?” So, somehow, my teenage brain, figured that I barely needed parents to get through life (I thought) – I was actually taking care of other humans! So, this perception of myself as being totally capable and in control has persisted through my life, unconsciously.
When a friend said to me, “So-and-so’s neediness is just a reflection of your neediness,” I was totally confused and offended. You’ve got to be kidding me, right? I am not needy! His words wormed through my brain for months until slowly, surely, over and over and f—ing over again, I realized that I wasn’t able to allow myself to be helped. Like, ever. Often, I’d suffer silently, refusing to let anyone in on my dirty little secret that I wasn’t the superhuman I wanted to believe I was. Vulnerability was not in my vocabulary. As if that wasn’t enough, this shadow of mine manifested as a desire to take care of everyone around me. That’s when the narrative became I can’t need because I’m needed. Crazy, right?
Now, shadows aren’t necessarily always bad. The light side of my co-dependence is a genuine desire and capacity to serve others. It is my calling. I simply have to know when to set boundaries as well as when to ask for help – a lesson I learned from the shadow side of my friend’s dependence. No human is an island. We need each other and we’re stronger for it. We so often teach each other through our shadow sides.
What shadow is appearing for you lately?
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” — Carl Jung