This is a piece by an anonymous student, written a few months ago. Since then she has noted the person involved apologized and owned he was projecting. And still, this whole piece is not about her righteousness - rather about the layers of shadows and light and projection we work with from an early age through any level of realization in adulthood.
When she shared this freshly-written piece in class, we all had a good guffaw after she described her son's interaction with his shadow. How powerful it is to laugh at a child, then to realize we are still doing the same struggle, even if more covertly, now, as adults.
Seeing what is in the shadows - seeing the shadows themselves - is crucial for, as she describes, "not producing harm in (their) wake."
Please enjoy these reflections.
Light & Shadow
It feels so much better to shine my light than reveal my shadow. My shadow moves with me always and yet my awareness of its presence is not so constant.
Sometimes when out walking in the sunshine my three-year-old son, he will see his shadow following behind and try to stomp on it, yelling, “GO AWAY, SHADOW!” He says it makes him uncomfortable that it is following him. Until this moment, I didn’t realize how profound that was. I didn’t see the connection between his reaction and the inner shadow – and how forcefully I sometimes wish for the very same thing. How I want to stomp with frustration and say: “You again? How could you still be there following me? Won’t you EVER go away and LEAVE ME ALONE?”
What is my shadow made of? What is the darkness? And why must there be both, darkness and light, always? Is rage darkness? Or is fully expressed, genuine rage just making room for the light to shine again?
Yesterday an acquaintance of mine, whom I have known deeply at times but little contact with recently, assaulted me with written words. He told me that he thinks I “hover” over my son and described that his wife did this to their son and it destroyed their relationship and that now he feels as though it is detrimental to our relationship for him to withhold this information from me. But that he believes that I’m a great mom and trusts how I am with my son.
Right. It was bizarrely out of context and my response was most certainly rage.
How could he feel entitled to make this judgement when he had only witnessed me interact with my son once or twice? He doesn’t know anything about me and how I’m parenting! And yet for the sake of transparency and an authentic relationship, he felt compelled to share these “feelings”.
Except that they weren’t really an observation about ME and my parenting, but a giant projection of his own past and the things he never communicated fully with his ex-wife. I refused to accept having this put onto me. So I wrote him a response that very clearly and directly (albeit angrily) told him so and then shared it with my husband, who recoiled from my anger, questioning where I was being clear and direct and where I was, in his words, “lashing out”. Which of course initially served to anger me further. And I did, in response, begrudgingly read through it again and try to clean it up and make sure I focused on my feelings in response to the impact of his words, but god damn it I also wanted to make sure he felt the impact of his words – his inappropriate, unsolicited advice in the form of an unhealthy projection.
And then it led my husband and I to enter into a deeper conversation about anger and his deeply held belief that it’s not okay to express anger (even though cerebrally he would say he gets its benefit) contrasted with my comfort with expressing anger in appropriate circumstances. Or sometimes inappropriate. It just needs to come out sometimes – so that I can get cleared out and feel what’s still there after its force has been expelled from me. Maybe there is an element of my shadow coming through – but I’d rather think that it is my shadow AND my light, working as a team – conveying what is most true and necessary to create movement and space, hopefully in a way that does not produce harm in its wake.