Gazing at the Shadow

The deeper you go into understanding who you are, the more you are likely to encounter “the shadow.” The idea of a shadow sounds predictably ominous, as it evokes a dark, mysterious, possibly dangerous entity. Well…that’s only part of the story. Dark…not necessarily. Dangerous…not necessarily, and more often, not likely. But, mysterious? Yes, that’s the part people get right.

The shadow is exactly that, the parts of us that we can’t readily see. The parts of us that we relegate to the deeper recesses of our psyche, where we don’t have to face it and we don’t have to look at it; hidden away from the light of day.

The truth is, that is exactly the part of us we need to find and look at, to understand and embrace, in order to be whole. In its most generalized sense, that is the individuation process. What are the hidden thoughts, desires, fears, and more that we carry? How did they first arise, and what beliefs are they creating, as we interact with the world? And, if they prove to be too scary to face, are we projecting them onto others? Creating a “villain” who we can throw all of our anger, fear, and hatred towards. This “villain” or “problem” is our way of denying our own shadow. It’s easier. It feels satisfying in the moment. But, will it lead to you being whole? Will you constantly be creating those villains and problems in aspects of your life, constantly fighting battles to survive?

Ancient mythology and fairy tales are rife with villains, monsters, and life-threatening obstacles. But the same functions of the human psyche that created these ancient stories are alive and operating in our world today. Who do you see as your nemesis? Who are the “monsters?” What are the obstacles you face that you fear you’ll never overcome?

What if you could see that these were only stories? And that the clarity you seek, and the joy you hope for, is accessible…if only…you were willing to gaze at your shadow and embrace those stories. Embrace the archetypal villains. Embrace your constructed beliefs. Embrace yourself.

If you would like to explore your stories more deeply, reach out on my website and schedule a complimentary 15-minute check-in to see if this work is right for you:

Emerging from the Liminal Space (Or Have I?)

Not long ago, I wrote about how it can feel to be in that in-between place; the place where you know that where you are, or have just been, is no longer where you should be, and a new path or direction has not yet appeared.

It’s a cloudy, mist-shrouded forest of frustration for some, and a place of magical possibilities for others; But regardless, it can be disorienting.

In a seemingly miraculous turn of events, the mist at my liminal crossroads has cleared, and I’ve found myself in coastal New England, ensconced in a seaside cottage for the winter. I’m still not sure what lies on the far end of this new path, but it feels like I’m in the right space for now.

The sound of the ocean from my couch, a far ranging vista of blue rising and falling in the near distance. It’s a beautiful place to do my work; to work with others as we unwind and unravel the narratives that appear in our lives; narratives not that dissimilar from those undulating waves. It is a, perhaps temporary or momentary, retreat from the hustle and bustle of my previous life, and a chance to just simply be… to be here now.

I could never have foreseen this emerging from that mist. It wasn’t even on my radar. I wonder, sometimes, when we focus on manifesting our dreams, that we unknowingly limit ourselves. There is a deeper, more ineffable force at work. We are not as in control of outcomes as we’d like to think we are.

That is not to say that our choices and decisions are not important. They are. What we choose to say and do makes a definite difference in our lives as well as the lived experience of others. We are an integral part of an interconnected web of beings, and that push and pull does move the parts of the web as we move along its glossy strands. But, how much control do we actually have over the web itself? Or over the next place we travel within our lived ecosystem and how things unfold? How far into the “future” can you see? Maybe it is only the appearance of movement; maybe the mist clears over the immediate space, but we don’t realize the larger mist covering the entirety of the web itself? Maybe we never actually leave liminal space at all. Maybe…just maybe, life is only liminal space, and what we think is the haze is only our innate drive to understand the deeper truths surrounding who we are. Can we be at peace in the not knowing, grounded and moved by the responsibility we have to the interconnectedness of all things? Can we live at peace in the mist?

The False Lure of the Absolutes

This is the BEST BLOG POST THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN. Well, in truth, that’s rather doubtful. But, how often lately are we seeing claims in the news and on social media that proclaim that someone or something is the MOST (something) EVER? Far too often, in my opinion. It’s one thing for us to say that something is amazing or powerful, or that we think it’s the best, but by labeling something as the biggest, most, or best something the world has ever seen, puts it in a different category. Unless you have successfully accomplished a Guinness World Record or won the gold at the Olympics, or something of that nature, you are simply engaging in the lure of the absolutes. This self-aggrandizing narrative style is designed to construct the story of indisputable greatness or unquestionable “bad”ness, and often at the expense of reality. It is intended to impress and manipulate, often without earning the title based on facts and evidence. 

So why do some employ these absolute narratives? For some, it may be that they feel the need to not only succeed, but to conquer any and all others who might garner the spotlight or challenge their view of themselves. In this place, it comes from a deep insecurity or narcissism, one that can only be filled with others’ admiration and/or fear. But there is also another reason for speaking in absolutes. This reason is also a false narrative, but it is more insidious. Sometimes absolutes are intended to gaslight, and to manipulate others by framing things into a more concrete, black or white way. It then becomes an all or nothing; complete domination or utter submission; the greatest economy ever seen by anyone anywhere ever, or the worst economy in the history of the world; the epitome of the good warrior savior hero who can do no wrong and is your only hope, or the most evil, corrupt villain who will rain terror down on you if you let them. 

These are all just stories, of course, so why do people fall so deeply into these absolute versions of people and situations? There is a strange comfort in understanding and labeling everything and everyone around us. Most

people, when asked, would say that they never judge and label people, but in truth, they would be mistaken. One of the mind’s jobs is to assess perceived threats in the world around us. It does this by taking in sensory data and running it through our memory stories and threads it through our current worldview. Then, it labels and packages those observations into stories; stories of: “This is good. I want more of this. I need to be part of this. I feel safe with this,” and: “This is scary. I need to stay away from this. This will harm me. I don’t want to be part of this,” triggering an emotionally-charged reaction narrative running through our minds. Many of our emotional reactions to people and places come from this internal labeling and classifying of people, things, and situations, even if we aren’t aware that it’s happening, or consciously wish it wasn’t. So, when someone provides the narrative messaging that simplifies the process for us, we may still feed it through our mind’s assessment system, but if we hear it often enough from someone who we may already have affinity for, or agree with on other things, and they say it so convincingly and repeat it often, it may just well stick and become a narrative we start believing too. And that, is one of the ways propaganda works, and we are all susceptible to it. However, awareness of the way in which it grabs a hold, is the key to seeing through it.

Propaganda loves to speak in absolutes. It is one of the clearest ways we can tell when we are being manipulated. And when those absolutes are repeated again and again, that’s another way propaganda takes hold in our psyche. There are other signposts of narrative manipulation to look out for as well, such as use of symbolism and imagery, but for now, the next time you see or hear someone using absolutes about themselves, a situation, or about someone else, start questioning the message being delivered. You may just break yourself free from a narrative that is not only not true, but is intentionally skewing your view of the world around you.

Re-Narrating your Stories: A Fireside Chat for the Ei Evolution Learning Lounge Series

The video of my July 21, 2021 Fireside Chat with Sandra Thompson of Ei Evolution about the stories we carry about ourselves and others, and how these stories can be used to understand the remote work/office culture dynamics:

Where Am I Now? Feeling into the Liminal Space

Have you ever experienced a time where you felt “between” things? Perhaps, between this phase of your life and the next? A time when there is no movement and no clarity on which way to go in your life, or no way to get where you think you should be. If so, you are in the liminal space, the threshold; the place where you wait. This place can be frustrating, disorienting, and scary, and can make you feel impatient to know what’s going to happen next, but there is a beauty to the emptiness of this space as well. It is the place where all possibilities live. From this spot, there are many potential roads and paths leading to all sorts of future moments. 

“But, Nicole,” you may say, “I want to know where I will land next! I want to know where I will live, what I will be doing for work, what my life will look like going forward.” I get it. I’m in it with you. The place of liminality can create an anxiety that arises because we are not in control of what happens next. That can definitely be unsettling. We like to think that we can make a decision, make a plan to get it, and boom, it all unfolds exactly how we expected. But life is seldom like that. We have things we can control (to a point), by making certain choices and holding intentions for behavior and hopes, but life unfolds as it unfolds. It doesn’t always listen to our hopes and wishes, our commands, if it were. 

The liminal space is clouded over with the haze of unseen paths. 

Being in the liminal space where you’ve put out there what you hope for and then sit and wait to see what unfolds is an amazing challenge. It is the challenge of a surrender to your storyline. A surrender to the power of life to weave our story with or without our help. If you look back on your life as a story that has unfolded, where were those previous liminal spaces? What happened before them, and after them? How did you respond to life while you were in that space? It is an interesting exercise to see how our response affected what happened next…or didn’t. Or maybe, to see how our emotional reactivity and mental health was affected by how we responded in those moments. Right now, I am in between…in between the life I have and the life I feel is unfolding; unsure how to step from one to the other. How to make it happen. Can I actually make it happen? Or is it in the process of happening, and I’m just too blinded by impatience to see that it is? The liminal space is clouded over with the haze of unseen paths. We either run in one direction, risking the crash into the hidden brick wall, or we anxiously demand that the haze be lifted, so we can see what’s to be next. Or, and this is the really challenging courageous move, we wait, and breathe, and trust that we have put in motion all that is needed to move us along our paths, and carry on with our normal activities, allowing the path to clear when IT is ready to, and then move forward into the next space. 

Right now, my liminal space looks like a concrete sidewalk with a concrete path leading forward off into the fog. There are flowers and birds chirping in my immediate surroundings at the center part of the space, but no matter how much I try to squint and see into the fog, I can’t. I pick up my phone and my computer and contact people and places, making calls and emails to connect to that next place, but each leads to a dead end, or…a “not yet.” If you are in this liminal space too, let me know what yours looks like, and we can breathe through it together.