Shadow Friday: the art of reconciliation

When we must deal with problems, we instinctively resist trying the way that leads through obscurity and darkness. We wish to hear only of unequivocal results, and completely forget that these results can only be brought about when we have ventured into and emerged again from the darkness. But to penetrate the darkness we must summon all the powers of enlightenment that consciousness can offer.

“The Stages of Life” (1930). In CW 8: The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. P.752

I’m just gonna come right out and say it. Black Friday bothers me, especially being the day after Thanksgiving. So first, on Thanksgiving, to cultivate gratitude, we make way too much food and we eat way too much food together, with our loved ones; meanwhile so many people of the world have nothing to eat, and no one to even share their hunger with. This makes me uncomfortable. Wouldn’t it make more sense on a holiday meant to invoke gratitude, to do with less, rather than more? I’m not sure how to feel truly and purely thankful for an over filled belly. Yes, the overfilling is MY fault. I could eat less. Point taken. And it is a blessing to gather with family; we had an awesome day yesterday, visiting with a variety of beloved family members, cruising around on 4 wheelers on the farm, watching all the kids run around having a ball… But it just feels a little strange doesn’t it, and a little hopeless to change the cultural pattern? 
So my theory about Black Friday, is that after we’ve stuffed ourselves, we feel a little guilty. So to make up for the guilt of over-eating, we indulge in crazy practices of rising before the crack of dawn, to go and stand in line at stores, to get great deals on gifts for others, so that we can be satisfied in our generosity, and less guilty about our indulgences… AND since we get such great deals, we can buy MORE MORE MORE! And that’s more generosity, and more happy good feelings. And then it’s Christmas, and we open up all these gifts, and we take them home, and then we have more stuff. And then we move into bigger houses so that we have room for all our stuff. And so on. And so on.
I’ve been wondering what’s behind all this hoopla. I honestly don’t know, except for myself. Growing up, there were plenty of times that I wanted things that I could not have; a Rainbow Brite doll, and the dog that went with it; a pair of guess jeans; going to France in high school. There just wasn’t enough dough to go around. My parents worked their butts off, and were so creative, and provided for us in spectacular ways; these ways just didn’t always pan out as tangible physical desires fulfilled. But it’s taken a looooong time for me, now that I am an “adult,” not to feel ENTITLED to MORE than I had then. In my younger adult years, I bought stuff on credit cards, because I deserved it, not because I could afford it. And now, with every year, I notice that shadow more. The hungry one that says “you better fill up now, you never know if and when it will be this good again,” “take a little more, you deserve it, you’ve suffered so much, this is your reward….” As Jung says, it is natural for a human to, especially at first glance, be horrified of their shadow; the place where all the darkness of our souls hide. All the yuck. We want to deny that it exists in us, though we see it so clearly in others. We try to be better than we possibly could be, putting ourselves through the ringer to earn more, be better parents, get skinnier, recycle more… But it’s never enough, is it? The higher our expectations of suppressing the shadow, the more disappointment and self-disgust we feel. But as the quote above says, if we are willing to step INTO the darkness, to deal with a “problem,” then, and only then do we actually emerge on the other side.
So I’m wondering, friends, what shadows do the holidays bring up for you? Now that we are in the darkest cycle of the year, we have the opportunity to do some great internal work, reconciling ourselves to ourselves. The outside world is reflecting, perhaps, what we as humans have been feeling and working through for centuries, that darkness…. How can we have gratitude for our abundance of blessings, without over-indulging? How can we deal with what causes us to take more than we need? What can we do instead? How do we change a pattern? How do we overcome guilt? How do we learn to give only what we can truly afford, instead of giving more, hoping to earn more love? What pattern of reconciliation is calling from your deepest darkest corners?
I guess I like the idea that healing isn’t always about trying to “be” better, or “do” more. But sometimes it can be looking ourselves in the mirror, seeing our shadows, and loving ourselves even MORE because we are willing to accept all of it. So may we all be blessed through the new year, with the wisdom and tools that we need, to embrace our shadows, and allow them to teach us all that they know. Om. Amen. Hallelujah.
PS. The song of the day is: “Death is a Door,” by our friend Dana Cooper ( I wish I had a link to a free version of it for you, or a video of him performing it, but I don’t. You’ll have to get it on spotify ( It’s a FREE music website (super awesome, aside from a few commercials now and then), sign up, and then type in “Dana Cooper Death is a Door.” OR you could BUY it from a million different virtual music vendors. Itunes, Amazon, whatever you like. But trust me, you’ll love it. He rocks.

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