As a student, practitioner and teacher of yoga, try to live my life in a friendly and helpful manner. I try to tune each moment in the present, and live according to the principles of my yoga practice.
However, just when I started to wrap my mind around the basics of yoga and the potential it had to transform every aspect of my life, I have had a child. Then I had two more.
Say, “My life changed” as a result of having three children would be a laughable understatement. My universe was totally flipped. I was down. Left was right. Not only were my different circumstances, but my emotions were intense and often confusing. I was madly in love but also sad. And a lot of the time, I found myself feeling isolated and angry.
It was both fascinating and frightening seeing myself from loving, present, calm and clear to confused, desperate and resentful. Everything happened so quickly – sometimes there would be mere moments from such polarized feelings. How could I be so in love with my dear children, how could my heart stretch so far for my family – and then, at the drop of a dime, I could trip so far?
The answer is simple and disconcerting. Being a mother is beautiful and rewarding, and my children are the beating heart behind everything I do. At the same time, parenthood is one of the things most draining, exhausting and scary ever will. It is a full time job and do not get weekends off – ever.
As parenting became more all-consuming, I could feel alive out of alignment. Walking the walk from my yogic talk was becoming more and more difficult. It was then that I heard the idea of “Shadow Work”. Carl Jung coined the term to describe these dark shadow “unacceptable” emotions and try to ignore and repress. These “shadows” are the thoughts and traits that have been pushed into our unconscious.
Why? As children, we were not allowed or encouraged to express or recognize those parts of ourselves by our parents, teachers, churches or colleagues. When we felt like we were not being accepted or valued, wanted to feel accepted and loved. So we would like to put these emotions – our shadows – as the poet Robert Bly calls “the long bag we drag behind us.”
When we are not able to express these parts of ourselves – the project onto others. We do this in order to have someone to point the finger. We sacrifice them so they can take the blame.
Once I learned about the concept of Shadow work, gave me much mind about my emotional journey during aging. Specifically, I realized that when my kids shoot me, is a projection. When we cast our shadows on our children, we are continuing the habit of spending our emotions and painful experiences in which we love. So now when I feel embarrassed, upset, frustrated, angry, I am now able to look inside and find out why.
All of us could benefit from looking inward more – especially when it comes to the point of wanting to shout at their children. So before you lash her son in a moment of high emotion intensity, ask yourself this one simple question: Am I projecting?
The next time your child is not listening, ask yourself, “In my life I’m not listening to others?” The next time you think your child is being selfish, pause. Breathe. “Where I can show selfishness in my own life?” The next time your child lies to you or showing hatred and contempt of his brothers, listen. Get quiet. Become really honest. “Where can I go to bed and show the hatred in my life?”
Take the steps you need to look inward more. Journal. Feel safe and supported to figure yourself. Be brave. This work is done the work: it is difficult, but it will be very liberating.
To face our demons honestly and critically, to see ourselves as complex, multidimensional beings with long dirty stories, is taking responsibility for ourselves. Once we do this, we can begin to heal our wounds, to bring light to our darkness, and unleash the power of our demons have over us.
This work, probing the question of our projections, helps to make lasting changes and helps facilitate spiritual growth as individuals and as parents. We can allow ourselves to live a truly loving and real life – with our children and ourselves.