Two weekends ago, I had the honor of leading The Shadow Process Workshop in Los Angeles. It is an indescribable blessing to witness the transformation that occurs for each and every participant as they journey out of the darkness of their old, outdated stories and limiting, negative beliefs into the light of forgiveness, self-acceptance, wholeness, and love.
As is my habit Sunday evening after the workshop, I took the red-eye home to Miami. Then as my demonstration of self-love, I spent Monday relaxing. I've learned to give myself the gift of having nothing on my schedule so I can do whatever feels good in the moment.
So the Monday after The Shadow Process, I decided to binge-watch some of the shows I had recorded while I was away. Scandal was at the top of my list. If you're not current with the show, this is a spoiler alert! Stop reading now if you don't want to know! In the episode, "Thwack!" Olivia Pope, gladiator for "good" and crisis-management maven with a moral code, finally goes over the edge to the "dark side." For most of the episode, Olivia tries to hold on to her persona of a crusader with a conscience. She goes to her brilliant yet ruthless and unscrupulous father for assistance and he tells her that her plan will fail and she will need to resort to "Plan B." She continues to fight for who she believes herself to be when she exits his home and declares "I am not you, Dad!...In my world when someone is in my way, you out-think them. You don't end them. It's not who I am!" Needless to say, by the end of the episode, Olivia becomes her father and "ends" the life of the person who is in her way. Based on what I could surmise from the coming attractions, Olivia takes to her bed (the one in her father's house) as she comes to grips with what she did and wrestles with the fact that she is her father...she is a killer!
I see this every day in our work - people who have their own personal "scandals" and then are left confused and confronted, trying to define or redefine their identity and trying to figure out, "What is the reality of who I am?"
Am I the brilliant success who started the company or the irresponsible failure/loser who sat at the helm as it went bankrupt?
Am I the sexy, desirable woman that some man loved and "could not live without" or the unlovable, invisible person that he left?
Am I a person of integrity who is a good, devoted spouse and parent or the lying, scumbag that had an affair?
They cannot figure out which is the truth and they've never been taught that when it comes to qualities and characteristics, it is not "either/or" but "and." Think about it. As children we all learned or just naturally assumed that there were the popular kids or the unpopular ones, the athletic or the unfit, and the leaders or the followers. In our families of origin, we were assigned labels. We were either the pretty one, the funny one, the rebel, the bad seed, etc. Whether we consciously realized it or not, we all over-identified with certain qualities and never realized there was a possibility that other traits actually existed inside of us. As one woman who always considered herself to be "the stupid one" said to me after doing shadow work, "I never realized I could be both smart AND stupid. I always thought you were either/or!"
Shadow work is predicated on living in the space of the "and." It is based on the concept of wholeness and that within each us exists every trait that we see in others. One thing I love about The Shadow Process is that during this two-and-a-half-day journey, as participants learn about these fundamental concepts and are immersed in interactive exercises and experiences, they start to bring light to the parts of themselves, "negative" and "positive," that they have disowned and thus lost access to. The workshop lays the foundation for participants to unconceal and love the parts of themselves that they've spent a lifetime believing are unlovable and reclaim the parts of themselves that they project on to others. It provides an opportunity for people to make peace with their humanity and own their divinity and to have more compassion for themselves and others. It moves people from living in this fragmented space of "either/or" to an integrated and harmonious place of "and."
So if you are trying to make peace with some personal scandal or some part of yourself that you deem as scandalous, then I invite you to open up to this concept of wholeness. And to Olivia Pope, I say, Welcome to the dark side and the sobering reality that we all are our father's child. I pray you find the gold in the dark as well as the understanding that you, as well as the rest of us, are all the saint and the sinner, the callous and the caring, the loyal and the betrayer, the helpless and the powerful. If you Olivia, or any of us, truly want to be a freedom fighter then start with yourself. Give yourself the gift of liberation that comes with doing shadow work and "living in the 'and.'"
Transformational Action Steps
(1) Become Olivia Pope. Identify a person that you do not like or do not want to be like. Make a list of three to five qualities you see in that person that you judge as bad or wrong.
(2) Take each trait and determine what would be the polar opposite positive quality.
(3) Journal about how each set of negative and positive qualities exist inside you and how you can benefit from both.
(4) Allow yourself to see action steps that you can take that will help you own and have access to these qualities. And take those actions!
(5) Join us in Vancouver for the first Shadow Process to be held in Canada or visit our calendar to see our schedule of upcoming workshops.