Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Are You Afraid of Your Own Shadow?

There is nothing to be afraid of, I chant, staring across the room into the blackness to where he stands  in the doorway of my room.  It is but a short distance that separates us.  His eyes I can’t see, but I feel him looking back at me under his wide brimmed hat.  He won’t come close if only I can keep my heavy eyelids from falling shut, I tell myself.  But then I awake to another morning.  "There's nothing to be afraid of," my mom would say.  "You're afraid of your own shadow."   Back then, I didn't quite understand her reference to my shadow.  No one could convince me that this nightly visitor existed only in my mind.

I finally worked up enough courage to get out of bed and approach the doorway one night.  I could feel my heart quiver with every step.  I slowly reached for the light switch to find that he really wasn't there.  I never saw him again and my middle of the night wakings subsided.  Why then had he seemed so real? 

As children, what we imagine becomes real for us.  Even as adults, we can easily become trapped in the wilderness of fear that occupy our mind.  Instead of using our intuitive sense to respond appropriately to threats of danger and avoid harmful situations, we create images and scenarios that can be paralyzing.  We then lose our amazing power to a world of what ifs.  "What if the worst possible thing happens?" What if I fail? “What if things don’t go as planned?”  

Worrying about what could or might happen does not prevent it from happening.  It just keeps us from taking the necessary steps in creating the life that we want.  Yes, it takes great strength to venture out of our comfort zone.  It takes even greater strength to try again after facing adversity or repeated disappointments.  But the longer we wait to take action, the greater the hold fear has on us.  In most cases, the actual situation is nowhere as terrifying as we imagine it to be. 

Fear is energy in motion and like all forms of energy, it can be transformed when you decide to surrender to the rhythm and flow of Life.  It begins with a decision to trust the unknown and leave room for the unexpected to happen, while moving toward your dreams.

My mom's words also take on a different meaning now.  When I think of a shadow, I think of that part of myself that I didn't want the rest of the world to plainly see.  Many of us enjoy being placed on a pedestal and would have everyone else around us believe that we have no flaws, no problems, no insecurities, no painful secrets...the PURR-fect life.  Even when we escape the "big" addictions, we hide our pain behind a great big smile and become addicted to winning the approval of others.  We desperately seek to live up to the standards, expectations, and views of others.  In doing so, we build great big walls around ourselves.  We hide our tears.  We hide our feelings and we become afraid of our emotions.  We remain trapped in a world of fear; afraid that someone will see through the facade or that the mask of happiness will one day begin to crumble. 

The problem with holding on to the illusive state of perfection is that you are always seeking to live up to what others think you should be.  You are polite and well-meaning.  You never question authority.  You follow most rules, but go to great lengths to cover up your flaws and mistakes in order to maintain your perfect cover.  You secretly judge others who fall below your standards.  You remain hidden even from yourself.  You have no idea of who you really are.

The truth is we all have our share of challenges that continue to mold and shape us into all we are intended to be.  We are unique beings and while we live in a society with laws, standards and expectations, we are meant to reconnect to the heart of who we are...truth, beauty, love, goodness. 

Our lives can be a constant stream of miracles when we step out from behind the shadows.  Here's how:

1.  Love yourself. When you love yourself, you naturally love others and attract life-giving persons to you.
2.  Say "thank you."  Even in the midst of difficulties, there is always something to be thankful for.  Take a breath and be reminded. 
3.  Seek truth.  You don't have to accept the opinions of others as your own.  Your answers lie within you.
4.  Take action.  Fear will release its hold when you act in accordance to what feels right within you.  Action transforms fear into freedom.
5.  Let go.  Let go of your need to appear perfect and embrace your uniqueness. See how your past has shaped you into all that you have become.  Shame, guilt and regret are also wasted energies.  Transform them.
6.  Forgive.  When you have been hurt, remember the times that you have done the hurting.  Forgive yourself and forgive others.
7.  Practice surrender.  There is no need to know what tomorrow will hold.  Trust the underlying order to life and in everything you experience.
8.  Just be...and allow others that same freedom. 

Love and blessings,

Kathleen O'Malley

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