Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Shadow boxing

There he is, Ali, throwing punches at no one in particular, preparing his muscles for a fight. This was part of his training, shadow boxing. What a way to sharpen his physical and psychological reflexes for his encounters in the boxing ring! 

In psychology, shadow boxing is the process of overcoming a negative self-image. In soulcery, shadow boxing is that fight we have with the negative parts of our character and personality, those features we hide, those traits that we are ashamed of, those repressed parts of us that we sometimes don't even recognize we have. 

Carl Jung asserted that our shadow shows up as omissions, forgetfulness, impulse or inadvertent acts, that it can be our friend or our enemy and that it becomes hostile when ignored or misunderstood. Take, for example, the rash of celebrities who are losing their temper in horrific ways in front of the cameras for the world to see. Or the pious religious leaders who succumb to the very perversions they preach against. In our lives, our shadow comes up as severe judgment and projection. We tend to accuse others of precisely the attitudes and behaviors that we fear, resist and feel embarrassed about in ourselves. 

I remember watching Unfaithful a few years ago. In this movie, Richard Geer's character kills his wife's lover in an impulsive and unpremeditated reaction to his pain. I felt horror. I recognized part of my shadow. I feared that in such deep pain and disconsolation I could react violently. In turn, I purposely seek non-violence in everything, from speech to action, fiercely. I abhor violence.

It is not only important to recognize our shadow. We have to acknowledge it for what we deny will continue to show up for us, in us, in those around us and in our circumstances until we learn to deal with it. 

We have to acknowledge it. Then we have to give up the fight, the projections, the judgment. The shadow cannot be overcome or resisted. It always turns up. It is a part of us. We have to come face to face with it, listen to it and take away its power by not giving in to it. Acknowledging it for what it is, our fearful ego, takes away its power. 

We don't only shadow box our negative shadows, we fight positive shadows as well. This is part of our ego too. We fear being great. Our insecurity forges an identity we cling to. We project greatness onto others, positive attributes and qualities we admire, keeping ours hidden or not recognizing them at all. This is not always conscious and it is very common. We get uncomfortable and bashful with our prominence. 

Today is a good day to put your fists down. Fighting your shadow brings disfunction, overreaction and false living. Every part of you is essential to who you are. Embrace every part of you. Bring light to your shadow. It is the only way to dispel it. 

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