Love Letter #107: When We Stop Being Afraid of the Dark

I don’t often remember my dreams, but a dream I had last night stuck with me. 

I was somewhere unfamiliar with two of my adult children. On a shelf, sat a line of bottles that looked like small detergent bottles. They were dark gray, a bit translucent, but I couldn’t see into them. 

I grabbed one and peered inside. It turned out to be a shadow box. Inside, there was a picture of an unfamiliar individual in a room. The room was filled with gentle splashes of color, mostly light blues. It resembled a paint-by-number, and by using a wet brush, I could fill in the colors and bring the image to life.

I’ve been reflecting on this idea and contemplating the message in this dream this morning. I keep returning to the “shadows”, and being afraid of the dark. Not the literal darkness, but the darkness inside of me. My shadows. We all have them. We are all afraid of the dark in some way. 

We can’t see our shadows, but we can feel them. Triggers. Judgments. Criticism. Fears. These point us to our shadows. We meet our shadows in the things that irritate us, anger us frustrate us, and cause us to point fingers, pass judgment, and see ourselves as “other” or separate from one another. They’re attributes we label as bad or wrong. 

Attributes like greed, selfishness, meanness, annoyance, rudeness, hurtfulness, uncaring, jealousy, cruelty, laziness, and aggression.  Self-love, self-care, happiness, and joy can be shadows too if we have been conditioned to believe embodying these things makes us wrong. 

When we strive to be “good” – whatever that means to you – we strive not to be “bad”. 

This dream got me thinking about my shadows and how giving them light and color is how I stop being afraid of the dark. I have been noticing those triggers and judgments a lot more lately and exploring them with curiosity and care. When I do, I have to laugh at myself, because I know what I think about anyone else is about me. These are MY thoughts after all. 

As a recovering people-pleaser, I’ve learned to say no and risk disappointing others. One of my shadows is the fear of being a disappointment. The beauty of embracing this shadow is threefold. First, I am no longer willing to disappoint myself. Secondly, I am less likely to feel disappointed by others. I get it. We have to care for ourselves. Finally, embracing this shadow and saying no frees me and the other person so they can find another way to get what they need. I’ve had to come face-to-face with other shadows too such as the fear of being disliked if I disappoint. 

Our shadows, the things we disown about ourselves, are beautiful and often helpful parts of who we are and part of the wholeness of our being. When we become aware of them, embrace and embody them, we stop being afraid of the dark and recognize the light in ourselves and everyone else. 

With love,

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