Spiritual ego and the shadow self
Ego. When it comes to spirituality, ego can be the hardest concept to grasp. As such a loaded concept, attached to complicated feelings, ego can be a trickster. It exists within the shadow part of ourselves, the most difficult to face. While this is true, particularly as we move through the awakening process, the ego trap can trip us up at any stage of life. I mix with people at various stages of awakening. I know people who are new to spirituality, others who have changed paths and some who were born with spiritual abilities. The shadow exists in all of them.
The shadow self is a concept that in each of us there is both light and dark. This is not to say good and bad. It means aspects of ourselves that we are fully aware of and those that are either hidden or that we choose not to acknowledge. Imagine standing in the sun on a summer’s day. You face the light and feel the warmth on your face. You feel good, energised and happy. You can not see that behind you, your being blocks the light and casts a shadow. When we face the light and ignore the shadow, we are unable to see it. If you were to turn around, with your back to the sun and look at your shadow, the light from the sun illuminates you from behind and you are able to observe your shadow. This concept can be understood from both a physical and abstract perspective.
I make a habit of facing my shadow self every day. Although I’m not perfect, I am able to look honestly at my feelings and own the good and bad. I credit this to years of exploration in counselling. Counselling is essentially the act of facing your own feelings. It prompts you to sit with some ugly truths and this can be desperately uncomfortable. However, it’s real and once the difficult feelings are faced, you begin to operate from a place of honesty. You are able to admit the shadow side exists and from that point, you can take control of it.
Humans have many coping mechanisms for pain. In recent times, the favorable way to cope has been to push down or sugar coat hard feelings. This serves to suppress but, those feelings don’t transform. They hide under the surface in the shadow self. I know people who operate as coaches and mentors who do not do their own shadow work. I find this alarming. No one should not offer another council on a professional level unless they are deeply and brutally honest with themself as a rule. To truly hold space for another, we have to operate free of our own ego, or else the act of help is self serving. The person who requires help becomes an accessory to the unhealthy needs of the mentor. No person in need, ready and willing to be vulnerable in front of another should subject them self to a mentor who hasn’t discovered and rectified their own shadow. To do so perpetuates the victim in a role of service to others when this is the very thing that needs rectifying.
The real trap is that many who believe they’re working for the good of others are in denial. They feel good when they help, but their actions are motivated by a need to attract the validation that they subconsciously crave. This makes an irresponsible care giver. If you are helping others as a profession, please ask yourself the following;
- Do you face your own fears?
- Do you find helping others distracts you from your own problems?
- Have you spent time in professional counselling?
- Do you have a handle on your shadow self?
- Are you trying to get people to like you?
- Do you encourage others to be vulnerable in front of you, while you reject vulnerability within yourself?
- Is your life built on ‘helping others’ because you are running from yourself?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, it’s time for a reality check. You need to face your shadow.
Life is a mirror. What you see in others, reflects back to you those things that you either like or dislike about yourself. For mentors, those things you have a desire to ‘fix’ in others, you actually need to fix within yourself. YOU are the most important person to work on. By setting this example, you give your clients true, honest and ultimately unselfish love.
I recommend the book, “The dark side of the light chasers” by Debbie Ford.