Most of us realize we aren’t perfect, and the only way to grow and develop ourselves in our chosen profession (or as a person) is to learn new things. A lot of people think this means learning a new approach or tool.
A few understand it’s more about what happens during the process of learning that is the real prize. The moment we feel uncomfortable, is the moment growth is about to happen.
As a coach and facilitator, the biggest progress I witness consistently comes when an individual or a team shows their dark side. When they act out, act mean, act selfish, or cry.
God forbid there’s crying.
Many of us have been conditioned that these are signs of a lack of control. No one wants to lose control.
However, in my experience — this is a sign that someone, or something, must be seen. It must be released into the space to be dealt with, acknowledged, and released. Then, and only then, can healing and real progress be made.
What We Hide From Ourselves
I know a group has some real work to do when they are painfully polite to each other. Or when an individual is always making sure that they don’t step on anyone’s toes. These are clear signs that people don’t feel safe — often because they don’t know the unspoken rules, or they do and fear losing inclusion.
There has been a lot of study on the power of wholeness — incorporating all parts of an individual, team or system — in order for full potential to be reached.
One of my favorite books out there, “Dark Side of the Light Chasers” by Debbie Ford, focuses on the power of this for individuals. It’s not about being perfect — it’s about owning all parts of yourself. Even the parts you want to hide.
For example — I used to have an allergic reaction to the word “intolerant”. I couldn’t stand someone who behaved intolerant in any way! This doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but it was actually connected to a shadow of too much tolerance.
I was a doormat.
I rarely said “no”, spoke up about my ideas, or offered criticism. I wanted people to like me — to be nice and to role model tolerance, even to jerks. However, when my coach (yes — all good coaches do have their own coach, just like a good doctor needs their own doctor!) called me out and had me look at the strong reaction I had to intolerance — something cool happened.
First, I had to look at all the ways that intolerance was actually good, or helpful. THAT sounded crazy, but what it allowed me to do was safely explore what I thought was a major flaw in others, and connect it to a shadow part in myself.
What was I so afraid of that I had no boundaries and denied my own truths? Was it worth it? What were the long-term affects?
Light Bulb Moment
Of course, the moment I touched on the shadow stuff, I was defending myself. “I’m just a super patient person. Patience is a virtue! Right?!” Oh — but was I patient with myself? No. Bingo.
A lack of patience with myself was a reflection of my fear of not being good enough, and the fear of someone not tolerating me. When I put it out there it sure sounded silly, but it was true. So now that I could see it, I could work on it.
I could set clear boundaries. Be less patient or tolerant with those that pushed my boundaries and step up to defend them. That felt really powerful. And you know what happened? I actually became a lot less concerned with other people who were intolerant.
I simply didn’t care what they thought. That energy leak was sealed.
Relationships Are Like Mirrors
We can use other people, relationships, kind of like eco-location. When we notice that something someone is doing, or something they are saying, really bothers us, it’s time to go there and dig behind what that is. What’s the source of that strong feeling?
It’s a breadcrumb trail straight back to the dark cave we keep hidden from others, and ourselves.
Get really angry when people don’t listen to you or take your advice? Maybe you have a habit of not trusting yourself, or not listening to your intuition, so there’s a part of you that’s sensitive to not being heard.
Does your blood boil when people ask questions you feel are “stupid” or “redundant”? Maybe there’s a part of you that feels like it’s not allowed to be dumb — that you have to have all the answers to be the best version of yourself — and it’s angry because others get to be less perfect.
How about people who talk in “we”-isms, do they make you see red? Maybe there’s a part of you that feels always on the outside or excluded and it’s desperately looking for connection. Could it be time you connect more deeply with yourself, show yourself compassion and acceptance, so that you don’t need others’ so much?
I’m learning to let the things that upset me, that cause me fear, to be my compass towards healing. I’m learning that the fear is where I’ve left something that needs attention and needs a little light.
It’s not about being perfect — it’s about being whole.
Use those shadow emotions — anger, fear, envy — as your guide posts towards what needs a little more light and attention.
"Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom." ~Mary Ferguson