The Shadow of Development

Resistance–gotta love it. It’s something we all have and know, and most often do not like or appreciate. It reminds me of one of those Chinese finger traps, where you put a finger in either end of this tube, and the harder you pull to get your fingers out, the tighter it gets. It’s the same with resistance: the more I try to get rid of an aspect of myself, the more stubborn and pervasive it becomes.

Something I’ve come to see in my development is that I categorize myself into what’s good and bad, right and wrong, and I start picking and choosing the parts I like and “throwing out” the rest. To use the above example, openness is “right” and resistance is “wrong.” The belief is that I shouldn’t have those “bad” parts, and if I work hard enough, I will get rid of them. Then one day I’ll be free from all this baggage, squeaky clean, perfect, enlightened … can you see the halo forming now?

In Zen, we talk about being awakened by the “Ten Thousand Dharmas.” Inner qualities like love, envy, and skepticism are all dharmas, or teachings. If we have a name for each one, we actually have that aspect within us, and it has something to offer us.

The biggest discovery that I’ve made in my own practice is that every part of me plays a vital role in being an integrated human being. When I allow each part to be heard, it can inform me from a place of maturity and insight. However, when I disregard it and shove it away, it becomes shadow, and starts to act out covertly and undermines me in immature and inappropriate ways.

In Integral Coaching we are looking at becoming fuller, more integrated human beings. Unlike computers, we can’t just “update” ourselves and leave behind those pesky, unwanted tendencies. However, with awareness and practice, those tendencies can change and mature, and become our teachers.

What would it look like if we started to become friends with our whole self and empowered our clients to do the same? What if qualities of resistance, anger or fear were able to freely express themselves in a healthy and responsible way? How would that change our relationship to ourselves, to others, to our integrity?

I’m catching on to the fact that my ego’s “perfection project” is an ill-fated attempt to get me only what radical self-acceptance can provide: freedom. Freedom comes from the ability to observe and let go, rather than judging and excluding. I can see that while I experience anger, it is not who I am and I’m not bound by it. I’m finding a greater sense of compassion for the suffering we all face, and from which neither I nor anyone else can escape. Ultimately, why would I want to?  Suffering is what gives rise to beautiful poetry, and sings the songs of our longing.

But don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself. What shadow qualities might you begin to accept in yourself, and how might that open things up for you?

New Ventures West