Photo: Courtesy of HarperOne
The conﬂict between who we are and who we want to be is at the core of the human struggle. Duality, in fact, lies at the very center of the human experience. Life and death, good and evil, hope and resignation coexist in every person and exert their force in every facet of our lives. If we know courage, it is because we have also experienced fear; if we can recognize honesty, it is because we have encountered deceit. And yet most of us deny or ignore our dualistic nature.
If we are living under the assumption that we are only one way or another, inside a limited spectrum of human qualities, then we would have to question why more of us aren't wholly satisﬁed with our lives right now. Why do we have access to so much wisdom yet fail to have the strength and courage to act upon our good intentions by making powerful choices? And most important, why do we continue to act out in ways that go against our value system and all that we stand for? We will assert that it is because of our unexamined life, our darker self, our shadow self where our unclaimed power lies hidden. It is here, in this least likely place, that we will ﬁnd the key to unlock our strength, our happiness, and our ability to live out our dreams.
We have been conditioned to fear the shadow side of life and the shadow side of ourselves. When we catch ourselves thinking a dark thought or acting out in a behavior that we feel is unacceptable, we run, just like a groundhog, back into our hole and hide, hoping, praying, it will disappear before we venture out again. Why do we do this? Because we are afraid that no matter how hard we try, we will never be able to escape from this part of ourselves. And although ignoring or repressing our dark side is the norm, the sobering truth is that running from the shadow only intensiﬁes its power. Denying it only leads to more pain, suffering, regret, and resignation. If we fail to take responsibility and extract the wisdom that has been hidden beneath the surface of our conscious minds, the shadow will take charge, and instead of us being able to have control over it, the shadow winds up having control over us, triggering the shadow effect. Our dark side then starts making our decisions for us, stripping us of our right to make conscious choices whether it's what food we will eat, how much money we will spend, or what addiction we will succumb to. Our shadow incites us to act out in ways we never imagined we could and to waste our vital energy on bad habits and repetitive behaviors. Our shadow keeps us from full self-expression, from speaking our truth, and from living an authentic life. It is only by embracing our duality that we free ourselves of the behaviors that can potentially bring us down. If we don't acknowledge all of who we are, we are guaranteed to be blindsided by the shadow effect.
The shadow effect is everywhere. Evidence of its pervasiveness can be seen in every aspect of our lives. We read about it online. We watch it on the nightly news, and we can see it in our friends, our family, and strangers on the street. And perhaps most signiﬁcant, we can recognize it in our thoughts, see it in our behaviors, and feel it in our interactions with others. We worry that shining a light on this darkness will cause us to feel great shame or, even worse, to act out our worst nightmare. We become scared of what we will ﬁnd if we look inside ourselves, so instead we bury our heads and refuse to face our shadow sides.
But this book reveals a new truth—shared from three life-changing perspectives—that the opposite of what we fear we will experience is what actually occurs. Instead of shame, we feel compassion. Instead of embarrassment, we gain courage. Instead of limitation, we experience freedom. If left unopened, the shadow is a Pandora's box ﬁlled with secrets that we fear will destroy everything we love and care about. But if we open the box, we discover that what's inside has the power to radically and positively alter our lives. Then we will step out of the illusion that our darkness will overtake us and instead we will see the world in a new light. The compassion we discover for ourselves will ignite our conﬁdence and courage as we open our hearts to those around us. The power we unearth will help us tackle the fear that has been holding us back and will urge us to move powerfully toward our highest potential. Far from frightening, embracing the shadow allows us to be whole, to be real, to take back our power, to unleash our passion, and to realize our dreams.