Our shadow roles whisper old familiar stories in our ears and, without our realizing, slip the wheel from the Pilot’s hands and steers us over an old familiar bridge.
We’ve been here before, the same argument with a boyfriend, the same feeling of shame at an interview, the repeated internal declaration, “lazy,” as we soak in the sun, or that teeth-gritting smile we brandish at the bigot’s BBQ we attend, again, this year, like every year— again.
How did we get here? Why did we do that again?
You’re going to do it. This week you will end up making a decision that baffles you. If you’ve done even a little bit of primary therapy, you may have a story about why you do it, something about … mother, but still, you do it.
A shadow role is the role you play when you don’t understand or can’t control the decisions you make. Most of us have more than one.
To name your shadow roles is the first step to tame them.
How about this week you cast a little light on one of your shadow roles? Name it for exactly what it does the one moment you spot it. Key is to keep it small; no fair blowing it out of proportion with all-encompassing, death-wielding titles like Martyr, Life Saboteur, or Annihilator. Even more common is making it too vague, Fighter, Avoider, Lazy Boy.
Try to be specific. Let the minutest action give you the clue.
Did you blurt an inappropriate joke at dinner with the in-laws? That might have been the Wise Cracker.
Did you throw in a dig just when your lover was asking for help? Maybe that’s the Zinger.
The Trickster likes to break rules. The Whiner whines, The Bee in the Jar gets busy with the impossible.
When you make your Week’s Plan add a little goal for the Pilot, a rascally little goal that goes something like this:
Name a shadow role.
Of all our roles, shadow roles are the most powerful. They hijack the Autopilot if we aren’t careful. They can also the key to understanding some of our most useful skills so they are worth getting to know.
You don’t see shadow roles without special attention because, well, they lurk in shadows, so bring a flashlight, and just as you swerve onto the murky bridge again— look in the back seat!
† Others have offered illumination on the shadow. I’ll claim status in their lineage simply by providing links to Jung’s, Welles’s, and one of mine.