The Golden Want
Our “shadow” is not something to fear, but something to put out in front of us and welcome.
Simply put, our shadow is whatever we hide repress or deny about ourselves.
However, the behaviors that it can illicit can often be seen as “bad.” Maybe we could even classify the different parts of our shadow by calling one side shadow behaviors and the other shadow wants.
A note before we go any further – Your shadow is not “bad.” It is not something that you try and tame or stuff down. In fact, there is gold to be found in our shadow.
Recently, I was at a men’s breakfast where we did a shadow exercise. This exercise was great because it is a way of taking a piece of your shadow from behind to the front so that we can see what it is we truly want — the golden want.
The premise is that underneath all our shadow behaviors is a golden want.
During the debrief after the exercise, was over, one man asked “OK, so I see that I have this anger. Now what do I do with it? Do I put a rubber band around my wrist and snap it whenever I start to notice that I’m angry? This exercise is great and all, but what are the practical tools?”
His question was valid. You see, we don’t address the shadow by trying to stuff down the feeling. To his question, another man spoke up and said that using exercises like the rubber band on the wrist is basically shaming yourself. And — as far as I know — nothing transformative happens out of shame. No, what we need to do is identify the golden want (shadow want) underneath this behavior and ask ourselves such questions as:
- “What’s behind that anger?”
- “What do I really truly want?”
- “How am I trying to get what I want?”
A simple example is if I am trying to talk with my wife and she keeps looking down at her phone and giving me 30% of her attention. I may get angry and express that anger by saying something like “Jeez, you’re always looking at that. You don’t listen to me!” And then storming off or stewing silently.
However, if I look at that anger and ask myself “What is it that I truly wanted from her?” I see that I want to feel valued and connected. The story that I was telling myself was that I’m not really valued much at all. Then, once we see it, we can take our golden want and identify ways to better fulfill it.
So, next time, maybe I could just flat out state my want to her —-“I notice that I would like to feel valued and connected with you. Is it possible right now to talk uninterrupted? If not now, then when do you think it would be a good time?”
Additionally, I’ve noticed that we can also put our gifts and talents into shadow. After all, it is made up of whatever we hide repress or deny. Maybe you have a great talent for leadership but you don’t use it because your golden want is to be loved and accepted. And if you lead, there’s the chance that you won’t be accepted or loved.
You see, the shadow isn’t bad at all. In fact, the wants that come from it are all wholesome and good. But the default behaviors that we are accustomed to expressing when not getting what we want doesn’t quite get us what we want. In fact, it usually moves further away from it.
One question that I’ve been learning to ask myself more often when I notice a shadow behavior is “What do I truly want right now?” The more I do that the better I get at it. Once I see what I truly want I can go about meeting those in healthy ways. The more I’m able to meet in healthy ways, the fewer shadow behaviors I express.
By Justin Haas
Justin completed his initial weekend in November of 2008 and is a graduate of the two-year Transformational Leadership Program (although he wishes there was a four-year option). A California native, Justin was uprooted at age 8 and transplanted into a “foreign, midwest” world called Chicago, along with its bitter temperatures and murky — sometimes fluffy — snow. He believes the depth of healing one receives is crucial to the level of honesty one is willing to have with themselves and living in the light with others. Justin is a husband to one lovely wife and a father to three wacky & tender kids. Professionally, he hangs out in the I.T. industry.
Photo Credit: Andrew Beeston via Creative Commons