I’m banking that some of you, like myself, have done some shadow work. For me, acceptance has always been the most difficult aspect of integrating the masked parts of my soul - in a healthy way - with what I chose to present. I mean, after working so hard to bury and hide the dang thing, it’s hard enough to look at it face to face - let alone set a place for it at your table and really dig in - amirite? It can be some heavy, HEAVY shit, so it helps sometimes to find levity and laughter in the process.
There is a psychological exercise that I love to practice for deepening your self knowledge and understanding, which sounds super boring and not fun at all when you put it that way, but it’s actually GOOD TIMES INDEED.
To play, you simply have to identify three characters from a fictional work (this can be in literature, film, television, comics - anything) and then relate these three characters to yourself in a specific way. The first character you chose, is one with whom you feel most aligned. You see a lot of yourself in this character, flaws and all - this is a character that you deeply identify with right now. It’s good to identify what you share in common with them, you may find that you admire certain aspects of their personality that you also possess (for example a shared, creative resourcefulness or the ability to find humor in unlikely places).
Your second character is where it can get really interesting, because this one is chosen because you can’t stand them. You strongly dislike this character, you might even say you hate them, and as you identify the traits in this character that bum you out….you discover that you share some of THOSE needling aspects as well. It’s a Jungian concept, that what you dislike most in others is usually what you also can’t tolerate about yourself - and this is the very shit that we often try to mask or hide. It’s shadow work, y’all! Sit with this a minute, you might even take this as an opportunity to have some empathy and compassion for this maligned character, and hopefully for yourself too.
Now, the third character is a little bit different, because this one is chosen for being aspirational. Which character do you look up to and admire? With whom do you wish you were more alike, and why? This a way to identify your highest self, the person whom you most wish to become on your journey. And again, when you start to name the reasons that you aspire to be this kind of character, you are identifying traits in yourself that you wish to develop and cultivate. It’s pretty awesome.
When I most recently took a crack at it, I chose some characters from Star Trek The Next Generation to keep it streamlined (but also because that show has excellent characters to choose from)!
Here is an example if you are interested in doing this exercise for yourself!
~ The character whom I identify with most: Lieutenant Worf. Why? Initially I was charmed by his grumpy demeanor but I found commonality in our shared dislike of the performing arts, our love for ritual, our tolerance for suffering and the deep love we have for our children in spite of our complete befuddlement by the act of parenting.
~ The character whom I like the least: Counselor Deanna Troi. At first I was mortified by Counselor Troi. Initially, I didn’t see the point of her and I hated her adult onesie. When I remarked that she seemed pointless and asked what her actual job was on the Starship Enterprise, my husband pointed at me and laughed before bellowing, ‘She’s an EMPATH!”. As an empath, I immediately understood my own shame. Deanna Troi with her stupid unitard were putting a big, red, honking clown nose on an ability that I myself have, and one which is already questioned and mocked by many. And….here was the shadow work kicker in the pants: I worry that what may be some of my better gifts in this life - my empathy and clairsentience - are in fact, worthless. (Out of respect for the Counselor and because of our shared traits, I selected a photo of Troi in her actual uniform, which she didn’t even get until the sixth season).
~ The character whom I most aspire to be: Q. I know Q is more of a villain type on this show, but hear me out - Q is awesome. Yes, he did show up on the ship with the intention of messing with and tormenting Jean Luc Picard, but each time he turns up, he leaves the ship better than how he found it and often parts ways with a valuable lesson providing self-reflection and acceptance for the crew members.. Q’s power and ability is seemingly limitless - which rules - and when he shows up with a mariachi band and pitcher of margaritas, you know he is DTF (with Picard, in a non-sexual, trickster type of way)! Q is living his best life, amusing himself to the fullest and seizing on every teachable moment which comes his way….even creating scenarios by which one is able to gain a greater perspective on their own life. During a very amusing episode in which Q’s powers are briefly stripped - leaving him human and vulnerable and prone to eating 10 chocolate sundaes at once - Q becomes horribly depressed and despondent. Upon regaining his god-like abilities, he is immediately struck with gratitude for how awesome his life actually is and he peaces out immediately and becomes a more benevolent, hilarious, life-coach type of god….which, yes he is still fucking with people, but in a helpful way, which I admire.
Q, ready to party, being awesome.