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December 6, 2022

Parenting and The Shadow

We all have difficult moments

I remember feeling grumpy about something while carrying my then four year old down the stairs, “are you having a difficult moment mum”, he said. He was so spot on. We both laughed so much we almost fell down the stairs! What a lovely way to break the tension.

When we live with someone, including our own children, there are times when we find ourselves fraying. The (relatively!) well put together version of ourselves we prefer the world to see can start to slip when we are tired, have too much going on or for another reason are unable to cope. We catch glimpses of the parts of ourselves we like least and usually try to hide away: These aspects of ourselves are sometimes referred to as our shadow – a term coined by psychologist Carl Jung.

Usually the reason we are ashamed of these parts is because at some point in the past we were told they were unacceptable or even ridiculous. A parent may have mocked our anger or sent us to our room for “causing a scene”. The message that we probably received was, that in order to be loved and accepted, we had to hide these parts of ourselves away.

Parenting and The Shadow

When moments arise in parenting where we can no longer hold them in, we might feel a sense of self disgust or suspect that we are stupid and have failed.

A belief can arise that because I lost control I am no longer a good person: All of the kind, patient, loving things I have done for my child no longer count. I experienced this myself recently, not related to parenting. I noticed feelings of competitive jealousy I hadn’t encountered for a long time. I found myself drawing the conclusion that all of my good personness has been negated. Because I had had a competitive thought I was now bad and this could not be undone.

Understanding our shadow

If you find yourself in a similar place, I invite you to respond with more compassion towards yourself. Underneath the feeling of unacceptability there is probably a younger part of yourself in need of love. My competitive self is actually scared that if she doesn’t fight she won’t get the things she most needs. My unconscious mind thinks I am fighting for survival. This is not necessarily a bad thing, I do need to survive. Could I express this in a healthier way – absolutely. In my case by trusting myself and allowing my voice to be heard and to matter. I don’t need to fight others for this right but a bit of anger could actually be helpful in getting me to the front of the queue.

Parenting and The Shadow

All emotions are valid when they are expressed in a healthy way….

…..without harming ourselves or others. Meet them with curiosity. You and all of the aspects of you are worthy of love.

It is so important to do this work as parents. Often the things we find difficult to accept about ourselves we also find difficult to accept in our children. If a child has a melt down it is not because they are choosing to but because they are completely overwhelmed by a feeling.

If we meet ourselves and our shadow with compassion it is easier to do the same with our child. The shadows are my realm, I love supporting people to find light in the darkest places so reach out if you need some care here xx

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