by Debbie Ford
photograph by Richard Brocken
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Whether you want to believe it or not, you have a dark side. When you start to ignore it or push it aside, it begins to make decisions for you and strips you of your conscious choices. Maybe for you it’s the foods you eat or the mean words you speak, but it’s there. In The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self, co-authors Debbie Ford, Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson shed light on your shadow issues to help you deal with them with compassion, instead of fear.
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, and 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.
This book was born out of a desire to illuminate the many life-altering gifts of the shadow. In the following pages, each of us will approach the subject from our own unique perspective as teachers. Our intention is to provide a comprehensive, multi-lens understanding of how the shadow was born within us, how it functions in our lives, and most important, what we can do to discover the gifts of our true nature. We promise that after reading this book you will never think of your shadow self in the same way again.
In Part I, Deepak Chopra gives us a comprehensive overview of our dualistic nature and offers a prescription to return us to wholeness. A mind/body pioneer, Chopra has transformed millions of lives with his teachings. His holistic approach to the divisive nature of the shadow is both grounding and illuminating.
In Part II, I draw upon nearly ﬁfteen years of teaching and leading The Shadow Process around the world to offer an accessible yet in-depth examination of the birth of the shadow, the role of the shadow in our everyday lives, and how we can reclaim the power and brilliance of our authentic nature.
In Part III, Marianne Williamson touches our hearts and minds with a provocative exploration of the connection between the shadow and the soul. A renowned international spiritual teacher, Marianne takes our hand and guides us through the bumpy terrain of the battle between love and fear.
Each of us comes with years of experience and a sincere hope that we can illuminate the shadow once and for all. For if we do not counter the force of the shadow and integrate its wisdom, it has the potential to continue to wreak havoc on our lives and our world. When we fail to admit to our vulnerabilities and recognize our bad behaviors, we will inevitably sabotage ourselves when we are on the verge of some personal or professional breakthrough. Then the shadow wins. When we act out of disproportionate anger in speaking to our children, the shadow wins. When we deceive our loved ones, the shadow wins. When we refuse to accept our true nature, the shadow wins. If we do not bring the light of our highest self to the darkness of our human impulses, the shadow wins. Until we accept all of who we are, the shadow effect will have the power to impede our happiness. If left unacknowledged, the shadow will stop us from being whole, prevent us from achieving our best-laid plans, and leave us living half a life. It is our hope in writing this book that we will bring the shadow into the light. There has never been a better time to create a new lexicon, to illuminate the shadow, and to ﬁnally understand what’s been so difﬁcult to see and hard to explain.
Shadow work, as described in this book, is more than a psychological process or an intellectual banter. It is a prescriptive solution to problems unsolved. It is a life-altering journey that goes beyond any psychological theory because it deems the dark side as a human issue, a spiritual issue that all of us must resolve in this lifetime if we are to live a fully self-expressed life. We will ﬁnally understand why we are no better and no worse than anyone else regardless of our color, our background, our sexual orientation, our genetic makeup, or our past. There is no one in the world who doesn’t have a shadow, and when taken seriously and understood, the shadow can birth a new reality that will alter the way we feel about ourselves, the way we parent our children, the way we treat our partners, the way we interact with our community members, and the way we engage with other nations.
I believe that the shadow is one of the greatest gifts available to us. Carl Jung called it a “sparring partner”; it is the opponent within us that exposes our ﬂaws and sharpens our skills. It is the teacher, the trainer, and the guide that supports us in uncovering our true magniﬁcence. The shadow is not a problem to be solved or an enemy to be conquered but a fertile ﬁeld to be cultivated. When we dig our hands into its rich soil, we will discover the potent seeds of the people we most desire to be. It is our sincere hope that you take this journey, for we know what’s waiting inside.