Book Review: The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self, by Deepak Chopra, Debbie Ford, Marianne Williamson

 Reviewed by Nancy Martin

PART I – Deepak Chopra

 “The Shadow” is a term coined by Carl Jung, the noted follower of Sigmund Freud, for the unwelcome parts of ourselves that we hide from conscious awareness. This dark side is often explained as a judgment—what we reject in others is what we cannot accept within ourselves. Dualism is the framework, e.g. right/wrong, good/bad, win/lose, hope/resignation, etc. We don’t want to accept as ours the thoughts and behaviors that go against our value system. The more we repress our dark side, the easier it is to present a persona that radiates all “goodness” and light. The unconscious, which Freud saw as the individual’s construct, Jung envisioned as impulses and drives coming from the entire history of mankind. Therefore it is a collective unconscious, shaped by all and incorporating the shadow of all.

 By ignoring our dark side, we only intensify its power over our conscious choices. This is witnessed in violent behavior as well as in mild, socially tolerated ways. When consciousness is no longer divided, when what we see is one self in all directions, “a new self and eventually a new world can be born.” Growing beyond our self-imposed limitations of the illusions our dark side imposes, we can gain compassion for self, courage and freedom. The goal is to be empowered with our wholeness, open to expressing our passions and realizing our dreams.

What is the evidence of the collective unconscious behavior in groups? The beginning came through body-mind medicine, the discovery of ‘messenger’ molecules that show how the brain translates emotions into a chemical equivalent, affecting our organs. Studies at Stanford University established the social contagion theory through bad conditions in a prison experiment that let dark forces emerge. A class of students was divided into two groups:  guards and prisoners. The ‘guards’ began to severely mistreat the ‘prisoners,’ even though they were all considered good kids studying at a prestige university. They weren’t bad apples–they misbehaved through adopting that “us vs. them” mind-set, where people lose their individuality, becoming just faces in a crowd. If there are no consequences of one’s bad actions, the loss of individuality increases.

N. Christakis and J. Fowler from Harvard analyzed  data from the three-decade study of 5,000 people in Framingham, Mass., and found invisible connections that run through a whole society. “When one person gained weight, started smoking, or got sick, close family members and friends were 50% more likely to behave the same way.” Any behavior can be contagious, and three degrees of connection became evident: “a friend of a friend can make you prone to smoking, unhappiness or loneliness, even though you have never met this friend of a friend.”

Our impulse for separation is behind the contrast—light and dark, divine and the devil, saint and sinner. Chopra suggests life has no juice, as in electricity, unless one pole sends a current to the other. He sees the shadow as the separation impulse and the divine impulse as one that seeks unity. The new reality we seek calls for a holographic impulse, one where the whole is represented in each part, no matter how small. Resolution and freedom come from recognizing the shadow is part of our psyche and that whatever exists in it is within our power to dissolve. The shadow tries to keep you unconscious because it’s the hiding place of pain and stress.

The process for nurturing the shadow includes: “keeping secrets from yourself and others; harboring guilt and shame; making yourself and others wrong; needing someone to blame; ignoring your own weaknesses while criticizing those around you; separating yourself from others; struggling to keep evil at bay.”

Choices for diminishing the shadow’s power deal with stopping our projecting, detaching and letting go, giving up self-judgment, and rebuilding your emotional body, which he describes as “the lightness of being,” becoming more whole. It exchanges judgment for the real experience of compassion, love, and forgiveness.

A new worldview is needed—the entire universe is made of consciousness, “infinite, all-embracing, all powerful, and all knowing.” He speaks of coordination of all action: information shared with all parts of the whole in instantaneous communication, energy is perpetually reshaping but never lost, evolution continually produces more intricate forms, and consciousness expands with more complex forms.

Wholeness and healing are very closely connected—always seeking balance within your body, within your life, within your world, as change and the laws of nature progress through transformations. Letting go of the split self with all its dualities is experiencing wholeness and being able to value the dynamics of each without being a slave to any.

Transcending the shadow brings the realization that “the level of the problem is never the level of the solution.” Going beyond the conflict brings a new perspective, a broader context that opens the way to resolution. Willingness to surrender your thinking mind to meditation, switching your focus from mental chatter to perhaps your breathing or chanting a mantra. frees your potential for limitless possibilities for peace and ever expanding consciousness.

PART II – Debbie Ford

Making Peace with Ourselves, Others and the World 

A familiar picture is presented of people who pray, wish, and desire to change some vexing behavior—procrastinating, overspending, overeating, resenting .  . .while hiding their discontent with a cheery countenance. With this simmering distress often comes forgetting they ever wanted anything other than what they had.

Our egocentric self believes that some change in a stressful person or thing will bring us happiness. Looking outside the self precludes lifting the veil within to see “who we think we are and who we really want to be.” Defending the former image prevents us from discovering our true self, our wholeness. The shadow, our dark side, the part we can’t imagine has anything to do with us and don’t want anyone, especially our loved ones, to see, becomes the major obstacle to realizing our true nature of greatness, compassion and authenticity.

She recalls her inner turmoil of opposing voices when she transitioned from an awkward preadolescent into a pretty young teen—“You’re an idiot.” and “I’m better, prettier, smarter and more talented than everyone else.” Attempting to feel better led her to a sugar addiction and progressed to cigarettes, Pot, pills for uppers and downers and psychedelics.

Success at masking her true feelings and imitating the girls who seemed ‘to have it all together’ deceived herself as much as others until her world crumbled. Finally, at the age of 27 in a drug treatment center, she began to see the havoc of her battle with the dark side. Ultimate surrender in that war revealed a passion to help others on the journey through the human psyche to value their wholeness. The realization that “we possess every human characteristic and emotion, whether active or dormant, whether conscious or dormant” levels our field of reference.

The panoply of self-expression brings the gifts our wholeness manifests, making possible infinite means of well-being and peace—the freedom to truly be and extend love to our oneness. Integrating all the aspects of our journey expands the richness of our days and builds on our potential for gift giving and receiving.

Her beliefs now are that forgiveness, happening in our hearts not our heads, is the “hallway between the past and an unimaginable future; everything happens for a reason; we are always evolving and though oftentimes painful, it serves an important purpose; there is wisdom in every wound; and we are more than we ever dreamed possible.”

PART III – Marianne Williamson

Only Light Can Cast Out Darkness

 Struggling over the juxtaposition of so much tender beauty in the world—from sleeping babies and bounteous bouquets of blossoms, love on earth—to wars and inexorable suffering and destruction of living things, she acknowledges an antiforce that gets us to do its bidding because we have forgotten who we are and “thus act as we are not.”  This darkness represents not a presence but an absence of light. “And the only true light is love.”

 Separated from love, our wholeness and God, we perceive our anger as justified, blame of another is only reasonable, and attacking someone is righteous self-defense. Fear takes over and threatens to crush the soul. The antidote is to change our thinking to a higher frequency—loving unconditionally and unwaveringly, involving radical truth telling, and expanding our sense of love beyond the personal, social and political implications.

Metaphysically, through her work with Course in Miracles, she accepts “Nothing but God’s love exists and what is all-encompassing can have no opposite.” Practically, however, understanding the creative power of our thoughts and words and our propensity for separation, she sees God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, the Illuminator, as a bridge between our shadow and our light. This reminds us that the darkness is not real, and through prayer with the willingness to separate the truth from illusion, we are open to seeing others and ourselves differently.

Cultivating the sacred in our lives gives us space to stay connected to our spiritual reality, seeing how busyness can be our enemy and how communing with others in a holy space can bring balance and peace. With awareness of the ubiquitous negative thoughts, you can place yourself in the flow of gratitude, eliminating self-hatred and affirming others at the same time. “Prayer is a force; meditation harmonizes the energies of the universe; and forgiveness transforms the heart.”

Energy created in a group is a collective shadow, magnified and growing exponentially–with fear or love. The challenge is to love with a greater conviction than to the hate and fear of terrorism. The illumination of our true needs comes not from rational evidence but from a mystery for the realms of pure potentiality.

Apprehension about our shadow is easily seen and felt until we come to see that our darkness also hides our light, and “It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We are powerful beyond measure.” Our consciousness and our choices expand to embrace our wholeness and the love our Source has given to us all.

Author: nancybmartin

Thought Leader on Aging

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