A Conversation with Debbie Ford: Creator of the Shadow Process Workshop, author of Why Good People Do Bad Things, and founder of The Ford Institute for Integrative Coaching.
Apr 05, 2011 06:31PM
● By Danielle Dorman
We hear a lot these days about attracting what we want through positive thinking and affirmations. Yet, for more than a decade, your books have guided seekers in a different type of inquiry¬—to embrace our negative aspects and make peace with our shadows. Why is it so important to befriend our dark side?
Ford: I think Carl Jung, the great Swiss psychologist, said it best: “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” Most of us try to skip this step. We prefer not to deal with our darkness, because we’ve been taught that some parts of ourselves are just not okay—it’s not okay to be greedy, selfish or angry.
But every quality, every human emotion, comes bearing great gifts. When we deny or repress any aspect of our humanity, we strip ourselves of some of our power, some of our genius, our ability to go out and create what we want in our lives.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying affirmations or creating positive intentions, but if we’re doing these practices to cover up some part of ourselves that we’re horrified by, then we are guaranteed to keep repeating patterns of the past. To the extent that we’ve denied or repressed our dark side, we will be unable to manifest the greatest evolution of ourselves.
How can exploring our dark side help us manifest our greatest self?
Ford: We must go into the dark in order to bring forth our light. Unless we are willing to face our shadow and find compassion for the parts of us that we’ve judged as bad or wrong, we’ll never discover the wisdom that we were meant to learn in this lifetime. We manifest our greatest potential not by focusing on our strengths alone, but by encountering challenges, getting blindsided by our own limitations and, ultimately, by finding the perfection in our so-called flaws and weaknesses.
If, for example, we are unwilling to embrace our neediness, we cut ourselves off from the ability to ask for help or receive support from others. If we deny or suppress our anger, we won’t have access to the part of ourselves that can set strong boundaries or rally people to action.
In my own life, it’s not my quick wit or perceived brilliance that has allowed me to transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, but rather the wisdom I have gained as a result of integrating my anger, discontent, shame, fear and insecurities. It is, in fact, the very darkness that I didn’t want to be or experience that has driven me to strengthen my spiritual connection, learn how to thrive, and become the woman I always wanted to be.
So, how does one go about uncovering their dark side—or, to borrow a chapter title from your first book—how do we “chase down our shadows”?
Ford: Do you remember the old saying, “It takes one to know one”? It turns out that this bit of wisdom holds a key to uncovering our shadows. The qualities and character traits we find most annoying, upsetting or unbearable in other people are just parts of ourselves that we do not accept. The more intense our reaction to another person, the more information it has to offer us about a part of ourselves that we’ve repressed in our shadow.
Once we’ve uncovered one of our shadows, how do we go about making peace with it?
Ford: The moment we recognize the gifts of any quality, emotion, experience or situation, it immediately becomes an ally, rather than an enemy. So, to make peace with our shadow, we have to look through new eyes at the qualities or character traits that we’ve judged as unlovable, and ask ourselves: “Why would I need this? How could this quality or situation serve me in creating the life I desire?”
Transformation requires nothing more than experiencing a shift in perception. The shadow is not a problem to be solved or an enemy to be conquered, but a fertile field, ripe for cultivation.
If you’re willing to dig your hands into the rich soil of your dark side, you will unearth the potent seeds of the person you most desire to be.
For more information visit www.DebbieFord.com.
Source: Natural Awakenings Publishing Corporation
Date: 2008/09/01 12:00:00 GMT-7
Article was published in: September 2008