Reclaim Your Blame: A Shadow Work Exercise
NOTE: This exercise is not intended to attribute the faults of others to oneself. It is a means of reflecting on your own projections and revealing why certain experiences and the behavior of others trigger you in the way they do. Bear in mind I am no authority on this topic. The views expressed in this article are based on my personal experiences, cumulative beliefs, and independent research. Always heed to my guidance at your own discretion.
This is an exercise I’ve been doing for quite sometime now, before I even realized it was what is considered “shadow work”. It can be done at any time, in the heat of the moment or in retrospect.
The purpose of this exercise is not to beat yourself up or blame yourself for anything, it is simply to retract the judgment you place on others and analyze how it reflects the way you feel about yourself subconsciously or the aspects of your subconscious that need attention.
I’d like to stress that even if there is truth to an accusation, that doesn’t make it exempt from this exercise. The fact that we acknowledge truth isn’t what poses the problem, it’s how we process it– it’s how we react to the truths we acknowledge that sheds light on our subconscious tendencies.
When you find yourself pointing your finger at someone for something or blaming others for how you feel, reclaim that accusation. Contemplate what aspects of yourself are eliciting an unpleasant reaction to what someone else said, did, didn’t do, what have you. If you dig deep enough, you will find that in every accusation is a faint reflection of yourself.
The points to keep in mind while doing this exercise are:
► the catalyst- the external experience that triggered you,
► the reaction- the feeling the catalyst evoked,
► the accusation- the way in which you imposed your reaction on the other.
Essentially, you want to discover the aspects of your own condition that are being reflected in the overall experience. Consider the various factors at play. Engage in a series of questions in order to dig to the bottom of things. This may take some time, but eventually you should be able to unearth a core issue.
I’m not going to walk through a whole line of questioning as I normally would, but I will elaborate what I’ve discovered about myself through this particular accusation, which will hopefully give you a basic idea of the mechanics of this exercise.
Sometimes my partner does not cater to my needs as I expect (i.e. think I deserve). This often triggers a feeling of being undervalued, which ultimately translates to anger and frustration. I then feel compelled to accuse him of being inconsiderate and selfish.
What I have found in regards to this example is that I commonly experience an underlying theme in my relationships (romantic especially) in which I feel I’m not treated the way I should be or as well as I treat the other person. I tend to pour a great deal of my energy into my relationships, leaving almost nothing for myself, so when the other doesn’t provide sufficient support to bridge that gap, I feel I’m being cheated… because after all, “I put so much forth. Why shouldn’t I get the same in return?” *self-pitying sobs*
It ultimately comes down to me being negligent of the basic needs that I could very well provide myself, such as respect, consideration, and integrity. This serves as a poor foundation for my sense of self-worth, which provokes me to compensate by seeking external validation. I [subconsciously] look to others to make up for what I neglect (or don’t know how to) provide for myself. But this only creates a self-perpetuating cycle. I over-extend myself in order to [unnecessarily] accommodate others so as to ensure that I receive their approval. When I don’t see that I’m getting the desired validation, I get upset and feel as if I am being undervalued. In fact, I am being undervalued, but not necessarily by others– I am undervaluing myself by not taking the initiative to cultivate this sense of validation internally.
In a way, I’m actually being the very things I’m accusing others of being. I am being selfish because I am treating them as a means to compensate for my own internal deficit, as a way to feel better about myself. I am being inconsiderate in the sense that I am not stopping to consider (or forwardly ask) why they don’t adhere to my standards of behavior before immediately blaming them for “hurting my feelings”– they may not be fully aware of my expectations, how to fulfill them, or they may be in a place that renders them incapable of doing so, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are inconsiderate and selfish, or that they don’t love or appreciate me. Overall, I am disregarding their individuality. I am being insensitive to the other’s internal condition and any unseen factors that may be influencing them not to provide the quality of support I expect.
So I’ve identified a pattern in my reactions– I feel undervalued (which poses a threat to my big stupid stereotypical Leo ego), then anger takes over as a means of defense, and finally I begin displacing the blame onto those I have relationships with. If this accusation is left unchecked, then the distance grows. I recede from the other because they reflect parts of myself Ego doesn’t like to acknowledge. But Shadow is still there, behind Ego, flailing its arms back and forth trying to show me how to resolve it, hence the continued pattern.
The impression that I undervalue myself and that as a result I can be selfish and inconsiderate as a means to compensate is the core issue that I need to tackle from here.
When we focus solely on how others are to blame for our mental/emotional flares, we are diverting focus from the aspects of ourselves that are calling for awareness. Doing this habitually will ultimately cultivate recurring reactions that will be aroused and reinforced by various unrelated encounters, molding our perspectives and influencing our emotions in a way that perpetuates the experience of feeling [blank] so as to eventually draw conscious attention to our internal afflictions.
Reclaiming the blame (or perception) we impose on others allows us to use it as a mirror and discover the underlying issues that spur the reaction experienced, paving the way for us to reconcile ourselves and thus neutralize said reaction.