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A Lesson in the Shadows: The Reality of What We Cannot See

Updated on February 14, 2015

Everyone who stands in the light has a shadow

Photo by Sophia Phillips Noll
Photo by Sophia Phillips Noll

It's Never Too Late to Learn

Seeing is believing! Or is it? You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all! Or have you? I’ll believe it when I see it! Will you really? These are just a few mythical verbiages about belief drilled into my psyche since childhood that, in all honesty, didn’t serve me very well. Perhaps they haven’t served you very well either. If you’re a man…take heart!

I recently attended a weekend men’s retreat with the intention of taking a deeper look into my world view. I haven’t been entirely satisfied lately with the results I have been producing and wanted to learn what I could do to change that. As an introspective man this was not at all unusual for me. I gain new insights by occasionally delving deeper, going underneath the surface of what seems apparent. I also gather significant energy searching inwardly for answers to questions I have wrestled with for many moons. This was one of those times and I now know I’m not alone. There is a growing movement of men searching for their own answers, taking responsibility for their lives, exploring the path of authenticity and I’m grateful to be one of them.

What I found underneath my skin startled me a bit. Wait, that’s not true! It flat out shocked me. The goal I had going into the weekend was to relax and enjoy myself; to see, hear and experience whatever was going to come my way. I would be open, listen and share what felt appropriate for the moment without resistance, all in an effort to be present, with my eyes and ears wide open, so to speak, in order to obtain the full measure of why I was there.

Alone With My Shadow

Digging into your shadows is hard labor

I’m a devout believer in perspective and its influence over the choices I make. That hasn’t always been true for me, but as I grow I learn that my life is more than just some arbitrary set of meaningless circumstances. I’m learning the sometimes hard lessons that can turn a life of listlessness, for example, into a life of vibrancy and how the courage to experience change is worth the effort. Hey, it hasn’t been easy and doing this kind of internal dialogue is challenging enough in its own right but, to attempt to face my own demons head on was very, very unsettling. I must say however, that my experience to date, limited as it has been, has revealed some provocatively interesting landscapes for me to consider. At this point they may only be shades of grey, but they are shades potentially hiding the light within me which I desperately need to illuminate my journey into the future.

As the weekend workshop progressed I peeled the onion a little more and with each shaving I moved a little closer to aspects of my life I chose not to consciously admit were present. During one particular exercise I came face to face with a facet of myself that I knew was present but would not pay attention to. It’s like having an identical twin that appears and disappears but never communicates with you openly. At that point I was touched so powerfully I had to step back and take note of what had just happened. I was disoriented emotionally. I couldn’t believe I had gotten so close to the real me and I felt that what I saw was previously unseen by anyone, including myself.

Some Shadows Have a Mind of Their Own

What Lurks in the Shadows?

How can a person live without knowing who they truly are? As a practice I choose not to separate myself from the rest of humanity so I know there are others whose experiences have revealed similar epiphanies. It is the unveiling of what lurks in the shadows, I suspect, that holds the potential to free me from what’s binding me from achieving my wildest dreams. That freedom, in and of itself, seems to me to be worth the price I have to pay to uncover what wants to stay dormant within me. I found a part of my ego, living in the shadows of my mind, away from the light of examination which desires to be and grow and control its own portion of the recording continually playing whenever I attempt to break free. Does whatever it is hold that much sway over me? Perhaps…and perhaps this hidden energetic connection brought into the light is also that which catapults me into the presence of who I really am and nudges me to achieve the experience for which I long.

I cannot say with any certainty where this inquiry will lead me as I am not an expert in the field of Jungian Psychology, or even a student of it. But I do know there is an emotional and spiritual movement afoot within me to take part in the evolution of mankind, even at the expense of my own comfort. I feel that if I continue to ask “Who am I” and “Why am I here” I somehow will receive the answers which, until now, have remained at best, mysteriously evasive or at worst, totally silent.

I also cannot explain why I feel a sense of trust that everything I need to know will be revealed to me at exactly the right time and place. It is ironic that I have always considered myself to be a positive person and yet there are those who know me who would say I am somewhat pessimistic. There are those who would say you either are or you aren’t. Maybe they are both just aspects of who I am, engrained by conditioning for the purpose of supporting the human experience I currently explore. Again, I believe the answer to this question will one day surface and become known to me.

I do not know where this path will lead but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt (excuse the pun please) that I am having this human experience and I am willing to continue to expend my energies seeking responses to vibrational messages and exchanges between the universe and the form in which my soul currently resides. My experiences confirm to me there are dimensions which I cannot see with my physical eyes that exist all the same. Even though I don’t physically see them, I sense they are there before me to see, hear, touch, smell and taste. I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that there is a force beyond my power of discernment that leads me, calls me, guides and interacts with me for the purpose of evolving personally and contributing to the collective good. I’m still not sure, and maybe in the grand scheme of things if it’s even important…why? And so the trek of life continues.

It's Your Choice

Photo by Sophia Phillips Noll
Photo by Sophia Phillips Noll
Plutarch | Source


From this point forward the journey becomes quite personal and it isn’t over yet. My intent in writing this hub is to convey the power in doing a little “work” within and to encourage other men to move beyond whatever inhibits them from experiencing the freedom of clarity of mind. For more information on the psychology of our shadows click on this link. Wikipedia

A fun way to provide my conclusions drawn from recent experience is to reach into the rich and diverse archives of others, sharing their thoughts on topics like vision, self examination and what can be gleaned from the cards life deals to us.

“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” - Plutarch

As I said earlier, I’m a believer in perspective and in this quotation spoken hundreds of years ago I find confirmation of my ability to create my own reality. I have also come to agree that creating your own reality is an art form, one in which we are given potential as a resource to develop. Sadly, many, including myself for most of my life, do not choose to avail themselves of this resource for creating and even sadder perhaps is in spite of the overwhelming positive results of such self exploration there are those who continue to choose to remain static and unfulfilled. My vision for the world I live in is one of Peace, Simplicity and Love where all peoples are shifting to the notion of consciously living out their vision for the evolution of all mankind.

A Different World

Photo by Sophia Philips Noll
Photo by Sophia Philips Noll

"Where there is no vision, there is no hope." - George Washington Carver

If you’re a middle class man today working in a corporate climate you more often than not are subjecting yourself to a very different vision of success than you might in your personal life. Your work world is about profit, productivity and achievement in the areas of business. While this may be a generalization, the people I know in this category live very different lives outside of the corporate veil than they do inside it. On the outside they are family oriented, kind, giving and openly exploring new vistas leading toward their goals. At work they are driven (sometimes quite literally) to succeed for someone else’s benefit by subscribing to a profit first culture that they wouldn’t otherwise endorse. Why? Because regardless of your position you must buy into the vision of the culture you’re in or risk winding up outside of it. The vision that controls your day is invisible to you. Sure, you may resonate with a piece of it but you are often not seeing the whole dream. I’m sure if you were honest with yourself you would say there are other things you would really like to be doing with your time. My question is why do so many of us choose to live this divided life?

There are numerous people who are just going through the motions without ever realizing any segment of their own vision for how they would like their lives to be. However, when they do come to terms with what they really envision for their lives and begin to take action, asking for what they want, working toward their own vision step by step, the shift begins to happen. This is what is happening for me. The art of seeing what others cannot see, using my imagination as inspiration in action and affirming movement without doubt, is leading me to create and manifest my own vision for living. I see a world where success is associated with a sustainable reality, peace and collaborative abundance more than the stress of scarcity, fear and egoic competition.

May every day of your life from this day forward be one of peace, joy and an ultimate sense of fulfillment! As always...the choice is yours!

"Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom." - Aristotle
"Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom." - Aristotle | Source

Gnōthi Seafton

“Everything that happens to you is a reflection of what you believe about yourself. We cannot outperform our level of self-esteem. We cannot draw to ourselves more than we think we are worth.” – Iyanla Vanzant

So all that I have learned here is a reflection of what I believe. As I analyze my results I realize that I was living from my shadow and not from my light. That was the shock of the lesson. What my shadow revealed is that I thought I was less than I actually was, that I knew myself better than I actually did and that I thought more of the outside world than I thought of myself. In reality this type of thinking does not necessarily make me good or bad, it just wasn’t really me. The me I believe I truly am is one who knows his shadows, is willing to acknowledge their presence and work to understand the gold within them as well as the darkness. Still, I am a work in progress and it is my great desire and pleasure to fully know and reveal all that I am, to be and live an authentic life, to be exactly who I am and hold myself in integrity and to be accountable for all of my actions. I do not aspire to outperform my level of self esteem. I yearn to raise my level of self esteem to draw in more light, for myself and for the circle of community upon which both my light and shadow are cast.

"Learning lessons is a little like reaching maturity. You're not suddenly happy, wealthy, or powerful, but you understand the world around you better, and you're at peace with yourself. Learning life's lessons is not about making your life perfect, but about seeing life as it was meant to be." - Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

The lessons I have learned here did not suddenly make me more happy, wealthy or powerful, but they certainly did help me understand the world around me better. Having looked within and seeing life as it is, the shadows and the light, I am seeing the reality of my life…at least for now. With this knowledge I can proceed with more freedom…from fear, from failure and from the unknown as it presents itself each moment of the day. I’m not making a perfect life, I’m learning how to live the life I have and I am more at peace with my whole self than ever before.
This is the lesson from the shadows for me today...tomorrow is another day and perhaps...another lesson.

Peace be with you my friends!

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I invite you as my quests to do two things: 1) Learn about what is in your own shadows and 2) leave a comment here with me.

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    • Born2care2001 profile image

      Rev Bruce S Noll HMN 3 years ago from Asheville NC


      Thank you so much! I believe we're all in need of recovery...recovery from loss of love, recovery from loss of childhood, recovery from loss of self and sometimes just recovery from recovering. I am grateful for your experience, for your passion for compassion and for the work you have done over the years. I know we cannot fix people...but we can love them through their experiences...if they want to go there. I know I did and I am grateful for every experience in my life that brought me to the place where I am because the place where I am is good and I am at peace.

      I really appreciate your comment. There is much work to do for the men of our culture. We must make further strides into understanding and incorporating the feminine perspective as well, and returning to rituals and rights of passage as teaching and learning tools for the growth of our young men.

      Again, thank you for your work. Keep on writing. I'll take a look at what you have published here on HP.

      Until we meet again!


    • MDavisatTIERS profile image

      Marilyn L Davis 3 years ago from Georgia

      Good morning, Bruce; what a wonderful experience. Thank you for writing such a comprehensive article. I found it enlightening, interesting and validating.

      As a person in long-term recovery with 27 years, introspection and peeling the onion are staples in my life. I opened a women's recovery home in 1990 with the intention of helping women find the underlying issues and self-defeating behaviors that prevented them from living meaningful lives. With it closing in 2011, I have been able to write about introspection, recovery and change. ~Marilyn

    • Born2care2001 profile image

      Rev Bruce S Noll HMN 3 years ago from Asheville NC

      Thanks Bill, and yes it was a very interesting retreat. I hope you are well too! I'm so happy to have watched your growth over the years as well. I know you have broadened your horizons significantly in the past couple of years and I am so happy for you. You deserve it. There are so many folks here who look up to you for your wisdom, kindness, knowledge and more. It is a joy to have experienced some or that growth with you.

      I really enjoyed seeing the photo of a couple of our hubpages peers with you as they visited with you in Olympia. I'm hoping with in this year to get to the west coast. If it's this year of next, I'll look you up. That would be a great joy for me!

      Until then Bill, Be well, be happy, be at peace!

      Your Friend,


    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It sounds like a fascinating and worthwhile retreat, my friend. I'm surprised by the number of people I know who do not practice's like they don't want to know who they really are, and I find that a dangerous path to walk.

      I hope you are well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.