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Shadow Puppets: Dancing with our Inner Monsters

Shadow Puppets from Indonesia.travel website

So, how are you?

We are now coming to the end of 2020, the year of the Corona-geddon, and now we have just had the American election to spice things up, in case they were not spicy enough already!

Along with the whole collective, I have been riding the energetic waves of ups and downs and spirals and rounds and rounds in the past few weeks, and it has been intense.

Things feel like they are really coming to a boiling point sometimes. 

When we are really affected by the energies swirling around us, and particularly by other people’s energy, we can easily be pulled into a vortex of drama and negativity without realising it. Other people might be in such a convoluted inner state that they project all of their own inner turmoil onto us without realising what they are doing. And this can feel awful.

I recently experienced a situation where someone projected a lot of their inner reality onto me, making me the cause of their own unaddressed emotional pain.

Though previously this might have sent me into a head spin or a heart spin of negativity myself, now I have been doing this inner work for so many years, I saw the situation for what it was and I felt compassion for this person, while also seeing how bizarre it is.

I held these two realities in my consciousness: that their reality is that I have a negative intention towards them, and my reality, which was my intention of holding this person in the space of love. This person can’t see what they are doing. What they feel about themselves has become what they think I feel about them.

So I hold these two different realities in my hands and send both of the realities loving compassion. I give myself compassion for having had to received these projections, and and send compassion to the other person who is projecting onto me. I then give love to both realities, to his and to mine, and I ask the situation to dissolve back into love, knowing I can only manage my own mind, heart and emotions, not anyone else’s.

Having been in the reverse situation, where I could see that I was projecting my own inner reality onto someone else, I also understand how easy it is to do this. To be so lost inside one’s own mind that one projects it all outwards like a movie. Particularly if you spend a lot of time alone, it’s easy for this to happen.

What to do if you find yourself in this kind of a situation?

Whether you are affected by the inner turmoil of the whole collective right now – which to me feels quite fearful and anxious, or you are affected by someone close to you’s inner turmoil, the actions to take are the same.

First, feel into this turmoil. Notice what it feels like in your body..?

Where do you feel it? Describe it to yourself. Be with whatever it is wherever it is. Maybe even place a hand on your body wherever you feel the turmoil the most. Then ask this feeling: are you mine? Is the energy mine? Or is it from outside of me. And wait for the answer.

If the answer comes that the turmoil is from outside of you, then do an energetic cleansing practice to clear out your energy and return to your own centre. I created a meditation for this recently on Insight Timer, called Meditation on Boundaries.

If you find it is your own inner turmoil, spend some time with the feelings and ask them what message they have for you. 

Sometimes the message may be as simple as; hey, stop working, drink a glass of water, and go for a walk. Sometimes it maybe more like; I am really uncomfortable with X situation and you need to speak to person A about this – this is the voice of your feelings speaking to you. This is why it is so important to listen to your own feelings. Because they usually have a clear message for you, which will help you move into clarity and love and out of conflict and turmoil.

Often our inner turmoil comes from our own inner monsters or shadows, which are unquestioned within us. That is, our inner monsters ~ what Carl Jung called the shadow side of the psyche ~ which is our critical voices, telling us we are ‘not good enough’ or we ‘should be afraid’, or ‘nobody loves us’, or ‘women are scary’, or ‘men are scary’, or that ‘love is dangerous’, or we will never ‘make it’ so we should not bother trying.

If we don’t recognise these voices as the voices of our inner scary monsters, and we think they are us, then it’s very easy to be very afraid. I have been there plenty of times. But once we see the monsters for what they are: shadow puppets of un-integrated past traumatic or difficult experiences and feelings, we can then have the dialogue we need to with the monsters and begin the process of integration and healing.

Here in Bali and Indonesia in general there is a strong tradition of shadow puppet theatre. This is very much an art of the people, and the shadow puppet plays are usually based around a theme from classical Hindu epics like the Ramayana or the Mahabharata.

What I notice when watching one of these performances though, is how similar the shadow puppets are to our own mind. We generally will have a few different characters playing out a drama in our mind, and the question is: which characters do we listen to and pay attention to? Which ones are speaking the truth and coming from love and acceptance and forgiveness and which do we see as being purely malevolent and trouble making?

When someone is projecting their inner shadow puppet play onto you, giving you a role as one of their inner demons, it is really helpful to see clearly that this is a projection. It is coming from inside of them, and they are projecting this inner drama onto the screen of relationship, which is you. It is of course easier to see when someone is doing this to you, then when you are doing it to someone else. But to see both scenarios clearly, a deep inner connection with yourself and with your own feelings is necessary.

What to do once you notice this is probably firstly to stop the interaction. To refuse to play the part they have assigned you. And if there is any possibility the person might be open to a reflection back to them, you might try asking what it is they are feeling, to help them connect back to their own reality and let go of the projection.

Let me know in the comments if you would be interested in attending an online workshop on Dancing with Monsters: Mine and Yours and Theirs.

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