Why am I attracted to the Shadow?
Why am I not afraid of the dark side of the human psyche?
Why am I comfortable listening to people reveal their ugliest thoughts about themselves?
It’s because I have a Shadow side. It’s been alive and well for nearly my whole life. My parents added to it with force and criticism, along with others that wounded me as a child and as an adult.
Because of this, I know how it feels to be caught so deep in Shadow that you wonder if you’ll ever climb out of the darkness. You wonder if it will haunt you your whole life, and possibly into your next one if you believe in that kind of thing.
But when Marcus and I took a workshop this week from Theresa Reed (aka. The Tarot Lady) on Tarot for Shadow Work, I learned something very comforting. I learned that if I befriend my Shadow, I will discover “the bigger, brighter, and more luminous self hidden right there in the dark.”
This helped me to realize that while I might think dark thoughts–very, VERY dark thoughts–I don’t act on them. Am I immune to angry outbursts or bitter actions? Certainly not. But over time, I’ve learned that it’s better to leave things like vengeance and revenge to the Universe. The Universe has a way of dealing with things gone wrong. Also, if I allow myself to see the dark parts of myself and where they came from, I can interact with life rather than reacting to it.
Which brings me to why I feel comfortable listening to the shadow sides of others. I’m cool with listening to people talk about fear, anger, jealousy, rage, and more. It feels normal to me because I can relate. Even if I haven’t had the same thoughts, I’ve had something along the same vein. I wish more people were cool with this. I think if they were, we’d all be in a much better place. Instead of telling someone (especially their kid) not to be angry or jealous or sad, let them be it. Let them feel it and ultimately, deal with it. Tamping it down will only cause it to come back in a worse way–often a MUCH worse way. We ALL have a Shadow side. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
It gives me comfort to know that every day, if I’m open to it, I can shine a light on me and my Shadow–all the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful–and I can keep being who I am without feeling I’m lesser than or not good enough. It’s okay to see my Shadow in all its glory–in fact, it’s healthy and healing. Instead of hiding it or pretending that it’s not there, I can see my Shadow for what it is and befriend it. I can acknowledge and forgive myself for being flawed and human.
Which brings me to another big thing I learned in Theresa’s workshop. I figured out my Birth Card.
I had figured it out before this workshop, but listening to Theresa and my classmates talk about their Birth Cards helped me to take my understanding to a whole ‘nother level.
Here’s how I did it.
My birthday is September 26, 1971. To find out my Birth Card, I added up my birth date numbers like this:
9+2+6+1+9+7+1 = 35.
The Major Arcana in a tarot deck only goes up to 22 so I need to add these two numbers together too.
3=5 = 8.
8 is the Strength card in a tarot deck.
The Strength card symbolizes the inner power and courage to handle life’s challenges. In the classic Rider-Waite tarot deck, the Strength card shows a woman holding open the jaws of a lion. She is doing this gently, without force.
I can absolutely relate to this card.
Throughout my life, I’ve felt like I have to take matters into my own hands in order to solve a problem or overcome a challenge. But, I’m not always strong. Quite the contrary. You see, the opposite of strength is fear, cowardice, and insecurity. Yep, I feel fear all the time. When it comes to something I really care about, like my writing, I can be brave in writing down my stories, but I often fear it at the same time. This fear holds me back from doing my best writing. It’s a constant battle.
How can I be more like the Strength card?
Can I tame my inner demons–my Shadow–with gentleness and care rather than force and restriction?
Can I do it?
Because this is what I want. This is what I’m reaching for. This is the next level–acknowledging my Shadow, understanding it, and ultimately, being gentle with it and not fighting it.
I want to reach into the jaws of the lion–a frightening place indeed–and gently, even lovingly, open up its mouth. I want to be so gentle that the lion doesn’t fight at all; in fact, it wants me to open its jaw. It wants to be seen and touched with tenderness and compassion.
This is what I want for my Shadow side. If I can do this for the darkest parts of myself, there’s no telling what else I can do. This is what my soul aches to do. I’m on the path.
ps. If this story resonates with you, check out Tarot for Troubled Times: Confront Your Shadow, Heal Your Self & Transform the World by Shaheen Miro and Theresa Reed. It was just released last week. Can’t wait to read it myself!
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a novel that asks, can enemies become friends? Peg is also the creator of Fear & Writing, a workshop for procrastinating writers from all walks of life.
Photo of Peg Cheng & Theresa Reed by Marcus Donner.