About a month ago, when I started looking at the shadow aspect, a friend of mine was kind enough to point my attention in the direction I was not looking (of course!) .
I am in a company of a friend. Having spent some time together during the day, we share a minute of comfortable silence in the car when he suddenly breaks it by turning his face towards me, looking me in the eye and saying, “You are a wonderful person with a big heart”. The second I understand what it is he is saying anxiety takes a grip of my heart and starts spreading into my stomach. My eyes start darting around, looking for something to save me. Then, as if pulled by some unstoppable force from inside, I start talking. I feel I have a case to argue. I am on a roll! My friend is not letting me off the hook easily: his eyes encourage me to receive the gift of his appreciation. He is sitting next to me, smiling, giving me the time to experience my own discomfort and get comfortable with it. I stop bubbling. I have no idea what I was saying a few moments ago. I must sound like a crazy person and am ready to burst out laughing at myself when I notice the twinkle in my friend’s eyes and immediately get defensive, “Is he laughing at me?“
It’s getting darker and harder to see my friend’s eyes but I cannot mistake the energy coming from him. I feel safe. I take a deep breath, tune into myself and let myself feel the fear. It is tight. It’s paralysing. It’s hot. On the inbreath I accept my friend’s appreciation and my own fragility. On the outbreath I let go of the past.
*At one point in my life I had a boyfriend (a textbook case of toxic relationship) who whenever someone gave me a compliment or said something positive about me was quick to remind me of that person’s insincere intentions and expectations of having something from me in return (obviously he was the only one who could be truly sincere with me). I did not think I believed that for a moment but it was around that time that I became sensitive towards compliments and was ready to run for the woods every time someone made an honest attempt at giving me one.*
Right, the car again. My friend and I remain silent for a while. The while that seems like ages to me. Suddenly I notice a subtle shift inside and a sensation of expansion in the heart area. I see the beauty of the moment, the kindness of my friend and my goodness. When I finally say, “Thank you” my friend knows I thank him not only for his appreciative words, but also for helping me through this difficult for me place, for patiently waiting for me on the other side, for his gentle humor, for not pushing me, for creating and keeping this safe space in which I could face my fear and open up to the gift of love coming from others instead of being dragged by my own conditioning and following the same old scenario.
Since that memorable time with my friend I’ve had at least a couple of situations where this awareness of my own reactivity helped me to emotionally connect to the person who cared to come up and say something warm to me. I am now at a stage where I still feel discomfort when someone says something positive about me to my eyes but move through those emotional phases much faster, skipping some of them. It also means that emotions are no longer as strong as they used to be, not as consuming. I no longer see only my fears but also the person in front of me. The experience with my friend also helped me realise how the people that are closest to us see what we are not willing to see and how we can help each other grow.
Freedom is being able to choose whoever and whatever you want to being any moment in your life.
– Debbie Ford