Labeling

light and dark

This theme has come up quite a bit within the last week or so. This might be the first of multiple posts on this topic because I feel the direction I want to go is only half-baked, I may have further insights at a later date. Let’s call this a first draft.

It came up first when discussing an ex with other women who were also discussing ex’s. One of the women labels her ex a narcissist and while she and I discovered similarities in how we both experienced our ex’s this is one place where we differ. I do not label my ex anything other than an ex. Maybe that is not true. I label him a liar, and a manipulator, and a betrayer of sacred trust, and a phony, and insecure – AND at the end of that sentence I say: Me too. If I label my ex I do so knowing that anything he is, I am too.

I did not express this to her because I felt no need to. People have different reasons for why they do or do not choose to use labels, my truth about this belongs to me and I felt no real need to voice it in this instance.

Later we talked one on one in further detail, her separation from the ex is recent so I know she is still processing. My separation occurred over a decade ago. I am still processing as well but my processing is coming from a different place. My processing is less about him and more about me. There are unresolved emotional wounds from that relationship that have been left unresolved because:

  1. In the moments where I was experiencing his darkness I abandoned myself.
  2. I was not yet ready to experience my own darkness that I brought to the relationship.

So now my work is going back and picking up all those pieces of myself that I left behind and have not wanted to see because they feel/felt unlovable AND now loving those parts of myself well.

It is not about the other person, it is about the pieces of you that you left behind. This is my truth and my first reason for not labeling him in this way. Because at this point it is not about him so what difference would a label make? None.

Here is my bigger underlying truth about labeling:

Labels are used for lots of different reasons. For example it feels to me (I could have this wrong) that the woman I have been speaking with is using a label with her ex because it is helping her detach and make sense of what she experienced with him. Labels can absolutely help understand something that feels confusing.

Related to that detachment is another reason I believe people use labels, to create a sense of separation. Us and them. In this case narcissist and empath.

This is where I get uncomfortable. I do not believe in us versus them. That concept eliminates all the possibilities that exist in between and that is just not my truth about the world at this point.

I do identify as an empath. That is a label I choose for myself, that does not automatically make this person who I was emotionally wounded by a narcissist though. He is no more narcissist than I am and I am no more empath than he. We both possesses qualities of each.

In that relationship we both experienced the darkness of the other. Empaths are not just beings of light. They are not only as capable of manipulation as narcissists, they are masters of it. That is what comes with the power of feeling others on this level, you can misuse that power and go into a shadow space with it. There is this notion of a divide between empath and narcissist..

That divide says:
One of us is good and the other is bad.
One of us is the abuser, the other is the victim.
One of us is light while the other is dark.

I am sorry but I call bullshit on all that. It is just not my truth. Narcissism is a real thing, absolutely. And if you have ever been the victim of a narcissist than you know how painful their darkness can feel. I am not meaning to minimize anyone’s trauma or experiences. I only mean to underline one of my personal truths and that is: in adult relationships we ALL show up in both shadow and light, some of us lean more one way than the other, sure, it is always both though. I know individuals who have been emotionally wounded by diagnosed narcissists, I am not trying to take that experience away or make it invalid; I am merely trying to bring to light a fuller picture which includes those who have been emotionally victimized by empaths as well. If you think that is not a thing I know my ex would disagree with you.

Another place where labeling has come up recently relates to how labels can make us invisible. I am going to continue with this example of my ex and the label narcissist to avoid outing the other people I spoke to about other labels they experience in their lives. It all applies just the same regardless of the example I use.

So relating to labels and how they make us invisible:

Calling someone a narcissist allows us to strip them of their humanity rendering them invisible. He is no longer (insert name here) he is my ex the narcissist. The moment I say that I no longer have to experience him as a complex human being made up of both shadow and light, I get to detach all of that truth and see him just as a monster. Well I do not believe in monsters. And my truth is if one person in this world is a monster than we all are. Whatever one person is capable of, we are all capable of.

The reason labels exist in the first place is to help sort and understand commonalities. It is not black and white though and that is why it is so important to never lose sight of the person.

Think about all the different labels you identify with- truly take a minute and bring these labels up in your mind – now imagine if you were only seen by everyone else through that lens:

I am someone’s wife AND I am not just someone’s wife.
I am a social worker AND I am not just a social worker.
I am someone’s sister AND I am not just someone’s sister.
I am manipulative AND I am not just manipulative.

I am light AND shadow.
I am grateful AND entitled.
I am you and you are me AND we are no different AND we are completely different.

It’s all of it, everything in between and then some. There is more than one way to add to nine, the possibilities are infinite, and one measly little label will never be able to contain the vastness of a human being. That is my truth.

 

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I Choose Shadows AND Light

shadow work

Last night I was having a conversation with my husband and this morning there it was, my exact feelings put out into the world by another. You can read the post I am referring to here.

I strongly identify with this writer’s perspective on spirituality and life in general because what she is talking about is the AND. I had a hard time in my younger years with my experiences in formal religion because there was no AND allowed, even then I knew that was not my truth.

There are times even now where I struggle in interactions with individuals who claim to be spiritually enlightened. I show up with my shadows AND light and I feel shunned. I have been made to feel on occasion that there is only one right way to experience myself this way, and again, I know that is not my truth.

My version of spirituality, my whole life, will always include both. I will always choose my shadows AND my light. All parts welcome, no parts left behind. That is how I will love and how I will heal and that will be my life’s work.

Obsession

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I have been doing shadow work for 8 or 9 months now. It started with my shadow of entitlement and once I built a relationship with one shadow many more surfaced. I was finally looking in the mirror and there they all were waiting to be loved, understood, and accepted.

I have worked on my relationship with the parts of me that are entitled, the parts that are co-dependent, the parts of me that are self-righteous, the parts that manipulate, as well as many more. My most recent shadow to surface is obsession/addiction. This shadow is finally ready to come into the light and be seen, loved, and accepted.

These are two very emotionally charged words, obsession and addiction. It is quite possible that someone reading this could make a lot of assumptions about me based on the fact that I am admitting I am made up of these two shadows.

These two words carry with them a lot of shame and stigma. I think many people would do whatever they could to distance themselves from their truth as it relates to their shadow pieces around obsession and addiction.

These shadows look different for everyone. For some it is the big ones you hear about; shopping, gambling, alcohol, food, drugs, sex, porn. For others it might be social media, their cell phone, work, exercise, a specific person, coffee, animals, a certain sport or hobby, winning or being “perfect”/the best at something.

Much of what I listed is largely considered socially acceptable, what takes it into this shadow place, for me at least, is the feeling of not being able to control the impulse/urge/need and the shame, the wanting to keep it secret. Shopping used to be a big one for me and while I didn’t mind people knowing that I shopped I did not want them to know how much or how often. If you are keeping any part of it hidden from yourself or people you love, you are sitting in a shadow. That is my truth.

What I am learning is that this shadow has deep roots, deeper than many of the others I have worked with. It seems that as I attempt to untangle myself from the root system of one obsession/addiction another will pop up to takes it place. The reason being that one way or another I am wanting to experience that comforting feeling of numbness. If I make progress with my shopping obsession/addiction suddenly I am binge eating ice cream, if I am able to put down the ice cream suddenly I am feeling the snoop around and waste time on social media.

My work with these two shadows is not actually with the surface level behavior of numbing, it is with the emotions and memories I am trying to numb. What is happening? What I am feeling when I suddenly feel the urge to snoop on social media or go for the ice cream or buy something I do not need? That is my work.

The deeper I go with embracing my shadows the harder to work becomes. It is like digging a hole, the dirt at the top will get you dirty but it is easy to get through; now I am down deep, covered in mud, and the digging is getting more and more difficult. There is still light though, shining down in this hole of mine and somewhere down here I will finally find it, the source. The place where me and all of my shadows come together, the place where my shadows were first created. The place where my biggest work is, the place where my biggest love will come to life.

 

 

Snuffed

snuffed

I believe that everyone is born with  a light already burning inside them. Every baby pulled from its mother’s womb begins this life with a light, no exception. I also believe that things can happen in life and that light can be affected. Things that can cause that light to dim or in some cases even be snuffed out. I do not lose heart in this personal knowledge because I also know a candle can always be relit, at any time, no exception. Even in the darkest storm a person can find a dry place to relight that flame if they have the will to do so.

This is why I do not believe in monsters. This is how I know every person is worthy of compassion and I seek within myself the strength to give it. This is why I am no longer afraid of the dark. This is why I am able to wake up and find peace each day; because even when I feel my own light dim to virtually nothing and I feel I will slip back into an unforgiving dark night, I know I hold within me the power to strike a match.