Have you ever asked yourself questions like:
“Why does this always happen to me?”
“Why do I always fall for the wrong people?”
“Why do I always get passed over for a promotion?”
“Why does everyone fight with me?”
Do you find yourself involved in similar situations across various aspects of life?
Well, I have some bad news and some good news.
The bad news is that the problem does not lie outside. It lies within you.
The good news is that you can fix it.
Each of us exhibits behavior patterns we cannot see, but are crystal clear to the world. We deny their existence, but they are obvious to everyone around us.
These are our blind spots. Carl Jung called them our ‘shadow’.
A ‘shadow’ is a repressed side of a human being’s personality, one that is often negative; a negative behavior pattern you don’t want to acknowledge.
Getting angry periodically is an example of a shadow. So is not being recognized for your work. Or not getting along with people, or repeatedly finding yourself in unhealthy relations. Or on-going health ailments. The ‘shadow’ is your unconscious behavior which is evident to others. It is something that makes them go, “here he goes again.”
Now comes the million dollar question. How will you make the unconscious conscious? Like everything in life, there are many ways to do this. Here are five ways you might find useful.
1. Identify a pattern
Blind spots exhibit a predictable pattern.
For instance, many people who leave an alcoholic or get out of an abusive relationship, often end up with a similar person again.
Or, I am annoyed with something repeatedly. This illuminates a potential blind spot in me.
Anything that makes you unhappy twice must be examined closely. Most of what ‘happens’ is in your control. But to realize that, you must begin to pay attention and find patterns.
Self honesty – the ability to be objective about yourself – is a powerful tool.
2. Get feedback
Admit it. Being objective about yourself is difficult and painful. And we often flee from painful experiences.
So, you might justify a negative trait to avoid the pain. Or you might tell yourself that you behaved the way you did because someone did something to offend you.
However, what you consider as a one-off (or a rarity) could be a regular occurrence in your life.
It’s important to take feedback from trustworthy people. Their insights will make you aware of blind spots which you cannot identify.
3. Change your perspective
Now that you have identified a blind spot, it’s time to address it.
The biggest neutralizer of our ability to address blind spots is – fear.
Fear makes us behave like black holes. It makes us look outside for validation. It makes us fill ourselves up with everything we can get from our environment.
I hate to break it to you, but it will never be enough. You could absorb as much as you can from outside, but you will still feel dark and empty inside.
An effective way, according to Fred Kofman, is to change your perspective. Instead of living outside in, go the other way. Ask yourself, how much can I offer the world?
The more you give, the better you feel. Of course, then comes the expectation: how much will you get back? Interesting question, with an interesting answer.
You are an infinite source of energy, Kofman says. As you keep giving, space inside you is freed up. You begin to absorb more. But this ‘more’ doesn’t often come from the same people (or in ways you expect). It often comes in other forms, from different people.
Giving makes you shine much brighter than you would if you kept taking to grow yourself.
So give more than you expect. Create value in everything you do. I assure you, no good (or bad) is ever neglected.
4. It’s In You
Do you want to know the fastest way to overcome your blind spots? Stop blaming others.
It’s easy to talk about what someone else did to you. But it’s also pointless. Because if s/he reforms, it doesn’t help you. Something else will soon make you unhappy.
Are you unlucky in relationships? Do friends stand you up regularly? Do people cheat you?
Once you identify a pattern, look inside. It’s surprising how much of what ‘happens’ comes under your control when you pay attention.
Meditation is a powerful way to ruminate and become self aware. You don’t have to pay obeisance to a religious figure while meditating. Simply focus on your breathing and keep your thoughts rooted in the present moment.
Slowly, answers will present themselves to you. Work on these answers, on reforming yourself. You will lead a better life.
5. Don’t Run
Burying a memory in the sand doesn’t make it go away. When the wind blows, the memory becomes visible again. As do the emotions associated with it. And you get caught in a downward spiral. Again.
Instead, sit down and gaze deep within. Meditation helps. Look what’s inside your heart, or inside your black hole. Address issues that confound you. Look at how you participate in them. It could be an unpleasant memory, or an event you don’t look forward to.
Address the reasons behind your feelings. Converse with yourself. Take help if needed. (If what others will say when you take help worries you remember: they don’t need to know.)
Remind yourself only the present moment matters. You don’t have to rue over the past or worry about the future. You can make peace with it. You can learn lessons from the past, and implement them in the present, to assure yourself of a better future.
Do Shadows Disappear?
Don’t try to eliminate negative emotions from within. Because you will fail. I’m sorry, but you will. Negativity will never vanish. Even successful people encounter negativity, albeit not as often as the rest of us.
Instead, find that infinite source of energy within. When you do, you will feel liberated. You will let go of fear. You will become conscious about your blind spots. You will work, not to eliminate, but to reduce them. You will lead a life where you have a lot to offer. And life will have lot to offer in return.
The power lies in you. It always did. And it always will.