Meeting My Shadow

For a very long time I’ve had a dark side – my shadow, it comes out when I’m exhausted from trying to please and take care of everyone around me.

My shadow is full of resentment and anger. Anger toward who, toward what? Figuring out the targets of my shadow’s anger is the hard part – he’s been very elusive for a long time, only coming out when he’ll do damage to my self-image.

But I can’t be angry at my shadow – his name is Bill (he told me that’s his name). Bill after all is me, at least a part of me – a part of me that I’ve done my best to keep locked away. My weakness, my shame, my deepest needs, the desires I hunger for the most.

Fighting with Bill is exhausting – he’s always looking for a crack, a small hole to climb through. I’ve wasted a lot of time and energy fighting with Bill – so much time, so much energy – and what’s worse is Bill just wants to be my friend, he wants for me to be happy and satisfied.

Bill wants me to be loved, to be cared for, to be admired, to be respected, and successful – everything I actively try to deny that I want for myself.

Bill is my raw essence, the beast I keep on the chain and don’t acknowledge. Bill is the beast my wife’s inner beauty longs to see unleashed – to rescue her, to take her, to unapologetically make her mine.

A while ago I was lucky enough find Bill locked away in the cage I had put him in. Bill didn’t tell me his name (I can’t blame him – he had no reason to trust me). Bill did show me all the pain and anguish he’d built up over the decades and he let me share in it so I understood him.

I’ve locked Bill away since childhood.

I locked Bill away because I thought I needed to hide him so people would like me and they would give me the love and attention I desperately crave.

I thought people didn’t like Bill (hell, I’m sure a lot of people don’t), but I think Bill’s raw passion for life, his curiosity, unfiltered emotion, is what people are drawn to when they meet me. It’s not until after there is some kind of relationship established that I lock Bill in his cage so he doesn’t “screw it up.”

Bill and I are starting to talk – I asked him his name when I started writing this post. Why he want’s to be called Bill – I don’t know, but it feels like he’s being mischievous and playful, so I’m rolling with it (he might be going for an image of William Wallace or Wild Bill Hickok).

Since meeting Bill, he’s begun to let me know when he wants to come out – it’s when I’m feeling scared or unsure about things. Bill just wants to know that I’ll be okay, it feels good having Bill there next to me, but it feels even better being able to soothe Bill and let him know that we’ll be fine.

How Did I Meet Bill?

I was listening to a great book by Dr. Robert Glover No More Mr. Nice Guy (unpaid link) – it was very eye opening to have a complete stranger describe behaviors that I’ve been engaging in for as long as I can remember. I realized it was a good thing, especially when Dr. Glover described ways to break free from those behaviors.

Dr. Glover showed me how to look for Bill (well, not directly) – he told me about how my abandonment issues that arose from a child’s interpretation of life based on two filters:

  • “I’m the cause of everything that happens”
  • “If I’m left alone then I’ll die”

Put those two filters in combination with behavioral punishment/reward and and it’s easy to see where Bill came from.

There’s a script in my head that until recently has played over and over through my life:

“If people don’t like you, they’ll leave. If they leave, you’ll be alone. If you’re alone then you’ll die.”

The script played any time I had a desire or need from someone – especially in intimate relationships. The needs and wants are the part of me that became Bill.

Every time the script would play out, I’d put Bill in the cage I built for him.

Putting Bill in the cage became such a part of my identity that I soon became blind to Bill and thus I couldn’t see him. Yeah I’d see or feel glimpses of him, but Bill was the part of me I didn’t want to acknowledge.

Working with Bill

Since learning about my abandonment issues, seeing the script wanting to play out has allowed me to soothe my anxiety and thus I don’t put Bill in the cage.

I’ve still got a lot of work to do with Bill, but being able to acknowledge that I have needs and feel even partially like I deserve to have those needs met is a HUGE step.

As I’ve been writing this today, I’ve been going back and forth with Bill – and yes, I do feel a bit silly calling Bill by the name Bill (he is me after all). But, it helps me identify my shadow and talk directly to that part of myself – of course as I write this Bill is telling me that there’s probably more parts of my psyche I need to get acquainted with – I’m guessing they’ll have names too.


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