6 Helpful Tips to Deal With Festering Shadow Beliefs

Last week I was leading a Men’s Retreat at Camp Wartburg in southern Illinois, and an important theme kept recurring…“shadow beliefs.” This concept relates to our hidden or unresolved beliefs. These come to the surface when we have some issue that we just don’t want to deal with (denial) or it may be an issue that we’re truly not aware of. If we’re not aware of it or in denial about it’s “in the shadows.” And…it’s impossible to challenge or change something that remains in the dark.

If you want your son to be emotionally healthy (and I suspect you do) then it’s important to transform your shadow beliefs into conscious beliefs. (Paradox here!) I’m not saying you need to help your son transform his shadow beliefs…you need to transform yours! You can’t authentically model for your son what you won’t honestly deal with.

Model for your son (and the rest of your family) that you’re willing to do the necessary and sometimes difficult work of dealing with your own issues. The end result is that you are consciously facing these issues versus being unconsciously driven by them. This strong vulnerability is very permission-giving for your son!

Kevin Cashman in Leadership from the Inside Out writes, “What happens to us if we don’t deal with shadow beliefs? We pay a high price. Addictive behaviors, difficulty in relationships, achievement overdrive, imbalanced lifestyles, and health problems can be some of the costs associated with them. Shadow beliefs are not scary; not dealing with them is.

Your shadow beliefs may have served you well in your younger days. Sometimes they existed to protect you from physical, emotional or relational abuse. But now as an adult they can be terribly self-limiting if they stay in the dark. The longer you leave these shadow beliefs unattended, the more they limit your emotional well-being. It’s like a wound that is left to fester.

Here are six tips to deal with the shadow:

  1. Notice what sets you off.
  2. Stop. Pay attention. Resist the temptation to just “leave it in the dark.”
  3. Don’t judge yourself. Be aware of your inner critic (the saboteur) that tries to beat you up.
  4. Name it. What is this issue, situation, failure, trauma, etc.?
  5. Patience. This will take time and courage…and is totally worth the effort.
  6. Get Additional Help. Write in a journal, read an article or book, talk to a friend or counselor…depending on the severity of the issue.

Is dealing with the shadow side dangerous? You can be guaranteed that not dealing with it is!

Online Resources about the Shadow side – https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/shadow-work#takeaway

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Many of these blog entries are edited excerpts from Tender Lions: Building the Vital Relationship Between Father and Son.

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