In Shadow Work we use a model for authentic communication which requires 4 different aspects to be communicated. These are:
The data (the facts of the situation that we both agree on.)
Our judgements (the thoughts, beliefs, ideas and judgements we have about this data.)
What we want
It might be helpful to look at the previous three Communication posts in conjunction with this one:
In this post we are introducing you to a final voluntary part of the communication model, which has the potential to really deepen our connection with the other person if we are willing to engage in it. It can also lead us to a deeper understanding of ourself.
EXAMINING OUR JUDGEMENTS
This final part asks a question of the person who is communicating, the one who has presented the data, and expressed their judgements, feelings, and wants. This question is:
Which of the judgements that you have made of the ‘other’ can you own for yourself?
As Robert Bly has pointed out, we all go around with a little projector in our head which takes aspects of ourselves and projects them out on others. We sometimes therefore see our own shadows in other people instead of recognising them in ourself.
Here’s an example. Imagine I met a good friend for lunch, and found that they talked all the way through our meeting. There was no opportunity for me to talk. No space for me. I might find myself getting quite upset afterwards about the way the meeting went. So next time we meet I could then use the Shadow Work communication model as follows:
Data: We met for lunch and you ( my friend ) talked a lot.
Judgements: There was no space for me to talk, you didn’t seem to care about me. You were selfish. You only met me for yourself, so you could vent on me. I had a sense of despair and I wanted to escape from you! (NB when sharing our Judgements we always make an effort to let the other person know that these are our responses to the situation, they may not be true, they are our reactions and may not reflect in any way on the other person.)
Feelings: I feel sad.
My want: I want our meetings to be more even handed, so that you give me an equal opportunity to talk.
Now, looking at the judgements section, what judgements did I make of my friend that I can own for myself? I judged my friend as being selfish, just meeting me to vent, and not being interested in me. If I honestly look at myself, do I ever exhibit these characteristics that I am judging in her? Looking carefully at my past behaviour, I could admit that I have sometimes approached conversations in this way, really wanting to talk about something that’s important to me, venting my feelings and not interested in listening to the other person. Also, I have to admit that in that moment I’m not really caring about the person opposite me since I am not giving space to hear what is going on for them. If I am honest, I can admit to both of us that I am harshly judging my friend for behaving in a way I have sometimes behaved in the past. Sometimes the judgements I make of others may not reflect on me in any way, but in this example they definitely did, so it is always worth exploring this.
It’s worth taking this a bit further by looking at my final two judgements as well. Feeling despair and wanting to escape are quite strong reactions. What is going on for me that this reaction is so overwhelming? I may then be able to admit to my friend that I came from a large noisy family, and that the only way I could get any ‘airtime’ was to talk loudly and constantly, and so dominate the little conversation space that was available to me. And maybe I have continued this childhood dynamic in my adult life, fearing that if I did not dominate the conversation I would not get to talk at all. And if that happened I would feel lonely and despairing just as I did as a child when I couldn’t make myself heard, just as I did with my friend who talked a lot that day.
So, here we have turned a difficult conversation into an opportunity for self learning, and into an opportunity for deep connection. I might have decided to run off and never see this friend again. Instead I have used the Shadow Work model to reveal clearly to myself, and to my friend, a way I behave and how that behaviour originated. I have pulled back my projections from my friend. I have owned up to my own behaviour in similar circumstances so now I can take steps to correct it. And my friend has seen deeply within me, right back to my childhood, and can understand me better. This means we have enhanced our connection in a situation which otherwise might have permanently damaged our friendship. It also makes it much more likely that my friend will understand what I am saying and be aware to allow space for me in future in conversations.
Such a level of introspection is only usually possible after all our thoughts and feelings have been expressed and heard by the other person, so this is reserved for later on in our conversation, or even on another day. It may also be something we wish to do alone rather than with someone else. Indeed, we can learn a lot about ourselves in this way. Examining our judgements can often be a first step towards exploring and healing what we have held in Shadow.
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