She is so desperate for attention, always showing off and bragging about herself. She is so shallow too!! Doesn’t she have any shame at all?” These are the numerous thoughts that run through me when I see people who always brag or post about their lives on social media or in person. It automatically brings out a very bitchy side and I think of them poorly. I get mean spirited on the inside, even though in front of them, I give a polite smile. They go on being ‘themselves’ while I verbally abuse them mentally.
Now, I am not a jealous person nor vindictive. I do not butt into other people’s business and believe that ‘ to each is own’. But there is something about bragging and being the centre of attention that triggers me. They get on my nerves.
So, I try to do some investigating. I dig deep and try to be the devil’s advocate. I realised that I have different sides to me. There is the first one which does not care and says’ to each his own and as long they do not step on my toes, it does not affect me. There’s another side which believes that people have to have what I call ‘high standards’ and if they do not, I feel like labelling them as ‘ not good enough or not having adequate standards. The third part of me secretly wishes that I would permit myself to at least show a small side of myself to the world. To allow myself to be visible, seen and to show off who I am. And why shouldn’t I?
But the very private person in me, and the one who the world know as me, feels that making my life ‘public’ feels blasphemous! And so, the tug of war goes on continues between these two conflicting parts of myself. Now I need a solution to this craziness. I have it by looking at things from the lens of spirituality and psychology. It makes things look different.
Over the last few years, I have learnt that whatever triggers us, reflects a part of the shadow self which needs unveiling and its best to be unveiled rather than letting it fester in the darkness. What that means, is to own all parts of ourselves, even the ones that we find despicable or blasphemous. Another way of looking at it is, to be honest to ourselves.
Carl Jung, the renowned psychiatrist and pschoanalyst, explains it better using two concepts – i.e. projection and shadow. According to Jung, the shadow is a part of our selves we disown. We disown these parts because we have learnt either through elders, societies, cultures, traditions, or religion that those things are not appropriate or worthy enough for love or is unsafe to display. For example -Many of us disown our show-off selves, selves that want to be visible because at some subconscious level, we believe it not to be worthy of love or appropriate behaviour or unsafe. But deep within, we know that this part of us exists. But we do not want the world to know or afraid of showing that to the world. So, we convince ourselves that we do not have this so-called despicable trait and instead vilify it enough and disown it.
While cognitively, we know this is silly, but since this is ingrained in us at a young age, these learnings remain in our subconscious and it is there we hold it true. We do not realise the hold it has on us; till we make our subconscious thoughts and beliefs conscious.
Projection is projecting the part that we disown/judge about ourselves onto others. i.e. The thing that I do not like about myself, I project that on to another when I see that trait in the other.
So I have learnt, when triggered, we are left with two options, one to live in lie and denial and make it about the other person- which is what most of us usually resort to, and bitch and badmouth people in our minds or the second option is to own that side of us.
In my journey of self-discovery of making the shadows conscious and working with it rather than against it, I gave learnt that option two works better in the long run. But it is hard because just when we try to do it, the same voices of criticism that we meted out to others, comes back to us. The same judgemental words that I said comes back to haunt me. Which means what we fear others would say is actually what we fear we will say to ourselves. In truth, we are afraid our voices in our head shaming us and that stops me from being us.
So how do we deal with this? I recommend doing this in small doses. I believe that our whole self does not crave to be visible, but only a part of it. So, what I find easier is to unveil the shadow in small bits so that the audience can get a peek of that side of us .So that world gets to know that the part of us too exists. It makes the shadow self happy, accepted and part of the team. But if we do not, it ends up wreaking havoc. The result is that we run the risk of belittling others and creating friction even if we politely smile on the outside.
From a Christian/spiritual perspective, I believe this is what Christ meant when he said to love your enemies. He said there is no point of loving the people who love you, but to love the ones you don’t like-the shadow part of us we don’t like, the people who we find despicable and to befriend them and make them a part of yourself. Using the spiritual and psychological concepts, I take baby steps to love the ‘shameless person, bragging person and make her part of my own.
So, you see, we owe the person who triggers us because they have rendered us a service of making us whole, integrating all parts of ourselves, even the ones we failed to accept. I find that it is more healthy and real than making it about the other. It was never about them. It is always about us. So, the next time you get triggered or go on a verbal rampage in your head, use it to bring yourself home and closer to Christ.