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Gratitude & Our Shadow Side

By Stephanie Kato, Metaphysical Intuitive Healer

This isn’t your typical Thanksgiving post (highlighting “positive”[1] things we are grateful for in our lives.) Instead, I present gratitude for the shadow side of life (I use control issues as this example). These are the aspects of human experiences that challenge, trigger, and upset us-AKA the “negative” parts of ourselves that we would rather hide from because it creates internal discomfort when we acknowledge them. Why should we be grateful for that? Since they cause emotional pain, wouldn’t it be easier if we distract ourselves or just get rid of them? Many people try but the issue is this: upsetting, challenging and triggering events are a part of life. Getting rid of them is like trying to live without a beating heart…it’s impossible. I’m also not suggesting you just live with it. I advocate finding the joy and gratitude for the information, messages and lessons these experiences offer.

First things first: Certain principles are helpful to embrace before we can talk about feeling grateful for things such as anger, resentment, deep sadness, grief, and shame. Until we accept some core truths, whatever internal shifts we desire may not happen because we might be (subconsciously or unknowingly) blocking it.

“Life loves, supports and wants the best outcome for you.”

This statement is true, even if it hasn’t been your experience or within your belief system. (Remember, a tree falling over in a forest still makes a sound even if you are not there to witness it, hear it, or even believe it.) There is a flow to life…no matter what, life continues moving forward despite our judgments, protestations or disbeliefs. This flow provides us with opportunities, people, and experiences designed to help us along the way. We can connect with the above or not: it is our choice (when we do; however, miracles happen). Regardless, life loves, supports and wants the best outcome for every one of us despite what we ultimately choose.

“You can either be on your side or be on your case.”

What I mean with this quote is: lead with self-compassion. You can advocate and take care of yourself, or you can be self-critical and judgmental. Before we can be grateful for the harsher aspects of life, we must buoy ourselves with self-love. It takes courage and commitment to heal on every level of our being, so starting with positive and loving self-talk and encouragement goes a long way. It’s difficult to embrace all parts of ourselves, but each part has its reason for being there. Even if that reason no longer applies today we can still acknowledge and be grateful for its presence but only when we become our own best friend. (The process to feel self-love can challenge, so please let me know if you need a metaphysical session to assist you.)

“You are worthy simply because you exist”

Our greatest suffering as humans come from feeling worthless (not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, not thin enough, and on and on). Once we embrace the truth that we are good enough exactly as we are, internal shifts occur. For example, let’s say you worry that carrying extra weight means something about who you are. Some people (subconsciously) believe that being of a certain size dictates their lovability, desirability and worth (often reinforced by marketing and social media). Others might use this to avoid emotional and physical intimacy. The truth is this: you are enough…exactly as you are. If you desire to become healthier and change your diet, exercise, drink more water, get colonics and breathe deeply, I’m all for that! But please do so from the belief that you are ALREADY worthy, not trying to gain worth by doing more. Remember…you are like nature. Nature goes through cycles of change, but there is beauty in every moment because it simply is.

“Repeat this mantra:

I am worthy, I am love and I attract only love.”

Finding gratitude for control

What are some experiences that upset, challenge and trigger us? Relationships are a biggie! Whether familial, friendship, work, or love…relationships with other people in our lives can be problematic. Why? We prefer when other people behave as we would or would want them to. When they don’t, we feel upset or frustrated. Sometimes we see another’s behavior as disrespectful and we take it personally. Perhaps we assume our partner should know their behavior upsets us and we are sure they are doing it intentionally (because we’ve told them SO many times! The truth? Wired differently, everyone approaches life and situations in their own unique way that has nothing to do with you). What is the common denominator in these examples? Our need to control what we cannot.

Human beings like being in control. We (attempt to) control our lives and its outcome. Although we can’t actually control the outcome, many people attempt to by controlling other people. Did you grow up with one or two controlling parents? If so, did you marry or partner with someone who has control issues? Or maybe you have control issues? Some of you might cringe right now because we don’t like to admit we are controlling. I think we all exert this behavior somewhere in our lives: needing to be perfect (which is impossible), needing others to be perfect (again, impossible), playing ego games in relationships (not necessarily consciously), withholding behavior, manipulating with guilt or fear, manipulating by playing the victim or martyrdom, or conversely by being a bully.

Let’s discuss how we can be grateful for our controlling ways. Start with daily mindfulness living. Notice your own behavior (especially when you want to focus on someone else’s!) When you see control show up, stop and take a breath. Remind yourself that surrender is the key to peace and happiness, not exerting control. Then, with gratitude, ask your control what it wants. For example, suppose you feel upset that your partner makes personal decisions that oppose your own desires and you want to tell them what to do instead. Stop! Instead of controlling your partner, ask yourself what outcome you wish to see. If you want your partner to eat healthier, ask yourself why? Do you want them to be healthier because they will live longer and you won’t feel abandoned? (Obviously you want them to be healthy so they live happy lives but I am asking you what is the shadow reason-the reason that is underneath creating the need to control?) Once you connect this back to your need, you might see where you are projecting your fears and displacing them onto your partner. The control might be a gift to remind you to always be respectful of your partner’s choices (especially if they trigger you) and acknowledge they are a separate human being with the right to make their own choices (as are you). Sometimes in partnership, especially as time goes on, we lose respect and start making demands. When you realize this, you can be grateful to the control for:

  • Helping you see where you are holding onto your own fear.
  • Showing you where you are projecting your fear onto your partner.
  • Encouraging you to detach from co-dependency.
  • Practice honest expression of the true nature of your request.

When we open our hearts to our own truth, we approach each other from a place of vulnerability. Doing so allows us to practice keeping our hearts open and trusting one another to love us-ALL parts of us, including our insecurities and fear. I believe most people want acknowledgment and acceptance for who they are, as they are. Anxiety and fear arise when we place that responsibility outside of ourselves. Knowing fully who we are and standing strong in that truth allows us to accept others for who they are without judging them or ourselves.

In love and health,

[1] Words like positive or negative are put in quotation marks to validate the judgment we use in everyday words. In truth, nothing is really positive or negative, everything is just as it is.