For the past decade or so, I’ve participated in a men’s leadership group that focuses its guiding principles on values work, visioning, goal setting, tracking, and accountability.
After our recent virtual retreat which happened to coincide with Losar, I’ve decided to delve more deeply into shadow values and how they present themselves in my life.
Shadow values are best described as one’s unspoken motivations that inform our past and present behavior. They are the underlying regulatory force that is a compensatory rebalancing system to our finer principles and values. Shadow values, or remaining in “the shadow,” are great mechanisms of unconscious reactivity, so as to better perform spiritual bypass on a consistent basis.
To help show how shadow values operate in most of our lives, I’ve decided to share how they override my own better nature by delving further into the shadow side of my own consciously chosen values.
Let’s begin with the value of creativity…It really brings me joy to see how I sabotage myself on a consistent basis when allowing my shadow values to run the show without conscious awareness.
Conscious Choice Value Statement: Commitment to artistry brings purpose to life. In the process of creating, I commit to transforming the shadow elements within myself as a way of creating more meaningful work. I create boundaries around scheduling so as to prioritize time for the refinement of the songwriting craft. I choose to share my music and writing with the world. I release the need for praise, recognition, and approval for I have nothing to prove. I let go of false comparisons and judgements of my creative work and surrender it back to God.
Shadow Value Statement: I sacrifice my voice for the voice of others because I know deep down that they must be better than I, and unequivocally, must be more important. The feeling of being less than boosts my ego identification. It allows me to stay safe and play small. More importantly though, it enhances an unspoken competition in my own mind, where I have to be better than others so as to prove my worth and value.
Because of this, acknowledgement, praise, and approval have become the barometer for which I judge my achievements and rest my laurels. Thereby, I can now better see and relish in my own self-absorption and narcissistic tendencies so as to be of further benefit to myself, while neglecting the benefit of others and the world at large.
Ah, that was refreshing. Bringing conscious awareness to this helps me better see the traps I set out for myself when engaging with creativity.
Moving on. Let’s look at the ever-important category of Partnership, Home, and Family.
Partnership, Home, and Family
Conscious Choice Value Statement: I see relationship as a spiritual path. I honor interdependency in all my relations. My aim is to create stable foundations for partnership, home, and family to thrive. I choose to be a householder, husband, and father in this lifetime. I approach partnership from a place of equal reciprocity and selfless service. I vow to be consistent and committed to my partner, my family, and upon the land in which we thrive. I do so from a place of love, joy, and abundance.
Shadow Value Statement: I sacrifice myself for connection as a means for survival. I learned this way of being in childhood. I will continue to adhere to it because if it was real then, it must be real now. I will ignore my own needs and wants. In so doing, I will harness resentments.
I vow to be unclear in my communication and to have porous boundaries, leading to distrust, nebulous terms, and arcane agreements. This will ultimately lead to the collapse of connection. With the foundation for partnership completely destabilized, I will have no home, I will have no family, and I will die utterly alone, unabsolved of sin.
It is vulnerable and uncomfortable to share where I judge myself to have fallen short in previous relationships. I feel shame associated with this, as if I’ve been a bad person.
Having more awareness now, I am more capable of forgiving myself and others. I am better able to focus on what it is that I want to create and to have more compassion for when I fall back upon unconscious habits.
Well, how about we move onto the next category of professional career and financial stability.
Professional and Career and Financial Stability
Conscious Choice Value Statement: I affirm and align with my own sense of personal agency in my professional work. I choose to surround myself with people who lift each other up. It is of paramount importance that my professional decisions, and those who I surround myself with align with my principal core values. I bring my industry experience and leadership skills to all my endeavors.
I choose now to write with continuity and to begin publishing my works. My aim is to build further competency in audio engineering so as to develop more consistency in the production of music. I am open to exploring new possibilities of career and service so as to create more stability in my life.
Shadow Value Statement: I will rest my laurels on past achievements and will focus on only what is most comfortable and what I already know. I will continue to honor the notion that artists must suffer in order to endure. Thereby, I will continue to suffer for I must endure! I will need to live off the support of others and the government in order to survive. I will sacrifice all that is important to me in order to maintain the image of a successful musician, while not being able to afford the organic groceries for which I buy. I will continue to maintain a consciousness of scarcity and lack and to place the blame for this upon others and the world at large. I am the martyr.
I’m realizing now that the shadow here implies an old story. In the past, it has made me feel bound to the archetype of the starving artist—a story that has been ingrained ancestrally and culturally in my life.
I can choose now to have self-compassion for how I’ve held onto this story. In so doing, I can invoke personal agency so as to focus on expansiveness with regard to what I choose to create. When releasing the bondage to these old stories, I can heed the call once more.
Let’s turn the page here and head straight to the core—spiritual discipline.
Spiritual Discipline and Practice
Conscious Choice Value Statement: Spiritual discipline is the bedrock foundation of my life. It informs my work and play. I practice yoga meditation and pranayama and am committed to deeper learning of these traditions. The work of my spiritual discipline serves my creative, professional, and relational life. I am committed to rediscovering my connection to Judaism through the vehicle of music and language. I choose to further my connection to ritual, ceremony, and prayer.
Lastly, I surround myself and maintain connection with other powerful men and mentors, committed to soul work and leadership.
Shadow Value Statement: I choose not to call on men and mentors and will continue to neglect and ignore my Jewish faith and ancestral past. I will further ease up on my meditation, pranayama, and yogic disciplines and will cease reading from sacred texts. I will remain rigid and unmalleable in my spiritual practices, constricting flow and intuition. I will disregard my intuition and shut down completely to the potential of synchronicity and magic. One-sided fundamentalism is that for which I strive and will be my new aim in consciousness.
It is uncomfortable to make public my work in the men’s leadership community and to even consider that I might be powerful. I believe this stems from the holocaust history of my ancestry and how on some level still to this day, I feel that it is unsafe for me to be seen or to step forth in the public eye.
Health, Fitness, and Wellness
Conscious Choice Value Statement: Health and fitness are important because engaging in physical practices boosts my overall sense of well-being and self-esteem. It creates a solid and grounded root foundation so that I may thrive in other important areas of my life. Being engaged physically serves my spiritual, relational, and creative aspirations as well. I am committed to curbing my long-standing addictions to tobacco and over-the-counter sleep aids with the goal of releasing these addictions completely.
I am committed to creating more sustainable habits with regard to sleep hygiene. I show up as my best self in my personal and professional life when I am engaged in health and fitness practices; I am best able to be of service when I am healthy.
Shadow Value Statement: I will continue to smoke every evening and complain about how hard cardiovascular exercise is on my throat and lungs. I will spend too much time late at night on screens so that it’s nearly impossible to achieve proper sleep hygiene. I will allow my mind to be controlled by social media, and I will strive to make sure that I fall asleep and awaken to the light of my phone rather than the light of the universe. I will continue to condone my dependency on over-the-counter sleep aids while ignoring the actual crutches of my habits that are the root cause of my insomnia.
It is challenging to take accountability for my addictions. And yet, over time, I have learned that the way to do so is with compassion and understanding; that there is a need here being met. The need itself isn’t wrong, and transversely, is requesting further attention and love rather than rejection or retribution.
So, there we have it. I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into the world of my shadow values. By knowing how these operate in my life, I am better capable of remaining aware as to how they can take control and divert my direction. By their very nature, shadow values operate in opposition to persona. However, with awareness of their presence, I am better able to treat them as trusted liaisons and confidants in a quest to know my truer nature.
By allowing them the space to speak and breathe, I can bring them from the shadow into the light. For as we all know—the light cannot exist without the darkness.