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  • Annelisa MacBean

No, Thank You

The opening of my heart, I have come to understand, is not the same as becoming a receptacle for the unloading or dumping of another person’s unconscious shadow. My capacity to be attuned to my own shadow helps me to recognize and more skillfully respond when others are projecting their disowned darkness onto me. Most of us did not learn about being embodied and attuned to this kind of energetic exchange. This kind of self-awareness . . . self-holding . . . permission to distinguish between self and other, to set and hold boundaries that might define our worth . . . none of this was encoded into our nervous systems when we were infants and toddlers longing for resonance and reflection and respect from our primary caretakers. Despite early relational trauma, inconsistent empathic mirroring, and disorganized attachment, I am learning and practicing individuation and self-containment in my adult relationships. You too, can experience reunion with and renewed attunement to the tender strength and essential, natural truth of being your Self, even when you are with others. It is possible to experience a relational state in which how you feel and what you want flows easily and naturally, regardless of what others may say or do.

As a child, I learned that devaluing myself was the most reliable route to getting my needs met, to fitting in, to receiving attention and affection, and to maintaining a precarious tie to my unavailable attachment figures. This adaptation or distortion was lifesaving, creative, and intelligent from the perspective of a little one longing for life. But now as an adult, if I find myself performing the idea or conceptual imagining of “compassion” on the outside, while still absorbing the disowned anger or pain of others I feel like an emotional doormat on the inside. I am literally re-enacting my early, unconscious organization. I look carefully now, and notice the ways I habitually place the needs of others over my own – not out of true compassion for them, but as a habit, a kind of automatic programming rooted in an early sense of shame and unworthiness that ensured my place in the family and gave me a perverted, but needed sense of belonging.


Do you do that? How might you dissolve this old, obsolete trance of self-abandonment, especially when you are emotionally activated? I have noticed that my breath is key to remembering. I practice when I’m not activated, to prepare for the times when I am! I notice that the more I follow my breath into dark, unknown areas of my body and meditate on the physical sensations that arise, I am able to seed the somatic field of my being with the intention of better knowing my own darkness, my disowned aspects. I don’t have to fully see and absolutely resolve every bit, every layer; I just have to be willing and curious.


From the simplicity of my willing intent a greater capacity for presence with darkness and shadow emerges now when I am activated. It is easier to sense and presence the unknown in myself. I am better able to contain it, and less likely to project it out, blaming or shaming others.


Significantly,as I become familiar with my shame and self-loathing, I am also better able to see it coming at me when others are unable to contain their pain or anger and unconsciously shift the focus of their shadow material onto me.


Thank you for sharing . . . no thank you to carrying your energy in my body!


As I accept and better understand my personal tendency to want to dissociate from the experience of pain by projecting it out onto others, I find it easier to protect myself from the projections of others. I can, with genuine compassion, communicate to others my understanding of their circumstance or unwanted state, and wish them well on their journey of discovering how to be with what is arising. However, I am not available to be a receptacle for your suffering.


Being a garbage disposal doesn’t bring anything nutritious or healing to the environment of our human relationships . . .


Learning to contain ourselves and encouraging our friends and loved ones to contain and compost difficult feelings nourishes everyone and transforms darkness or shadow into LIGHT and LIFE.




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