Articles

As we work for and support people with differences, we can forget to stop, think and reflect about what we do and how we support people, so our values are at the centre of our thoughts and actions.

Here are some articles that will help. Please let us know what you think of them.

The shadow and golden side of ourselves

The current pandemic has turned our internal and external worlds upside down in so many ways.  We feel that we are in very uncertain times, what is waiting for us in the future? Our life-frames have been shattered and we are struggling to rebuild them while living our lives.

The continued slow burn of the pandemic is seemingly without an end and we are all experiencing very high levels of stress, fear and anxiety. For some of us, we have become more vulnerable in terms of our mental health.

This exceptionally unusual situation has brought out extremes in us. We can be generous and considerate, remember the clapping for the NHS in England. In our street, the start of the clapping each night was announced by the sound of music, we all loved it and even started waving to each other. An unusual event in a street where everyone usually barely says hello.

Conversely, we have witnessed the opposite, people less tolerant of others. There are more instances of defiance of the rules even though they are meant to protect us. We have seen people dancing on rooves without safety barriers, more discriminatory behaviour towards people who are different. This includes senior individuals who should know better.

Everyone is uneasy and when this goes on for a long time, it seems that some can revert to the negative side of our thoughts and behaviours, the shadow side. Jung postulated that we each possess a golden side and a shadow side (least desirable parts of ourselves with associated behaviours) and these are linked. We have seen shadow behaviours used more often when people (as now) are overly stressed and find it difficult to think, feel and behave positively and clearly. People, in these situations, will go and choose the worst option even if a more positive alternative is also available. Some feel a desire to control an unpredictable situation and may choose to adopt discriminatory stances (A. Taveres, personal communication).

How do we overcome this tendency that is present in all of us? The first is to acknowledge and accept the situation for what it is. Life has always been uncertain, but, in the past, we often forgot this or denied it. Now, there is a constant reminder. We have to say goodbye to how life was, accept the now and we can still think about a positive future for ourselves but know that we may have to wait.

We need to acknowledge both sides of ourselves and recognise what could trigger the shadow behaviours and thoughts and create alternative thoughts and actions to counter the emergence of the shadow. Some of the practices of positive psychology can be helpful. Writing a list of good things that have happened to you at the end of each day will place you in a more positive frame of mind. Practicing healthy habits such as exercise, good food.

Living within public health guidelines that are not of our choosing can make us feel restricted. Why not look for places in your life where you can safely introduce some freedom? For example, go to different shops than the ones you normally frequent, change your diet, get to know someone new.

Make patience and slowness part of your daily life. None of us are thinking and operating as we should. Our emotions are also all over the place. Recognise this and consider whether it is appropriate to show the emotion or wait to release it later when it could be less destructive.

All of us have been launched into a world that is isolating, with less face to face contact and using remote methods to interact. This makes us uneasy and some can feel alone or lonely. Let’s make an extra effort to rebuild our social worlds in this new way so we can replenish each other. Make time to have a virtual coffee break with a friend or colleague.

Some of us will be more prone to mental health problems. This is not an indictment but an acknowledgement that some of us feel more vulnerable now and we are all  part of our society and communities. If you feel vulnerable, e.g. become depressed or tend to misuse substances, then please seek professional help. Often the mental health professional can help you rebalance and cope. All of us at some point will be vulnerable.

Above all, the main things that will help us as individuals and communities is to acknowledge this situation and focus on the golden side of ourselves.

 

Humankind has not woven the web of life.

We are but one thread within it.

Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.

All things are bound together.

All things connect.

 

—Chief Seattle

 

Bridgewater, 2020.

 

FOR US ALL