2. Notice the people and things that piss you off the most
If something triggers you, it’s because that thing is a part of you and you are not in right relationship with it.
Do lazy people make you red with rage? Look at the ways in which you can be lazy.
Do racist or homophobic people send you into a blind rage? Think about the ways that can you be intolerant or dismissive of others.
Do highly expressive creative types infuriate you? What things are in you that you wish you could be expressing and sharing with the world?
These emotional triggers could show up in your life as people, ideas, objects, or any other source. The point is to notice these triggers as they are occurring, ask yourself, ‘How am I like that?’, or ‘What is this response showing me about myself?’, and then integrate the lesson.
It’s all too easy to see all of the evil ‘out there’ in the world. But nothing could be further from the truth. The more you waste precious mental energy on believing that there are some unknown evil doers out there in the world, the less capacity you will have to look for the evil, malevolent, and vicious parts in your own heart. And there is no coming to true consciousness without first observing your own capacity for the evils that you perceive in others.
Stop blaming ‘the man’, the president, or conspiracy theories for how the world is, and instead look inwards and observe your own capacity for evil/greed/hatred/etc.
Wake up, on an individual level, and you will have moved the world further forwards than if you had spent that same energy blaming others for the state of the world.
3. Free writing
Self-observation is key when it comes to digging into our own blind spots.
Free-write (aka writing without stopping) three pages of notes in your journal every day for a week and see what starts to fall out of you. For this practice, I strongly recommend pen to paper writing over digital writing.
You may not be surprised by 70% of what falls out of you general worries and anxieties that take up a lot of your brain space to-do lists random observations about your life. But there will be 30% of your output that will surprise you.
“Hmm I didn’t know that was in there. Or at least not to that degree.”
Maybe you’ll realize how much simmering anger you have been sitting on about a recent conflict with a friend. Or maybe you will notice just how much stress you have been holding on to about some long-standing theme in your life.
Free-writing is like mining for gold (side note: I’m obvs a miner in my spare time so this upcoming analogy will be flawless). Most of what comes through you will just be rocks, soil, and rubble. But the nuggets of gold that you find via your efforts will be well worth it.
Meditation is another potent way to observe your ego-personality in real time.
Meditation doesn’t have to be a big daunting task. It doesn’t have to be sitting in total stillness and silence for an hour at a time on a firm cushion.
Your version of meditation can be dancing to sensual music for fifteen minutes every morning. Or sitting and looking at a lit candle for three minutes and breathing deeply. Or you can scream at the top of your lungs into a big pillow for thirty seconds, five days a week (RIP vocal chords).
Similar to the nuggets of gold that come through in the panning for gold analogy in the previous exercise, certain thoughts, biases, and shadow elements will creep through between the cracks of silence your mind will access during your meditation practice.
Catch them, keep them, and hold on to them for further processing.
5. Talk based therapy
One of the fastest ways to improve the quality of your life is to increase the time you spend around high quality mirrors. Not mirrors like the reflective surfaces that you look into while having sex with your partner (like, real-time porn starring you and your loved one not in an American Psycho way), but mirrors in terms of people who are adept at validating your experience and reflecting your essence (and your blind spots) back to you.
The beauty, and frustration, with being human is that we’re all too close to ourselves. We can catch some of our little quirks and idiosyncrasies as they’re happening, but the majority of them we are completely blind to. That’s where having high quality mirrors comes in.
If you have emotionally intelligent, kind, non-shaming, non-bullshitting friends who can act as mirrors for you and have bandwidth for your process, amazing. Lean on those people and treat the relationships like gold. You are in the 1% of most lucky humans in the world.
If you do not have close friends/confidantes such as these in your life, I can’t recommend doing some form of talk based therapy (with a highly skilled coach or therapist that you have a good rapport with) highly enough. Obviously I’m super biased because I, personally, have benefitted from this practice so much. I have spent good chunks of the last 15 years, on and off, in benefitting from having a coach or therapist on speed dial… and the value that I have derived form this practice is literally immeasurable.
If you want to come to know your shadow that much more deeply, I can’t recommend therapy highly enough. Especially if your therapist is actually someone who has walked the walk of looking deeply into their own mind and integrated their own shadow. You will know that they have done this work if they do not shy away from going into deeper themes in your sessions.
Conversely, if they try to steer you away from talking about your sadness, grief, anger, hatred, envy, etc. during your early sessions, run. Run far away and never return. They’re a hack and deserve none of your time or money and you deserve someone who can actually hold space for the fullness of who you are.
6. Engage in group work
Similar to the last section, but featuring even more mirrors to reflect your stuff back to you.
In a 1-on-1 therapeutic relationship, you allow one person to get to know you deeply and see all of your peculiarities. In group work (whether you’re in a men’s group/women’s group/shadow work group/encounter group, etc.), you multiply the number of mirrors who can either witness you deeply, or trigger your stuff to come to the surface. The trade off often being that the average skill level of people in group work will drop (compared to working 1-on-1 with a highly skilled coach or therapist). But don’t let this deter you. If doing therapeutic shadow work in a group appeals to you, do it. And if the idea of doing shadow work in a group scares the shit out of you, all the more reason to do it.
All of this with the caveat of you want to make sure that you aren’t engaging in the work just to leech from the community’s energy. Don’t just go to make friends. If you’re going to show up, show up all the way. Be radically honest. Let people see you as you are, and you will reap the rewards of the process.