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The projection of our collective shadow around fear and self-loathing creates a world of competing factions, an us-against-them mentality, such as liberals against conservatives, Whites against Blacks, the wealthy against the poor, or Christians against Muslims.

Conversely, if we won’t own our gifts, we find others to mirror them to us. For example, if we won’t admit to our intelligence, we tend to put others on a pedestal, marvelling at their brilliance. One outward manifestation of this mirroring is our intense fascination with film, music and sports stars. Sooner or later many of our heroes— be they athletes, politicians or religious figures— come tumbling down off their pedestals because of money, sex or personal character scandals. They have our shadows to thank for elevating them, and their shadows to thank for their falls.

The shadow is powerful. It always knows—and it usually wins. We can say all the affirmations in the world and put on a happy face until our muscles tire from the effort of maintaining our forced smiles, but if our subconscious beliefs are not in alignment with our conscious desires, then all the positive thinking in the world is just so much wasted energy. The old adage that “what we resist, persists” applies to the shadow.

It’s all about balance, really. Inner harmony. I know that by just mentioning those most abused of words probably induces nausea. My apologies. But it behaves us to move beyond paying lip service to achieving inner balance and harmony through the power of positive thinking. I am not dismissing it—far from it, for positive thinking can physically improve brain function, boost the immune system and more. But it’s not enough in and of itself to make us “whole.” So let’s take a second look at what emotional balance and harmony might look like.

In her book The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You, Karla McLaren, counsellor and researcher of emotions, examines how emotions both serve and stifle us. While much of what she says comes from a personal perspective with roots in her own shadow, as she freely admits, her take on emotions is insightful and creative. She offers

34 Quantum Health

some of the healthiest advice I have read of late.

McLaren’s all for affirmations and positive thinking, which she says can help us discover and examine our issues. It’s healthy to catch ourselves in a negative thought pattern and think, Oops, I was being overly negative, so let me revise that thought, turn it on its head, and find the silk lining of that sow’s ear. Doing so helps us to revise habitual thinking patterns that can be self- defeating and rob us of spontaneity, happiness, creativity.

However, McLaren cautions us that most “positive affirmations elevate verbal-intellectual statements above emotional truths and bodily realities. In essence you’re telling yourself how to feel instead of feeling what you feel.” That’s the crux of the matter according to McLaren: we tend to think about what we feel instead of allowing ourselves to fully experience the feelings, especially when we judge those feelings to be socially or personally unacceptable. In fact, she says that we have gone so far to the extreme of avoiding negative emotions that we have forgotten how to complain! And complaining, she claims, is healthy—if it is conscious. When we only allow ourselves to express positive emotions but are feeling many confusing, difficult and uncomfortable emotions, those denied emotions have to go somewhere, with some effect. They usually go to the shadow, and over time may show up in the body as illness or disease. That’s why McLaren says we have to learn to complain. That’s a strange recommendation for fostering well-being. Can complaining really be good for us?

McLaren says, “Conscious complaining is healing because it speaks to your real issues from within your actual sense of things: it addresses your actual concerns, it wrestles with them until flow is restored, and it’s over. Conscious complaining doesn’t sugarcoat or attempt to transform anything. Instead, complaining tells it like it is, and your psyche likes that a lot. You allow yourself to be yourself, you allow your emotions to tell it like it is, and no one gets hurt. When you stand up and complain in a conscious way (rather than just whining without any purpose), your vision and focus return, your emotions

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