Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast, where we answer key questions in dating, relationships, success, and fulfillment, and explore the psychology of masculinity. Now here's your host, world-renowned therapist and life coach, David Tian.
David: Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast. I’m David Tian, your host. In this episode, we're going to be diving deep into how to uncover, understand and integrate your shadow, or, more accurately, your shadow parts.
Why? Because if you don't do it, if you don't get to know your shadow and integrate your shadow parts, then you will always be living with inner conflict at some level, and because of this inner conflict, this inner sabotaging, you're going to require lots of willpower and discipline to achieve your goals in life. Unless you integrate your shadow parts, you'll never be able to experience true harmony, true inner harmony, and you won't be able to step into the fullness of your potential or your power. [01:08.3]
You will instead be living a one-dimensional life limited to only the more dominant aspects of yourself and unable to access the hidden power in the other half of yourself, and you'll never really be able to be at ease and experience that freedom within—emotional freedom, psychological freedom—because if you haven't integrated your shadow, there's always going to be some resistance to some part of you and this will prevent you from experiencing long-term fulfillment or lasting happiness. In this episode, I’m going to be introducing three big points about the shadow and the shadow parts and explaining what it's all about and why it's so important.
But before we dive into that, I just want to take a quick moment here to point out two very important myths to draw your attention to. The first myth is a variation of the well-known “what you see is what you get.” This myth is called the myth of “what you see as all there is.” [02:13.3]
The myth of “what you see is all there is.” The shadow and the shadow parts are in the unconscious and they're, by definition, hidden from us from our day to day lives. The shadow is so named because it's in the shadows. These parts of us are hidden. We have disowned them, we've exiled them, so they're not obvious to us, and almost all self-help life coaching focuses on what's obvious actually.
Most life coaching is really straightforward and common sense, and one life coach that I like likes to say, it may seem common sense, but it's not common practice, so there is some use to it, for sure, but what we're getting at here is much deeper and a lot of people, especially achievers who are very focused on logic and rationality and intellectualizing—which is a lot of my listeners, probably you listening, and I definitely identify with a lot of intellectual parts that lead my life—and part of what I’ve discovered over the past decade and a half has been the importance of the unconscious. [03:23.5]
The thing about the unconscious is that going about learning about it is quite different from how we operate in our day-to-day lives. In our daily lives, we're focused mostly on what we see on the surface and I’ll give you an example from life coaching.
Let's say you want to lose some weight or some fat, and you have your current weight and then you have your goal weight, which if you're losing weight is going to be lower. Then you devise a plan to go about getting there. You go on your diet, you do your workout, whatever it is, and then you have your day-to-day, week-to-week plan, and you just simply implement it, eat this amount, do these workouts, stick to the plan and you should get the results. It's just, in a way, math, if you get the calculations right. [04:14.6]
However, a lot of people run up against problems with the obvious approach and I’ll give you an example of where the shadow, somebody's unconscious part of them that they're not aware of, hence unconscious, trips them up. I’m going to go with a more extreme one and maybe this will help you to see it because it's probably not going to be your example, so you get some distance and detachment from it, so you can understand how this might work.
The myth of what you see is all there is causes this blind spot in people who think what they're looking at, the things that they're seeing, the obvious calculations, the numbers, the plan from where you are currently to where you want to be, and then you simply close the gap by following the plan, the diet, workout plan, etc. [05:01.8]
Then you get a case where—I’ll give you real life examples—a woman who was raped as a child and has a part of her that's decided that if she stays unattractive sexually or physically, then men want to take advantage of her, and that is a strategy and, in fact, it can work. She adopted that strategy when she was young and it's now suppressed and repressed, but the behavior stayed on.
She continues to overeat, self-sabotage in her diet, maybe skipped some workouts over time, to just make sure that she stays a certain appearance to prevent herself from getting taken advantage of, but because it's in her shadow, it's unconscious and she doesn't understand why she keeps failing at the workouts and diets, and now she's obese and she has been that way for quite a long time as a protective mechanism that she's unaware of, because it's her shadow doing it. [06:06.6]
Her shadow is being lazy or glutinous from her perspective. Why is this part of me just not motivated? In fact, if you do the therapeutic work and you get to know this part, if she were to get to know the shadow part, she would discover that it's attached to this coping mechanism, this coping strategy that she decided on early on in life and have forgotten or purposely suppressed the memory of detached the origin of it from the behavior of it, and the behavior stayed on and the origin has been pushed in the shadows.
That part of her that keeps sabotaging her in her diet and exercise plans and just losing the fat keeps coming into sabotage it, and she's not aware of why this is happening because it's her shadow. It's one of her shadow parts and you'll notice that this is kind of an obvious way in which a shadow can self-sabotage. [07:03.8]
Now I’m going to give you an example of that. It probably hits home more for you, knowing my listeners. The majority of them are men. For you, it might be, here's an example: you have certain goals when it comes to your dating life, and at odd times, you end up self-sabotaging. Maybe it's right from the beginning when you become so anxious and nervous that your mind goes blank or your mouth gets really dry, or you just blurt out stupid stuff, right? This is a form of self-sabotaging.
There could be many reasons a shadow part of you is keeping you safe by doing that. It's preventing you from getting rejected, for example. That's pretty common. A part of you that doesn't want to take risks, because if you put yourself out there, then you could get rejected, so it's better to just not even try.
Then there are parts of you that are on the surface and those are the goal-oriented ones. In IFS therapy, we refer to those as the managers. The manager parts are out there and they're more obvious, and they're the ones who are setting these goals and these plans, and one of them might be around dating. The manager parts hook up the dates, they do all of the things. [08:10.5]
Then, at certain points, these shadow parts pop in and sabotage things, and, you, because you're thinking, you've bought into the myth of “what you see is all there is”, don't know why you're kind of a mystery to yourself. You don't know why you self-sabotage.
In fact, the reason you self-sabotage is because these parts that are hidden in your shadow, in the shadows, so to speak, are sabotaging you to prevent you, to keep you safe, to prevent you from putting yourself out there. As an example, and it could work in many different ways, I'm going to cover some of the more common ways, but maybe these two examples might already resonate with you.
That's the myth of what you see is all there is. If you buy into this myth, you're not going to get very far in understanding yourself or in finding inner harmony, or being at ease in life or finding lasting fulfillment or happiness, or stepping into the potential of your full power, because you're not able to access these very powerful shadow parts of you that have been exiled. [09:13.8]
The second myth is that the shadow is just one thing, and this is a myth that may be less common because this myth would only occur if you already have done some research into the shadow. If you don't know the shadow, the term has been popularized or maybe the most famous proponent of it is Carl Jung. He is the pioneer of this concept, so we're all indebted to him and his voluminous writings, especially on this concept for the shadow, and, of course, of the persona and so on.
For what I’ve seen is just in my research on the secondary literature, so to speak, the videos, the content, all that on the shadow, one of the biggest mistakes that people make is referring to it and thinking about, conceptualizing the shadow as just this unitary monolithic one thing, as if there's just one shadow. It's important to realize there isn't just one shadow and I’ll explain why when I get to the three points. [10:07.8]
The shadow is not just one thing and we probably have, you have, we have, many shadow parts, and so this becomes a lifelong journey of discovering more about ourselves. Even when we've uncovered several parts or a couple dozen parts of us and have helped to unburden any parts that are burdened, when we—they are us—our parts evolve and step into new roles and morph and shift in different ways, and it's a continuous journey.
Just realizing that the, if you think of the shadow as one thing, you're already falling into this binary trap of either/or, black and white, right? And so this is already part of the problem. We have many parts that end up in the shadows. It's just important to realize that we're not referring to one unitary thing. That's one of the biggest mistakes I see on the internet when it comes to talking about the shadow. [11:05.8]
Okay, so let's get into the three points. The first point is one that I’ve already kind of previewed, which is that the shadow is really properly understood as your parts, those parts of you that have been disowned or exiled, or cut out or pushed down or pushed out in some way, or repressed.
As I mentioned, the concept of the shadow was pioneered by Carl Jung, but, since then, there's been a lot of advancement in the field of psychotherapy, and one of the most advanced and empirically-validated, cutting-edge and I believe just the most effective psychotherapeutic approach overall is IFS therapy. There are plenty of other modalities of psychotherapy that are good as well and I’ve been training in several really great modalities that have lots of empirical validation, but overall I think if you are just going to pick one approach, just stick with that. IFS therapy is the best. [12:10.7]
IFS stands for “internal family systems” therapy. I've done a lot of videos, a lot of podcast episodes, describing and explaining what that is. Hopefully, you at least have the basics, and even if you don't, you can just understand it as a parts-based psychotherapeutic approach that sees the individual as composed of several subpersonalities, which is another Jungian term, or parts, parts of us that are distinct personalities in and of themselves.
There are, broadly speaking, three major categories of parts, and the first category of parts that you probably would have had contact with already are the manager parts and those are the parts that are just managing your life, and they correspond to the Jungian concept of the persona. In order to understand the shadow, you have to understand the persona because the shadow and the persona are always in contrast to each other. They're sort of like the yin/yang of Jungian theory. [13:07.4]
Okay, so the manager parts, and then there are the exiles. There are exiled parts. The exiles are those young parts of us that are holding the most vulnerability, the pain of the rejection, or the lack of love or lack of connection, or the lack of approval or attention from our parent/caregivers or whomever we were looking to for love when we were young—young, as in, from anywhere as early as birth up to three years to 13 years to 16 years or so.
The earlier it is, the stronger the pain, generally speaking, because the fewer resources and the less resilience we have at that young age, so the younger the parts are, generally, the younger the exiles are, the more intense the pain they're holding, and they're exiled. [14:02.1]
They're exiled by our managerial parts, the parts that manage our day-to-day lives, and they're trying to manage it so that these exiles don't come out, because once the exiles come to the surface, come to our consciousness, then we feel the pain. To prevent us from feeling the pain, we have these coping strategies that end up becoming manager parts, or these manager parts can be thought of as embodying our coping strategies of the achiever or the pleaser or the rebel or the joker, or whatever coping strategies we have, and many of us have many different manager parts.
I have a few different manager parts that use the intellect and intellectualizing as a kind of coping mechanism for dealing with emotions that might be uncomfortable or painful. Then I also have some warrior type of parts, et cetera. Hopefully, you understand this already, so I don't have to spend another half-hour unpacking IFS therapy and parts. [14:57.5]
So, there are manager parts and then there are exiles. The exiles are the ones in the shadow. You might think of those, first and foremost, as holding our shadow parts, but there's another category, the third category of parts in IFS therapy that are also in the shadow very often, but they come out more often, which are our firefighter parts.
They're firefighters because they're sort of like emergency parts. They come online when the managers fail to hold back the pain and the vulnerability, and then you begin to feel the pain and then your firefighter parts step in and they do something drastic or more extreme to prevent the pain from staying there. Okay, so we have these three categories of parts. The firefighters are also in the shadows most of the time.
Okay, there's a much more sophisticated conceptualization of the shadow and one of them is in IFS therapy. There are other parts type of or parts-based therapy approaches like Gestalt therapy and transformational chairwork in some senses, third-wave CBT, and schema therapy with its modes is a kind of parts work, though it's not particularly deep because one of the assumptions is, when you've healed it, it just disappears, and that's not the case. [16:17.4]
I recommend IFS therapy. If you want to go deeper in this, that's probably the best modality overall to dive into to understand your shadow and integrate it. Just realize that the concept or the term “shadow” is a Jungian term, so that'll be more common in psychodynamic therapy or Jungian therapy. In IFS, we would refer to the shadow parts as firefighter parts or exiles. Okay, just pointing out there's a richer conceptualization of those parts of us that are in the shadows.
Okay, the second point is that, unless you get to know your shadow parts or the shadows and integrate them, and part of that integration is unburdening and healing them of their burdens that they're carrying from the early traumatic situations or mini traumas, that without doing the shadow work, it'll be almost impossible in the long run for you to find happiness or lasting fulfillment. [17:17.7]
It will also be very difficult for you to be effective in a lot of different situations. You might, by over-relying on some manager parts, be effective in a limited context for a certain amount of time. It may be several years or it could be a decade or two, but after a while, they'll get tired and part of the reason they get tired, these parts of us that are the achiever or the striver or whatever it is, they get tired because not only are they doing the work, but they're also holding back these shadow parts. That's going to result in more and more inner conflict in you over time and it will really impact your success in dating and relationships. [18:00.2]
Now, especially in relationships, because dating really is just the first inning out of the whole season. Relationships, just in terms of time and the challenges, and the evolving nature, the different phases of a long-term relationship are far more challenging than the dating situation.
Just to get good at dating—in other words, for men, especially when they think of getting good at dating, what that means is they date lots of attractive women and hook up and so on, and they have a thriving dating life, meaning, they just date lots and lots of beautiful women or women that they are attracted to—it's possible to rely on a manager part, but often the manager parts aren't very sexy.
The manager parts, generally speaking, are there for our day-to-day life, and when it comes to our dating life, unless you can access your shadow parts, you're not going to be able to access that playfulness, adventurousness, that easygoing nature, and for many men, not even being able to access their assertiveness or their socially-dominant parts of them, and for some of them, not being able to access that humor because it requires some relaxation. [19:12.4]
A big part of the shadow, for almost everybody growing up in the modern world and pre-modern world, are our sexual parts that are almost always in the shadows, our lustful parts. Unless you can get to know them and have them come under your leadership and integrate them into your overall inner system, they will either sabotage you or you'll Jekyll and Hyde, referring here to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, where you're going from one extreme to the other and there's no harmony and there's no integration, and without that harmony and integration, there's no long-term happiness of fulfillment.
This all comes down to shadow work, and if you haven't done it, this could be a major reason you're hitting the limits of your effectiveness in your dating life, in your social life, especially in your relationships, because, for sure, in an intimate relationship over time, it'll take just a matter of a year or two before your shadow parts start to come out and sabotage things in the relationship. If it's not clear why that's the case, it's really important that you get clear. [20:22.2]
What you'll discover is, in a long-term relationship, the parts of us, ourselves that we've disowned in ourselves that we've pushed into the shadow, that we've exiled into the shadows, we will do the same to those parts in our partner. In fact, the parts of us that we have exiled into our shadows we are actually attracted to the corresponding parts in another person and that accounts for a lot of the chemistry that happens in the dating context.
All of this is unconscious, of course. It's part of what it means that they're in the shadows, they're in our unconscious, so we're unconsciously having this chemistry with somebody that is reminding us of the parts of ourselves that we've exiled into our shadows. [21:06.8]
Then, over time, we do to them and their parts what we did to ourselves. Here's an easy example that I see a lot that I’ve experienced early on in my dating life. As a good Christian boy, growing up, and a good goody two-shoes, following all the rules, getting all the As, obeying my parents, that whole thing—to a certain extent, I was obeying them, but I was definitely an achiever-pleaser—and, as a result, I exiled the parts of myself that were wild and maybe more sexually out there. More of just like a party boy, right? Because I couldn't be those things or my parents would have, in fact, punished me every time I tried to be those things.
I adapted and I adapted by exiling those parts of me. Of course, they would sabotage me in the shadows, so to speak, like when I’m on my own I might wander down the streets of Montreal as a freshman, first time living away from home and wander into a strip club, and then feel really dirty and guilty afterwards because I’m supposed to be a good Christian boy, that kind of Jekyll-and-Hydeing. [22:09.0]
Of course, the type of women that I had chemistry with once I started getting good at dating were the more drama-prone women and that continued all the way for many years and I didn't understand why. In fact, this is very common for pickup coaches and dating coaches because they all start out or we start out as good students, but we actually didn't get to know some other parts of our shadows. In order to be good at dating, we had to get to know some parts of our shadows that were related to sexuality and so forth, but we didn't integrate them into our broader system.
As a result, what happens in a relationship is a lot of these guys who are goody two-shoes end up trying to control the girlfriend that they got, because what attracted him to her in the first place was her kind of wild, sexy nature that she turned heads, and he enjoyed having her on his arm and got to show her off and feel special as a result and all of that. [23:06.3]
Then a year or two or three into the relationship, now it comes a chore to have to deal with her now wild party nature, and because he's now going back into his comfort zone, now he's going back to his manager parts. He's doing to her, the sexy parts, what he did to his own sexual parts, which is to suppress them and he is trying to get her to dress less revealing and to go out less often with her girlfriends and to party less.
Of course, that control over her, because those are her dominant parts, she will rebel against that and it will sabotage the relationship. The relationship will fall apart, because now he's trying to control her because he doesn't like or he's not comfortable with her sexual nature anymore, because that's what he did to his own parts, threw them into the shadows, banished them into the shadows, but that's actually what attracted him to her in the first place. [24:01.2]
You'll notice that for all of you who have been in relationships in the past three years, you can ask yourself this question just to kind of reflect for yourself and to notice that the very things that attracted you most in the beginning annoyed you most later on two or three years in.
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That's a good segue to the third point, which is just to point out and addressing the myth that the shadow was just one thing, that there are different types of shadow parts that we have that are common, and I’m just going to come up with or I’m going to go over some of the more common shadow parts. [25:14.8]
You can see them when you notice if you have any strong emotions against something, a strong emotion against something, and here's an easy example. Lust, and that's a big one for a lot of nice guys or guys who took the achiever-pleaser route. It's going to be a lot less common for guys who were rebels or took the rebel route and coping strategy and had rebel parts dominate their lives. But for those of us that are like myself, achievers or pleasers, or those who adopted the recluse or loner coping strategy, and it's that we inherited sexual shame, and some to a lot greater degree than others. [25:59.0]
Sexual shame can come from your religion, from your parents. Most parents have not been equipped to deal with the sexual natures of their children, so it's a very common thing to be shamed around your genitalia or lustful sexual thoughts, or any kind of sexual content or sexual matter. It could also be in just in your society as a whole and this is very common as well, so it's normal for us to shame our sexual parts, the parts of us that have sexual desire.
You might have been brought up to think that sex is sinful and I was in a conservative evangelical community—talking about a community, it's worldwide—that believed this. Oddly, of course, you have to have sex in order to have children and having children was a good thing, so I'm waiting to see evangelical sex shops, because if you're a married couple, you ought to be able to spice up your sex life though I haven't seen any of that, because there's sexual shame that they're laboring under. You can always email me if you find an evangelical sex shop, I haven't bother to google it. [27:03.5]
But that's part of the burden, the kind of legacy burden that we've inherited as the children of conservative parents or cultures or communities or religions, and as a result, we push into the shadows, we exile banish into the shadows the parts of us that are holding the sexual desire.
From an evolutionary perspective, of course, it is a healthy thing. Even from a medical perspective, even from a common sense perspective, sex is a necessary thing, procreation of our species. Of course, there are extremes that if lust leads to overriding somebody else's free will, et cetera, in other words, rape, it's obviously bad. But if you go from either rape or nothing at all, I’m sure it’s like don't even approach it. Just having any sexual thoughts, even having a hard-on is something to be ashamed of. Being aroused is something to be ashamed of. Then, of course, part of your shadow or what's in the shadows for you are your sexual parts, and no wonder if it's hard for you to be sexually attractive if you've banished your sexual parts. [28:09.6]
For a lot of guys who are morally judgmental, do you have strong emotions against guys who have owned their sexual natures, guys or men who are outwardly sexual, who have unashamedly and unapologetically claimed their sexual natures? They enjoy sex. They're good at it. It's a healthy thing. They're very comfortable with their sexuality. They might dress in ways that are more sexual in nature, even men.
Now, you might have strong emotions against women who have owned their sexual, and on the outside, you are showing that and you are going to stand with these strong emotions against women who show more skin or who dress in figure-fitting, hugging clothing, more sexual clothing, and you might judge them morally and just shame them. [29:03.8]
But, in fact, if you would really admit it to yourself, if you look at your browser and the porn that you're watching, clearly you have these parts of you that also like this. Of course, you like sexually-attractive women, but you shame them. You have this Jekyll and Hyde relationship to sexuality because it's in your shadows and you haven't explored that, come to understand it and integrate it into your overall system.
This is really common among men who are bad with women, because one of the reasons they're bad with women is because they haven't integrated the sexual parts of them. They've simply exiled and banished them into their shadows because that's what happened. That was the way that they adjusted to Mom or Dad, or their community or their society, in adapting in some way, by banishing or exiling those parts of themselves. [29:59.0]
Another example is a strong emotion against anger and there are a lot of guys who don't know how to deal with anger, especially in themselves, but also in others. They're hypersensitive to any hints of anger that they might see in or interpret as aggression. This is also very common among men who aren't that great with women. It’s because they haven't owned those parts of themselves that they can channel that anger that have that assertiveness, that enjoy that aggression.
Instead, they put it into their shadows. By so doing, they have no control over their anger and they're afraid of their own anger, and because they're afraid of their own anger because they can't control it, because, oh, watch out if this guy ever loses it, he's going to do some really crazy stuff. That's what he is thinking and afraid of. He is hypersensitive to that in others and is afraid of that in others. [30:56.7]
But, of course, he's also attracted unconsciously to others who are able to control it or who have it and wield it, the power over anger or that aggressive energy, and they end up in relationships that trigger them constantly. They maybe meet with authority figures, males who are more dominant and show that they're not afraid of anger.
But, on the other hand, they're also judging those very men, and so there's always this, what I was referring to, this Jekyll and Hyde. Because of their shadow, because they haven't explored it and owned it and integrated it, they have this under-the-surface attraction and above-the-surface kind of disgust against it, and they're all constantly going in and out.
It's sort of like how most boys feel about porn. They're secretly attracted to it because they're doing it and using it, and then on the outside they really want nothing to do with it whatsoever and they feel shame even at the thought of it, and they end up judging themselves, the parts of them that are sexual or are enjoying the little bit of sexual exposure that they can get in the shadows. Literally, right, in the dark? Maybe it's not in the dark, but just in the privacy of their room. It's the same with anger. I moved back to lust there for a second. It's the same with anger. [32:15.6]
Another example that's very common for achievers to have in their shadows are parts of them that they judge to be lazy. They're very afraid that they'll give into laziness. This is why it's so hard for them to let go of this toxic neurotic value system that has the belief that your worth is pegged to your productivity or your achievement, that you have to earn your worthiness for love.
They have such a hard time letting that go, because if they do, they're afraid that they'll fall back into or fall into laziness, because they haven't actually understood the parts of themselves that they see as lazy that they judge as lazy. I believe that there are actually no parts that are actually lazy, because being lazy is a symptom of being overworked, right? Maybe you just need to rest and recover, or it could be that you don't understand this part of you. [33:08.4]
A lot of parents in my generation, growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, judged kids who played video games as lazy, because they were lazy because they didn't do their math homework, but, in fact, nowadays you could make millions of dollars playing video games. You could become a professional e-athlete playing video games. Hey, that wasn't available to us back then, but it's not that they were lazy. It's that they were very energetic doing things that the parents just didn't understand and they didn't see the potential for.
That could be the same with my generation of Asian-Canadians who looked down on things that didn't lead to good grades and this could be any kind of extracurricular activity. You are encouraged to do extracurriculars because it looks good on your college application, but no more than that.
If you spent too much time practicing, I don't know, basketball or football or whatever, and that didn't translate to your grades, your parents are going to be like, What are you going to be a professional athlete? The chances of that happening are so low that they will actually look at you playing basketball—which is clearly the opposite of laziness, doing a sport—as laziness because you're not studying, because it's not what they want you to do. [34:17.2]
It's the same with the way we treat our parts. We think we have lazy parts, but we just have parts that are interested in other stuff, and because they're not interested in the same things that our manager parts are interested in, making more money, getting more women or whatever it is, we judge them as lazy and we banish them to a shadows, and we're afraid that if we rest, then we'll give in to this laziness.
Our achiever parts, we as achievers, if you're still an achiever and identify with that fully, you probably have not gotten to know those parts of yourself that you judge as lazy, and understood them and integrated them into your system, because if you get to know them better, they're either overworked and need and they're like signaling to you, “You're going to burn out real soon, take a break,” and that laziness is actually a need for recovery time, or they're actually just motivated to do something different from what your achiever parts are motivated to do. You'll only discover that and come into the fullness of your fulfillment if you get to know those shadow parts and integrate them into your system. [35:19.8]
Another great example is gluttony, for those athletes out there who are very disciplined in maintaining a hard body, all that stuff, and I’ve been there. If you ever see me now, I’m clearly not there, but I’d been there for several years maintaining a pretty decent six-pack, and banishing those parts of myself that enjoyed the taste of food.
In my thirties, part of getting to a six-pack and then maintaining it was to stop eating for enjoyment. You still want to, but there's probably going to be a period for most of us men who want to have the cleanest food, chicken breast with no seasoning. My trainer used to just boil his chicken breast and put a little dash of salt on it, and even that would be kind of a no-no, but he's like, Yeah, hey, I’m going to put a little bit of salt, and just plain broccoli. Just chicken and broccoli, that's it, six days a week. [36:10.8]
In fact, it was so tasteless that I met guys that I became friends with who ground their food or they would blend it so that they don't have to really taste it. They could just gulp it down and I’ve been there. I didn't go to the extent of blending it all, but I did blend some of it. That requires a banishing of those parts of us that we're afraid will start to like the taste of food again, and then we'll be back to overdoing it.
So, not getting to know those parts of ourselves that enjoy food and having a kind of negotiation with them, getting to know ways of meeting their needs in healthier ways and integrating them into the system, and, instead, just banishing them into the shadows, and that's a relatively easy one to undo because that's the example I gave as one that I discovered in thirties. [36:59.0]
But there are some of us who have eating disorders or maybe you have had a love-hate relationship with food or with anything. Food is just sort of a placeholder, right? It could be any substance. It could be any adrenaline rush, any kind of, quote-unquote, “substance” that you have a love-hate relationship with. If you have that, if you see that love-hate relationship something and you can't shake it and you go from extremes, either overindulging or pushing it out completely, here you're dealing with the shadow part.
I’ve seen this also with those who and I know a lot of young guys who, when they got drunk, they did something embarrassing, and as a result, they have banished alcohol from their lives completely and, of course, this is applauded by the health community. Of course, it is healthier not to drink at all, but it depends on the motivation you're doing it.
If you're doing it because you want to exile those parts of you that come out when you're drunk and you prefer not to deal with that at all, so you push that into your shadows, then there are, those parts are still there, and if you let go of that tightly-wound, anal-retentive—tightly wound or the rigid control over your life, that strictness—then you'll begin to see those parts of yourself that are still there. They're still parts of you, but you've banished them and exiled them into the shadows. [38:15.4]
Until you do that, until you integrate them and have this inner harmony—then you won't have inner harmony. You won't have inner power—you won't be able to access the fun-loving, playful, really adventurous parts of you that are very likely linked to what comes out of you when you let go of your inhibitions, when you drink, which is what will happen. It puts to rest some of your prefrontal cortex and your managerial parts kind of get numbed. “Numbs” is the wrong word. It anesthetizes, so they fall back, and then these other parts come out to play, so to speak.
You'll never really feel fully at ease in life, and because of that, you'll never find fulfillment or happiness, unless you do your shadow work in relation to these substances that you've been putting so much energy into repressing and that are so afraid of coming out. [39:08.3]
Finally, I’ll give one more example to bring it home and those are the parts of us that are in the shadows that have been banished into the shadows that, for men, are our feminine parts. I’ve worked with men who, when they go inside to discover the parts of themselves, they might find a part that presents as a female and they might be shocked at first, but there's nothing wrong with this, obviously, but it might even be a good thing.
Because there's feminine and masculine in every human being, what it’s showing is that the feminine parts are finally feeling free enough and trusting the leadership of that client's true self to come out and be seen and to be heard.
Unless you own your … let's not say own the feminine. Unless you understand and integrate the feminine parts of you, and if you just keep in them in the shadows, then you'll never actually come into the fullness of your sexual power or your full attractiveness, or your happiness or fulfillment in life. [40:09.6]
You'll always have a love-hate relationship to chaos and order, and be unable to be comfortable enough with the feminine, to be able to dance with it, so to speak, to be able to integrate that and have that come out in you.
Here's an easy example. There's a great movie called American Beauty. It was a cleanup at the Oscars in the year it came out, starring Kevin Spacey and some other big stars. There's one major character in that movie who was a military type of father and he was very afraid that his son, his teenage son, was gay, and his teenage son was not gay at all in the movie. He had a girlfriend, the whole thing, but the father kept seeing all of these signs and reading into it that his son was gay and he kept shaming him because he was so insecure. [41:00.0]
You'll find out why towards the end, but if you know anything about the shadow, you can see it already in the movie where he's shaming and so afraid of the feminine in his son, and at the end of the movie, he makes a come-on to Kevin Spacey's character and tries to kiss him and then Kevin Spacey’s character pushes him away and it's like, Hey, no hard feelings, it's not the way I am.
Then that man, of course, and it's kind of a caricature because it's so extreme, but this is very telling I think as an illustration of what is happening in the minds of most men who are under the weight of toxic masculinity, which is that they're so afraid of their feminine parts that they are so attracted to it.
Now, if you've integrated your feminine parts and you're straight, then you won't have strong emotions against homosexuality. It's almost like the stronger of an emotion you have against something, the more that is obvious as a part that's in your shadow, and it's a strong emotion of hate or an outward push against or disgust against it. It's very often your shadow. [42:12.5]
For instance, instead of having a strong emotion of hate against it, the mature reaction would be, it might be, compassion. Your heart goes out to that person. It might be seeing the value in it. It might even be a laugh or a smile of humor seeing that in the feminine.
An example of sexually-attractive men who have integrated their feminine parts are Prince who is a great example, an easy example. Another example is almost all glam rock stars, almost all male performers in music and dance especially, in the arts, because what the feminine does is the feminine energy is about embracing the wild nature of our emotions. It's also nurturing and compassionate, and kind and enveloping, right? Just even just going and giving a big hug or being with or feeling with. [43:12.8]
Those are all aspects of our feminine parts and very often men who are afraid of the feminine and push their feminine parts into the shadows end up being the opposite of that, and as a result, their lives are overly rigid and desiccated and lacking in passion, and because of that, their lives are also lacking in fulfillment and ease.
There’s a lot more to say about the feminine, the masculine, about discovering our shadow parts in relation to the feminine and the masculine, in relation to lust and sexual desire, in relation to anger and assertiveness.
I’ve created a course that dives deep into all of this and walks you through the process of learning about and discovering those aspects of yourself, and that course is called “Rock Solid Relationships” and it's paired with another course called “Masculine Mastery”. It's a 10-week course. There’s a bonus module and it's 11 weeks, and it's super-comprehensive and deep. [44:10.4]
I highly recommend it obviously for everyone and it'll come with the “Platinum Partnership” if you choose to go all in on that, or you can get it separately on its own. If this is something that interests you, you should check it out on my homepage, DavidTianPHD.com, or you can get it as part of the “Platinum Partnership”.
But those are some examples of common shadow parts that men have that they've banished, that we have exiled commonly into our shadows.
Okay, to recap the three points.
I covered what the shadow is and contrasted that with the more sophisticated understanding of our parts and different types of parts.
Then I went into how the shadow impacts our lives in terms of our happiness and fulfillment, or lack thereof, in terms of our effectiveness in a variety of life situations, and how it impacts our effectiveness and success in dating, and especially in relationships. [45:05.7]
Then I finished off with giving some examples of different types of shadow parts that men commonly have in their shadow. You might notice this when you have a strong emotion of hate or disgusted against something, and I gave as examples, against sexual desire, against anger, but also against laziness or gluttony, and then I ended with just mentioning the strong emotions of hate against the feminine within.
Okay, so we covered what is like a big, broad introduction to the shadow and the shadow parts. That’s super important, as I pointed out throughout this episode of how important it is for our long-term happiness and fulfillment, to get to know our shadow parts and to integrate them into our overall system. [45:49.6]
I've gone through myself all of these different phases of learning about the shadow, of repressing it, being subject to the self-sabotaging nature of a life ignorant of the shadow, and of discovering the shadow parts, starting out with the ones that are more to the surface for my needs of discovering and integrating the parts of my shadow that are related to sexual desire, assertiveness, dominance and so on.
Then to get to the point of noticing that shadow parts also include our inner child parts. Actually, that's something I hadn't mentioned because it's later on in the process for most men. As a result of that turning point of getting to the vulnerability, our exiled parts are in our shadows, that then that therapeutic process really came in strongly. That's something that I’ve covered in a lot of other episodes. In this one, I focused on the early stages of getting to know it. There's a little more closer-to-the-surface shadow parts.
But I’ve gone through all of these and I’ve experienced the downsides of leading to even to the brink of suicide as a result of not understanding the shadow and these unconscious parts of me, and being able to turn inwards to them instead of getting sucked into the myth of “what you see is all there is”, which is what I believed in. [47:08.5]
I bought into that myth for three and a half decades of my life, and as a result, there was lots of self-sabotaging, but also as a result of trying to push back the shadow parts that I didn't even know were there, they were in my unconscious, lots of achievement-oriented willpower and discipline, and an overreliance on that and the pain that results in the long run.
So, I get it if you don't want anything to do with the unconscious and you think it's all bullshit or something like that. I don't know why you'd still be listening to this if that was you, but maybe you have friends like that, and I get it and it's okay, and at some point, hopefully, it will connect with them because they will be in that pain. Hopefully, they'll be open and self-aware enough to admit to themselves that pain.
Okay, it's really great that you are still listening to this. It's really important that you pay attention to this concept of the shadow and that you turn inwards to find it, that you uncover, understand and integrate your shadow parts, because without that, you will not be able to find inner harmony or be at ease, or find lasting fulfillment or lasting happiness, and you will not be able to be effective and find your potential of your power in a variety of life situations. [48:19.0]
Invest for you and your life, and if you invest now in understanding your shadow and your shadow parts, this will result in a lifetime of payoff and a whole lifetime journey of joy and fulfillment and uncovering more and more power in your life.
In the next episode, I’ll be covering what to do about it. How do you then go about discovering your shadow parts and integrating them into your life? How do you do it? So, the how-to, I’m going to be covering that in the next episode. Come back for the next episode for that.
I really pre appreciate all the awesome feedback you've been giving to me about the podcast episode so far. I'd appreciate it if you have any feedback at all about this, to share that with me. Also, if you’ve benefited from this episode or any of them, please share them with your friends or anyone that you think would benefit from it. If you can, leave a rating for us on Apple Podcasts. That also helps.
I look forward to welcoming you to the next episode. Until then, David Tian, signing out. [49:15.2]
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