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The Encounter With The Shadow
February 15, 2008

Midlife Wisdom For Men Issue #100, February 15, 2008

=========== TABLE OF CONTENTS ==========

∑ Letter from a reader re: Retirement

∑ Soul Task Number Two: The Encounter With The Shadow

∑ Arjuna Conference

Written by Noel McNaughton
(c) copyright 2008


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Welcome to this issue of Midlife Wisdom for Men.

As with the last issue, this one and the next two are going be looking at what William O. Roberts Jr., in his book Crossing the Soul's River calls "The Four Soul Tasks For Crossing".

Psychologist Carl Jung had his own terrifying midlife transition at age 36. He consequently broke with his mentor, Sigmund Freud, and spent many months trying to figure out where his life was going. He began to discover what he called the "shadow side of the psyche", which was filled with "not recognized desires" and "repressed portions of the personality".

Jung said all things of substance cast a shadow, which is to say, the shadow parts of ourselves (those attributes we are not aware of) are powerful, and worth discovering. At midlife we need to make the discovery.

By the way, the links on my website for the gas capsules I use did not work a couple of weeks ago. There had been a change I was unaware of. They work now. These capsules can save you about $2.50 per fill up in a mid-sized car, plus give you a bit better performance.

There are about 1300 words in this issue, which should take you about 4 1/2 minutes to read.



Letter from a reader

Dear Noel,

I re-retired in July after a year of working half days as a customer shuttle driver for one of the local car dealerships. It was a most enjoyable experience and helped me to further analyze my experiences of retirement. I came to one of the "Eureka!" moments.

You see, a number of years before I retired I went to one of those seminars that are designed to help you consider the ramifications of retiring - financial, emotional, social, etc.

One of the things they tell you is to have interests and hobbies to take up some of the time you will have.

I quickly checked that off - I had lots of hobbies. And as far clubs, etc., I have always considered myself somewhat of an introvert and had not joined a lot of groups just for the sake of joining. What I didn't realize, and what took me several years to arrive at, was that all of my hobbies were things I did more or less on my own to decompress from being around people and the stresses at work. No job stress to decompress from, and those hobbies just meant more of my own company!

At a time when many of my friends seem caught up in their children and grandchildren, I had none of that to absorb me. And having divorced several years before retiring, I was in a position of having to restructure my life on a number of fronts.

I had been working part time for a charitable organization - small office, virtually no walk-in traffic - not very conducive to meeting social needs.

It wasn't until I took the shuttle driver job that I realized how much I had missed the contact with people - even brief contact. I promised myself that I would try to engage each passenger in conversation that went beyond the weather. I found a wealth of interesting people: several lady ministers, a couple of authors, a forensic psychologist, several people involved in the oil patch in various capacities, etc.

At the same time, I used the additional free time to begin to explore organizations and groups that I felt comfortable in and that would put me in touch with new people.

Sincerely, Teresa

Soul Task Number Two: The Encounter With The Shadow

Dealing with the Shadow is tricky. We are not aware of ourselves creating our shadows, and when they are created we cannot see them in ourselves. We see them reflected in others, but do not recognize them as our own.

Babies have no shadows. They also have no self-restraint. They have to learn it. The world would be a scary place if we grew up to be as unrestrained as babies! We need to be 'socialized', in order to live successfully with others.

The problem is, as we are taught how to 'be' in the world, we begin to hide parts of ourselves away. They become our 'shadows'. We learn useful things from our parents ("it is not nice to try to kill your brother"), but also things that are not so useful - ("Quit being such a smart alec"). Our exuberance and self-confidence gets hidden away ("Can't you do anything right? Here, let me do that for you").

Our teachers get in on the act: ("Don't sing, just mouth the words") - our creativity and love of music takes a hit, and our honest expression of anger goes into the "shadow bag" we drag around with us - ("Good children don't get angry so easily"). We get thousands of messages, and by the time we finish grade school, we have cut off big chunks of our 'natural selves', and stuffed them in the shadow bag - the good with the bad.

At midlife, we have to make friends with our shadows. It is hard work.

Finding our Shadows

One of the things I like about the ManKind Project, which sponsors, among other things, The New Warrior Training Adventure, is the men in this organization recognize the need to deal with our shadows. I have never enjoyed the process of finding one of my 'dark shadows', but I have always benefitted from doing so.

Paying attention to other people who irritate us, or whom we judge negatively or very positively, is the easiest way to discover our shadows, both dark and 'golden'. We are mirrors for each other, and we project the disowned parts of ourselves onto those around us.

For years, I was 'hooked' by arrogant people. I found them disgusting, and wanted to put them down at every opportunity. When I was in a group that included a person who I considered arrogant, I would mention to a friend in the same group what an arrogant jerk that person was. I would often be amazed when my friend didn't think the other person was arrogant at all. Of course it turned out I was projecting my disowned arrogance onto the 'arrogant' person in the group.

Are there certain types of people who 'jerk your chain'? People you judge to be bullies, wimps, devious, dishonest, mean, cruel, thoughtless, tiresome, or any of dozens of other negative traits? Pay attention. Notice these judgements of yours. They are your ticket to a fuller, more authentic self.

When you find yourself reacting negatively to something someone has done, and who you judge negatively (say a man at work seems to be always discounting your efforts, and you judge him to be uncaring), ask yourself "what kind of man would act in that way?" Perhaps a cruel man, or a thoughtless man, or a man afraid to give praise to others in case it takes attention away from him, or a man who is himself never praised, and holds his praise back from others.

Whatever you come up with, look back in your own life to the first time your efforts went unrecognized. Who was involved? Chances are it was a parent, or a teacher, or some other important adult from your childhood.

What did you hide away when that happened? Your righteous anger? Your hurt? Perhaps it was your exuberant young self who decided great effort wasn't worth it, or maybe he decided he had to work really hard all the time to try to earn recognition.

Then, ask yourself if you have ever withheld praise and recognition from others. Be honest with yourself. If you have, own that piece of yourself. Describe this shadow to at least one other person. It will help make you free.

You will also notice that the people who 'hooked you' no longer do.

Golden Shadows

Are there people you greatly admire? People you would like to emulate? These are people you are projecting your 'golden shadows' onto. We don't just disown the dark parts of ourselves. When a teacher tells us that colouring outside the lines is wrong, we begin to hide our creativity away. Then we project it onto others - 'real' artists whose work we admire. Midlife is a good time to rediscover our own creativity.

Our shadows are our wounds. We will likely never uncover all them, but the more we uncover, the better our relationships with ourselves and others will be, and the more 'fully human and full alive' we will become. It is part of the path to elderhood. Those who continue to deny their shadows, and expect others (especially their wives, bosses, and other important people in their lives) to make them happy, will become elderly, but never elders.

As we discover, and reclaim, the disowned 'shadow' parts of ourselves, we can continue on to the next task at midlife - The Encounter With The Soul Mate, which I will talk about next time.


My friend Sean Casey LeClaire, author of Hug an Angry Man and You Will See He Is Crying is hosting the in Massachusetts in June.

He says:

Using wisdom principles, awareness-based coaching, conversation, movement and meditation we will explore and engage the mind, body and spirit of men. It doesnít matter whether youíre a good boy (who says yes to a woman before he even knows what the damn question is), a gay man, a straight man, a walking-man crying, a movie-going middle-aged man, an old man, a young man, a raging, rocking, no-stopping, truck-driving, boiler-making, metal-shaping, saxophone-playing man. We donít care if youíre a pit bull problem solver, a CEO, a salesman, a soldier, a scientist or a priest. Men who want to get honest with themselves and live more authentic, passionate and intimate lives are invited to join us.


True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country. - - - - Kurt Vonnegut


Travel Site:" - A travel-companion-matching site. If you don't want to travel alone, it'll help you find a companion. If your spouse/partner can't get away, it'll help find a person to travel with. If you have a date and destination for a trip, it will help you find a person with the same travel plans. Or, if you have a special interest, say golf, painting, or bird watching, etc., TravelChums will help you find a buddy who shares your interests, enthusiasm, and experiences.


At an Optometrist's Office: "If you don't see what you're looking for, you've come to the rightplace."


I Get Better Gas Mileage With These Capsules

I did a six-month test using 'MPG Capsules', which a friend told me about. The results were impressive: 10% better gas mileage with my light truck, and 15% with my Mazda car.

I wrote up the details of the test here: Gas Capsule Test

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I Need Your Questions and Feedback!

Got comments? Questions? I'd love to hear from you.

Just email your suggestions and/or questions to . I look forward to hearing from you. And thanks.


Well friend, that's it for now. Again, if you enjoyed this and/or found it useful, and know of anyone else who might like it, please pass it forward. And if you have questions or recommendations, I would love to hear from you.

All the best, Noel

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