Cookie Monster and Spider Man
Who are your heroes? Make a list of people that you admire for one reason or another. It could be someone famous or someone that you are close to. Write down their name and beside them list all of the qualities that you appreciate about them.
Next, write down the names of a few people whom you dislike. Beside their name write down all of the things that you dislike about them. Be vile. Don’t hold back!
Think back to your childhood. What was your favourite character on Sesame Street? Who was your favourite superhero? Why did you like them? What appealed to you about them? Perhaps they are still your favourite today?
Each of us has a shadow side. A side of ourselves that we aren’t as aware of. Look back on your first list. This is the bright side of you. Chances are all of the qualities that you admire in someone else are actually qualities that can be found in you but you may not be aware of them. The characters and superheroes of our childhood can also give us clues as to what is part of our shadow. In the same way, the qualities that challenge us in others are the dark side of our shadow.
Our spiritual work is to take these clues and begin to see both the bright and dark sides of our shadow. Some people find it hard to see the bright side and everyone finds it hard to see the dark side. It takes courage and honesty to move forward in our spiritual growth. When we can honestly see in ourselves the same qualities that drive us crazy in someone else, then we aren’t as affected by those same behaviours and it takes the energy away from them and allows us to work in acceptance and peace. When we can see the bright side of our shadow, we use the wonderful qualities that we’ve discovered.
For me, my childhood heroes were Cookie Monster (because he always maintained his focus and could cheer people up even though he was blue) and spider man (because he never exposed his face or soared off into the sky). Yes, those are some things that are part of who I am.
If I were to make a list of things that drive me crazy, it would be people that are passive-aggressive, controlling and worried about petty things. If I’m honest, I am all of those things and those are things that I can work on. When I encounter those qualities in people, acknowledging them in me first allows me to act with more compassion and understanding.
Next time you have someone in your life that is ticking you off or you need to find words of encouragement, try this exercise.