You know the stranger within before it is a stranger, when you are very young, before you learn concepts of right and wrong, good and evil. Before you build the constructs around yourself that become essential to your survival – shaping your life so that you fit in, to make people happy – particularly your parents and other figures in your life you look up to or depend upon for survival at a young age.
As a baby, toddler and child, you learn it is not safe to expose this inner being, that somehow it is a threat – usually to others around you. You begin to hide it and so begins the journey of the stranger. You seek it out less often and then you forget where you hid it or how to unbury it, for a long, long time.
This being has shifted into a stranger and you come to believe this stranger within lurks in the shadows. Because you believe this, you are afraid, deeply afraid, of what you might find if you seek it out. After all, others were afraid of it so so should you be. You spend much of your life trying to thwart the stranger, running from your fear instead of facing it. In so doing you create more shadow obscuring the stranger within even more.
Every now and then, the stranger finds an opening and bubbles to the surface. You glimpse it but it is so unlike what you are expecting, you don’t recognize it. Maybe you have been inspired or encouraged by it and now want to find it, but it is elusive. You find it hard to believe that this stranger you have glimpsed lives in the shadows so you begin to look everywhere for it but where it actually lives.
You look to others to validate you and your experiences. You compare yourself to others. You, on occasion, take false joy in your journey because you can measure your progress and success – externally. But deep inside the stranger is rumbling, calling to you, sometimes gently, sometimes with a strength and persistence that rattles your cage. It is trying to guide you but you cannot hear it, cannot feel it except for the deep tremble you interpret as fear.
You believe the stranger is the one that causes your actions to be incongruent with who you fundamentally believe you are – which just proves to you that what lies at the core must be in shadow and is not to be trusted.
These things happen in your life, conspire even, to force you on a journey to discover the stranger, or as Anais Nin puts it: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” It becomes time to intentionally shift the shape of who you are and how you show up in your own life.
As you take those first tentative steps to know the stranger, you step into the shadow and you discover that maybe, just maybe the stranger does not live in the shadow. That this stranger you have feared is at the core of all your failings, all your struggles, all our misguided actions, maybe that stranger is an illusion conjured up by the shadow you have both created and feared to keep you from the exploration of the real stranger – intended to keep you and the stranger safe but instead causing you countless struggles and detours along the way.
Stepping into the shadows is a necessary step to passing through the shadows to where the stranger actually resides – at your core, not in the dark but in a light that is ready to shine brilliantly as you brush away the shadow you no longer need, need to fear or need to build.
Some of the fear and the tremble that shows up is in the knowing that to allow this stranger to walk with power and strength in your life may require changes in your life and your lifestyle, changes in your relationships and changes in you. What you need to let go of to allow your full essence to come into being. These are often not easy shifts to make because they involve other people and they involve you, your notions of who you are, who you think you are and who you are capable and deserving of becoming.
The real stranger is no stranger at all. It is the incredibly gifted, talented, beautiful, authentic soul residing inside of each of us, including and especially you, waiting for the opportunities, the growth, the courage, the love and the joy to burst out in full bloom.
This is what the step into the darkness will expose – that it is actually a step into the light, a journey to the core to the stranger remembered, not as a stranger but as a gift, a friend, an essential self. What is the courage you need to meet the stranger within?
Beautiful! You’re definitely onto something with this writing. Well done.
Thanks Heather. I was certainly inspired by our conversation and it gives me clarity on my greater writing.
Kathy, I love working with my own shadow, and helping others do the same. This is probably the best short piece I’ve read on the value of doing so, and how to anticipate and frame the fears that typically arise.
Great work! Thanks!
Thank you Grady. Your comments are much appreciated and touch me deeply. I also love working with my own shadow – now… didn’t always love it and I have lots of material to work with :-), Kathy
Hi – Thank you Kathy. This happens to be helpful to me right now.
Good to hear. Glad it is serving. K
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