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Jill Badonsky : Creative Gifts of the Shadow Muse

Creative Solutions & Inspirations
from the Modern Day Muses

The Shadow Muse — Gifts of Your Dark Side

Symbol of Shadow

By Jill Badonsky, M.Ed.

PLUS: Meet the Muse Shadow

"One cannot but feel sympathy and even admiration for Hemingway in his lifelong struggle against crippling emotional shocks and scars, and be sustained and uplifted by the fact that out of that struggle, he created some of the most beautifully and powerfully written stories and novels of our time." — Literature Online

Oh, the energy we use in this society to suppress what we perceive to be our undesirable traits — our negativity, judgmental nature, and our other secret peculiarities and struggles. Often we do not even allow our shadow side into our own consciousness but others can often see it. People who passionately irk us are usually mirroring our own shadows back to us, though ours may surface with a different rendition that we do not recognize. In this exercise we not only deny our humanity but we also disable a potent creativity feature — sublimation. The phrase "I cannot afford the luxury of a negative thought" goes against our inherent make-up as people. The Secret is driving people batty who are trying to stop themselves from manifesting negative things in their lives by stopping negative thoughts. It is like forcing yourself not to listen to the horn section in a song that has a horn section in addition to strings, percussion and a triangle. And then they beat themselves up for having a negative thought and then they beat themselves up for beating themselves up. So you see what a waste of energy it is to try and stop negative thoughts especially when both the energy we use and the thoughts themselves have so much potential for creativity.

We do not need to attach ourselves to and act out the negative thoughts we have. We can just non-judgmentally acknowledge: "Hmm, interesting, there's another one of those negative thoughts, I'm so wonderfully human! But I think I'll replace it with one that serves me better." This takes away that whole "what you resist persists" thing. Plus, part of flourishing creatively is generating lots of possibilities in thought and action — creative problem solving can become the magic doorway to a vibrantly content existence. We can reinvent ourselves as flexible, easy going, resourceful humans by practicing new thoughts just 15 seconds at a time regularly.

"Conflict … that's where we find art."
— Garrison Keillor

But back for a minute to the dark world. The shadow side of a mortal provides an incredible amount of creative energy. Anger, jealousy, revenge, frustration, sadness, rejection have been conduits for so many triumphant works of writing, art, music and performance. The energy of anger and envy can also fuel constructive action and motivation. The fine line between madness and creativity attests to how our dark individuality can be exalted by giving it a creative expression that can move those who come in contact with it through the provision of a channel of compassion, validation and transcendence.

So I could go way beyond my word count allotment talking about this fascinating subject (and I do in my Shadow chapter of my book). But what applicable piece of information can I give you in this space to help you on your creative journey? I don't know, I'm just feeling selfish today so maybe I won't give any.. ha ha ha ha. Down shadow side, down! Interesting.

As a creativity coach, when I notice that someone is expending a lot of energy in resentment, fear or anger — I summon up Shadow Muse exercises (there's a whole bunch in my book). Giving ourselves permission to stop suppressing what we have been taught are unpleasant thoughts and allowing them some Emotional Drain-o time on the page can free up energy we need in order to persevere in our creative passion. The process of plugging in to our shadow can also add interest to our work.

  1. The UNSENT letter is simple but powerful — write an uncensored letter to anyone or anything you are negatively obsessing about or which has hampered your progress in any form… and then burn it. Be thankful for whatever gift that thing or person rendered for you and then move on.

  2. The Resentment list is also powerful. In full throttle, unfettered form write a list of everything you resent from having to constantly clean the kitchen floor to a partner who won't let you have solitude… just on the page. At the end do not forget to write: I now release these resentments and make space for something better. Of course, all the resentment will not be gone, but a layer of its power over you will be.

  3. Most of all, be your wonderful, imperfect, authentically human self — you will be surprised how much more appreciation you will be paid by other humans.

  4. That's all.

"It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster's shell that makes the pearl, not pearl-making seminars with other oysters."
— Stephen King

Copyright © Jill Badonsky, 2007. All rights reserved.

Jill BadonskyJill Badonsky is a creativity coaching pioneer, inspirational humorist, artist, and founder of Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching™. Her latest book is The Muse is IN: An Owner’s Manual to Your Creativity. More »