It’s always funny in a cartoon to see some little creature, usually a mouse, create a big shadow of itself to scare away a much larger attacker, usually a cat. The mouse moves the focus of the cat’s attention from his little self to his larger and less identifiable shadow. When the cat sees the shadow, the cat makes assumptions about what must be casting the shadow. Those assumptions are formed from the cat’s own fears, insecurities, and anxieties, such as those that say a large shadow must be caused by a large creature which must mean danger.
While shadows exist and give us information, they don’t tell us everything. They may distort and exaggerate. They have no power and cannot cause any harm. For instance, as with the mouse, a large shadow does not guarantee something large or dangerous is behind it.
We get distracted by shadows, too, particularly emotional shadows fueled by our own insecurities, anxieties, and fears … just like what happened to the cat. Last year, I worried about and felt burdened by a task I didn’t want to do. I procrastinated, made excuses, and waited weeks to get it done. I was looking at the shadow, meaning the distortion and exaggeration of the task as I created in my mind and emotions, instead of the task itself. When I finally did the task, it ended up taking far less time than I imagined and wasn’t as difficult as I was sure it would be. My task was really a mouse when compared to what I had built it up to be.
Whether we say we’re procrastinating, worrying, feeling burdened, overwhelmed, insecure, anxious, or any other related descriptors … it always means we need to double-check our focus, assumptions, and perceptions. Are we actually looking at a shadow? Often, just as I did, we focus on the uncomfortable and less identifiable feelings instead of what’s behind them and what’s really going on. So the discomfort and feelings themselves become our shadows. Focusing so much on those uncomfortable feelings makes them bigger, more intense, and use more of our energy than they may actually deserve. In my case, focusing on the feelings instead of the task led me to believe the task would be more difficult than it actually turned out to be.
Seeing through our shadows and uncomfortable emotions isn’t always easy. If you’d like some help with your overwhelming feelings and dealing with what’s behind them, think about contacting me or another licensed professional. You'll be amazed at the difference it can make.