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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is shadow. Psychologists write that when two lovers are in bed, there are actually six people between the sheets: him, her, his parents and her parents. “Ewww,” I can hear you saying with that all-too-clear image in your head. But what those clever head shrinkers are implying with that creepy phrase is the fact that all of us are influenced by our environment and relationships, particularly those from our family of origin, and most especially by our relationships with our parents. Think about it: don’t you find that your partner or ex-partner has been heavily influenced by his or her familial past? Can’t you still hear that particular teacher’s judicial voice in your head? Don’t you find that you react to certain people in a predictable way because they remind you way too much of that overbearing parent of your childhood…? A friend said to me recently, referring to her current relationship, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could just have a relationship with just that one person, all by themselves, without their relatives and often without their friends too? Amen to that! Alas, it doesn’t seem to work that way. Even when the aforementioned influences are not physically in the picture, their influences (as psychologists note) will always be ‘in the mix’ somewhere with each of our personalities. As much as we would each like to view ourselves as a unique, autonomous free-thinkers and do-ers, the shadow of our families and our past experiences infiltrates and influences much of our personality, actions and view of life…for better or for worse. We are complex beings, are we not? “No Rest no. 2”    (watercolor, pen & ink)  Collect the original here.

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is slither.

I can remember becoming suddenly and acutely aware of the liability of being born female at the all-too-young age of nineteen. Newly entered into the arena of relationship, I felt every slur and stereotype as a personal attack. If you are a female, dear reader, you will remember well the mean descriptions that have been hurled at you in particular, and at the female of the species in general. And if you are one of my dear male readers, I am sure that you will also remember, with embarrassment, words hurled in anger or frustration.

Fortunately, as I have grown much older and my world much larger, I realize that these sorts of aspersions refer to aspects that are simply the negative potential of any human being, regardless of gender. And that aspersions do fly both ways. As you can imagine, this came as a great relief to me, living this life in a female body.

The negative aspects of a person, generally referred to as the shadow in Jungian psychology, and more recently as the pain body by Eckhart Tolle, are our worst behaviors, knee-jerk reactions, defenses and survival tactics… all born out of the ultimate shadow quality: Fear. My heart and gut tell me when I have behaved badly, and my awareness tells me when someone else is acting out of fear. Unfortunately, both of these ‘radars’ are not always operating in present time. Often it takes much self-reflection (and calming down) to see that Fear has been operating once again in my life or another’s. If I wanted to be dramatic here, I could proclaim that it is an abysmal state of humanity… played out on a grand scale in arena of politics and world affairs.

However, doing my best to be an optimist… and a problem-solver, fixer-type by nature… I sigh, and look for solutions and reasons for this behavior. What I come up with, time and time again is this: humans behave badly so that we can become aware of the difference between that and a behavior that stems from living without fear. And so that we can eventually realize that we have a choice. Yes, grasshopper, Life is a school… and we are all students for the duration. Patience and compassion are not a prerequisite, but will surely be learned along the way.

“Medusa’s Grief” (oil on board)


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