You know that thing you want—the relationship, financial success, the car—that you’ve been wanting for ages? That thing plastered all over your vision board and peppered through your affirmations?
Maybe you write gratitudes every day in the present tense for this thing you want in your life (but don’t actually have yet), because you understand that feeling the sensation that you already have it helps pave the way for it to come to you.
Maybe you feel stuck in wanting, since wanting tends to beget wanting. It feels like you send a beacon out into the universe asking for this thing and the universe says, Okay! You love to want! Here’s more wanting for you!
You double down on your efforts to emit the feeling that you already have what you want. You contort yourself into who you think you should be to have that thing. You chant to yourself about how abundant your life is, how all your needs are met. And still, despite working your ass off, the thing doesn’t show up and you’re fucking tired.
Here’s the thing: For every conscious desire you have, there’s likely a conflicting unconscious desire also at play, especially if your conscious desire hasn’t shown up no matter how hard you’ve tried. You don’t know what the conflicting unconscious desire is because it’s unconscious!
Do you want to be financially successful but can’t support yourself? Maybe you have a shadow belief that struggle makes life meaningful. Or maybe you think poverty in the name of your creative expression is noble because it means you’re not a sell-out.
Do you want a relationship with a partner who truly meets you and with whom you can grow but you keep attracting broke people who drain your energy and bank account? Maybe you have a shadow desire to feel powerful and needed because that makes you secretly feel worthy.
In this case, your shadow is drawing relationships to you where you get to feel powerful, needed, and wise to help bolster your worthiness. It’s a protective impulse at odds with your conscious desire to be fully met. Being fully met and growing with an equal partner requires you to know your worth already, instead of having worthiness that’s based on being needed.
This is not to say that situations you don’t like are your fault. Ancestral, cultural, religious and collective energetics are at play here, not only personal shadow stuff.
While it’s not useful to look at a situation from the standpoint of blame or fault, it’s useful to bring the unconscious or shadowy needs that are met by the situation needs to light. In order to cultivate the power to create what you want, you likely have to become aware of shadowy or unconscious inner conflicts you may have with that stated want. Unconscious inner conflicts tend to have the upper hand and will muck with your ability to create what you want.
For example, 15 years ago, I thought I wanted to be well-known and teach on the spiritual circuit, as well as lead kirtan (devotional chanting) all over the country. I started to travel and lead kirtan at yoga centers and retreats, and was excited to experience my dream coming true.
Then I lost my voice. Sure, there was a mechanical issue that damaged my vocal cords, but the real thing going on was that my shadow was ambivalent about spiritual fame and didn’t want to deal with projections people place on their teachers.
My shadow didn’t want to play the game and felt that if my desire to sing and teach wasn’t totally pure (which it wasn’t) then I shouldn’t do it. So my shadow made sure I didn’t do it for long by setting me up to wreck my voice.
I could call it self-sabotage and keep feeling like a victim. But I know that every situation in my life, whether I like it or not, has emerged out of a conscious or unconscious desire of mine, even if that desire turns out to be to develop tenacity and determination in the face of a total shitshow.
To be clear, it’s never about wanting the shitshow. It’s about wanting the emotional experience that happens in response to the shitshow.
Maybe you want the experience of feeling squashed by it, or persevering through it, or having equanimity in the face of it. Your life then obliges you by providing the circumstances through which you get squashed, or persevere, or find equanimity.
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself;
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
Instead of owning how contradictory you are, when you don’t get what you want you’re going to tend to want to blame God, life, or the universe. Until you develop approval for your shadow, it’s hard to admit you got something it wanted.
There are some ideas to keep in mind as you explore getting to know your unconscious desires:
1) Every character in your conscious and unconscious wants what’s best for you. But they have differing ideas of what that is. Some of them seem malevolent, like self-hatred. But even self-hatred, if approached with curiosity, has a positive desire for you. It just (mistakenly) thinks that shredding you is the way to make it happen.
2) The more you disown a particular voice or desire, the more power it will wield behind the scenes and the more you will appear to self-sabotage.
3) Learn to befriend your contradictory and competing desires and find approval for them. Let them all to co-exist. This is not to say that you should act on every desire you discover, but the permission to be a person who contains multitudes allows you to evolve an integrated adult self that can leverage more concentrated power in the direction of what you consciously want.