Swiss psychologist Carl Jung developed a theory about recurring negative self-talk that he called shadow beliefs. A shadow belief is an unconscious belief that influences our entire lives – telling us what we can and cannot do, and driving all of our behaviors. They are born in our childhood and well fed by our family, friends, and ourselves as we grow up. These are the negative beliefs hidden from our conscious view that rob us from having what Christ wants us to have in our lives: peace, contentment, hope, and life abundant.
Shadow beliefs take the form of an inner voice that responds in every situation with a loud and negative commentary. I saw this first hand once when a woman I observed spilled salad dressing all over herself in a restaurant. The volume of self-abuse that followed for the next 20 minutes was disconcerting. Repeatedly and loudly she ranted about how STUPID she is, how clumsy, how she couldn’t believe she had yet again ruined her clothes, and how she didn’t deserve to go out. She paused for a quick breath and then loudly questioned why something bad ALWAYS happens to her, and cycled back to yelling about how stupid she is…and the second verse was the same as the first.
Shadow beliefs are even reinforced in our childhood songs: “Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll go eat worms.”
The only way out of shadow beliefs is to first recognize them, and then address them each time they pop up. That, of course, can take a long time and might require some professional help. But in the shouting back against them, take heart! The God of creation wants so much more for us. The Savior of the world died so that we might have LIFE, and life abundant. And the Holy Spirit is a vibrant and lively presence of truth in our situation. We all just need to tune our ears to God’s voice instead of the inner one that is trying to limit us.
Romans 12 The Message (MSG)
Place Your Life Before God
12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.
Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Fix your attention on God. By his power, he will change you from the inside out. External things in our culture and internal things like shadow beliefs conspire to drag you down. Don’t let them. Don’t be so well-adjusted to your shadow beliefs that you fit into them without even thinking.
Embracing what God does for you is the best way to counteract the flow of negative inner dialogue. He believes in you even when you don’t believe in yourself. Remember the cross! Christ’s action there makes us worthy of paradise. Make that your belief, and you will soon realize that nothing else matters.
Day’s End by Michelle Robertson