Who Is the Real Antagonist in Your Story?

You might be surprised to find out it’s you, just like I did.

(Day 24 of my 30-Day Writing Challenge)

Photo by Martino Pietropoli on Unsplash

One of my colleagues from years ago said to me, “Heather, it’s like you have this cloud over you, constantly keeping you feeling gloomy.” He was onto something, but there was (is) more to it than that. Not only did I keep a cloud over me, but my feelings about myself were evident physically: a perpetual frown occasionally interrupted with a laugh; hunched shoulders; head down as I walked; and what others perceived as disinterest in what was going on in the world.

That last observation should be explained. It wasn’t that I was disinterested. I was terrified of attempting to be part of the world for fear of rejection.

My feelings about myself were evident in my words too. I hedged on every statement I could make about my progress. For example, “Now, I don’t know if this will stick, but…” or “Next time, it might be a complete disaster.” I expressed my lack of confidence often; to do otherwise risked jinxing myself, leading me to fail. If I wasn’t overly confident, I told myself, I would be more prepared. Besides, what right did I have to be confident anyway?

So, the cloud hovered most of the time, and my feelings did too. If that weren’t tough enough, when the sun hit me, my shadow was revealed. I did as much as possible to avoid acknowledging it and wishing the cloud would reappear so it would go away.

Until recently, I didn’t understand why the shadow bothered me. Now, I do.

The Shadow Is the Conscious Manifestation of the Real Antagonist in My Story

According to Jung and my friend Mary Beth, the shadow is that dark part of the self that thrives in negativity, chaos, disequilibrium, and unhappiness, among other things. When you explore that part of the self, you find all the crap you have struggled to suppress: unmet expectations, failures, others you have wronged, shortcomings, unfulfilled desires, etc. That’s why people try to suppress it.

I am writing today to let you know that your shadow is the real antagonist in your story, just as it is in mine. Since your shadow is part of you, the real antagonist is you, just as my antagonist is me. Your shadow assumes the mask of all the outside forces you think are working against you to perpetuate the myth that anyone or anything is working against you: people, places, things, emotions, failures, mistakes…add whatever you like to that list.

I have decided to call the shadow my inner b*tch. Pardon the foul language, please. Right now, as I type this, ib is telling me no one cares about what I have to say. Perhaps it is right, but I’m going to say it anyway. Why? Because I have decided my life needs to be about service to others, and the only way I can be of services to others is to be of service to others. Writing is one way I do that.

I could be angry at ib, but that’s what it wants. It craves the negativity. It “rolls the tape,” as I call it, so that I am in a perpetual state of panic and depression and want to isolate myself. It reminds me of the mistakes I have made. It brings “people” from my past back into my consciousness through scenarios during which I strive to “fight” those I have been afraid of. In the end, I either fail, become furious, or descend into depression.

The ib is me. This entire time, I have been battling myself. Being mad at myself is worthless. Instead, I have decided to be kind to myself and not hold grudges against myself. Instead, I’m finally using my historian skills to consciously evaluate what I have made happen. With that knowledge, I am changing from someone who says, “If only I had…” to “From now on…”

You might think I want to “banish” ib. Nope. Instead, when it starts, I have responded by initiating a conversation in which I question the usefulness of being negative and staying in the past, instead of using my past to inform a better future. To do otherwise is to express anger or fear. I will be neither angry nor fearful. It’s also helped me stop ib from donning the mask-of-the-day.

I am taking a risk putting this post out there. I know that. In the past, it would have remained a draft until I summoned the courage to publish it. Today it will be published as soon as I finish it. Whatever happens, I will deal with it. I hope I have been of service to someone else.

Ways I Am Coping with the Shadow

  1. I have acknowledged that part of myself, and I am exploring it for historical treasure.
  2. I focus on “from now on” instead of “if only I had,” using the historical treasure trove to finish each “from now on” statement.
  3. I do not express myself angrily or fearfully, but with kindness and confidence.
  4. I question the real reason the tape has started to roll instead of letting it roll unfettered. This helps me to research its origins. Then, I can focus on item 2.
  5. I write.
  6. I have goals I am committed to achieving.

I welcome your thoughts on this, my twenty-fourth post in my 30-Day Writing Challenge. Thank you.

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