The Shadow Effect is an interesting examination of the hidden side of the persona–the part we wish wasn’t. But, as surely as day is followed by night, the imperfect, angry, selfish, lonely, depressed bits are there, just waiting for the exact moment to interject some drama into our act. Uh oh. Deepak Chopra, Debbie Ford and Marianne Williamson, all bestselling purveyors of self-help and well-known workshop leaders, teamed up on a book that is divided into three sections, one per guru. Some parts are better than others but I suspect that each style appeals to a different reader and what bored me might just save you. There’s plenty of good stuff to go around.
Chopra brings his signature mix of ayurvedics, Eastern mysticism, Western science and psychology to section 1. He preaches unity–of your conscious and subconscious for starters. By accepting the shadow side, we integrate all parts of ourselves and can then recognize that our preference for seeing ourselves as separate and disconnected from all of life is the root of the problem. Nation at war? All of its citizens contributed–not just the jingoistic nationalists. Unrequited love? Look for the ways in which you reject yourself and then stop doing that. You will make healthier choices and you can give up your subconscious need for rejection. I oversimplify–his argument is much more nuanced.
Ford tells her own anguished story of losing sight of herself as a young teen and suffering years of increasing acting out and alienation, addictions, drug problems and unhappiness before she finally began to get it. I found her crystal clear examples of how what we repress emerges to haunt us to be the most elucidating treatment of the three. Ford uses real people and their very public train wrecks to show the simple flip side of the facade. Her account provides a non-threatening way to examine your own shadows–you do have them, despite your nearly perfect life.
Williamson gets into the nitty gritty, with stories about how tough it can be to release shadow bahaviors just by recognizing that they exist. I thought that was a tad discouraging, probably because I don’t subscribe to her default problem-solving prescription: ask God for help. That’s not my m.o. and I always feel that religion-as-solution is disempowering–but it may be the right approach for a lot of people. In any case, the subject is a downer but the variety of viewpoints and the pragmatic advice offered is positive. The Shadow Effect makes excellent sense and doesn’t quit until it offers you a way to make peace with your unfavorite traits and behaviors.
The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self Deepak Chopra, Debbie Ford, Marianne Williamson | HarperOne 2010