Many choose to live in the shadows, that murky gray scale of illusion, where they can believe whatever they wish to believe, regardless of what is real. In my experience, such people usually do this to avoid facing the truth and taking responsibility for their lives. They usually call this shadow light, and then seek to turn the real light into darkness in their minds. Or they may have one foot in the shadow, and one in the light; reserving the right to move back and forth between them based on fluctuating ego needs and motivations. This movement back and forth between reality and illusion is what, in this post, I mean by shadow dancing.
Ego Issues and Allies
When this process occurs, because it is being driven by the ego and its defenses, those engaged in it usually invest heavily in reinforcing their illusions, and gravitate toward those who will agree with them. They will frequently take things out of context in order to present them in a way that supports their illusional position. They will skew, or slant information to get people to agree with them (to gain sympathy, attention, or approval). Often those on the agreeing side are also seeking ego allies for their own illusions. So entire contextual belief systems about people, philosophical traditions, and social systems may be formed based on the human ego seeking reinforcement for its issues (e.g. inadequacy, victimization, control). Depending upon how charismatic or persuasive a person or ego alliance may be, limited numbers of people (like families or friendship groups) or entire cultures can be drawn into these deceptions. One need not look back very far to find large and small examples of this phenomenon (e.g. Hitler). When people know how to appeal to the ego issues of others, they are able to gain power over them. This power may have little to do with truth. For example, if a group of people, for whatever reason, has a strong desire to feel superior to others, and if a charasmatic leader emerges that feeds them this ego gratification in a convincing enough way; then they will believe it, because they want to anyway; and will likely follow this leader virtually anywhere. The same phenomenon can occur on smaller scales within families, friendship groups, church organizations, etc.
A Different Dance
When people emerge whose perspectives are significantly different from the mainstream, or that fail to feed egoic processes such as those outlined above, there is a push to move them back into the familiar, comfortable, widely accepted places. Those living in illusion have a great investment in getting the threatening newcomers to join in the shadow dance. If they do, then they immediately become dearly beloved family. If they do not, then they are viewed as a threat that must either be eliminated or avoided (fight or flight) at all costs. If those with unresolved ego issues perceive them one way at one time, and then another at another, they may literally go from treating them as dearly beloved family to hated enemy when nothing has changed but an issue reaction in their mind. Such unstable, volatile conditions can make any type of relationship unpredictable, risky, and hurtful. Many, when dealing with such people, end up playing the game to avoid the rage and conflict they might otherwise encounter. This is particularly sad when children grow up playing this game to avoid abuse, and then continue the manipulation in their adult relationships because they have become conditioned to believe it is necessary (that this is what the world is like, and this is what they must do to survive).
Fight or Flight
Anxiety is produced when ego issues are triggered, which shifts the brain into Survival Mode, or the stress response. While in this mode, thoughts, emotions, perceived possibilities, and courses of action are limited to those associated with surviving against a threat to life. This shift occurs in the brain, and has a cascade effect across all of our physical, mental, and emotional systems. It limits us to experiencing thoughts, feelings, and actions related to fighting or running away from danger. The problem here is that, when this happens in response to ego issues being triggered, there is usually no danger, so the issue reaction as if there is a threat creates a problem for the person it is being directed at, who has usually done nothing threatening. For instance, if someone has inadequacy issues (feels inferior, unworthy, or not good enough), they may have a hypersensitivity to being wrong; and develop a defense against this issue that manifests as them needing to always be right, be a know-it-all, win arguments, etc. They may think about tactical advantages to win, feel anger or aggression, and take adversarial action (fight) or contemplate ways to avoid, feel fear, and, either externally or internally, run away (flight) in response to something as normal as a friend expressing a different opinion (which they interpret to mean that the friend is telling them they are wrong, and not letting them win an argument). While in Survival mode, they believe these things to be true, and feel justified in everything they do. This is because, while in Survival Mode, they have no access to the broader range of things that would help them realize that there is no actual threat, that they experienced an issue trigger, and that everything is alright. They cannot access this broader range of reality until they shift out of Survival Mode back into Safe Mode. Their brain will not let them. So many live in this dance, constantly believing the world fluctuates like this, when it is really only their issues being triggered, which causes their brain to shift back and forth between Survival Mode and Safe Mode. They are trapped in this variation on a shadow dance until they become willing to see the truth and take responsibility for their lives.
Photo Credit: Diana