Yesterday, when I was standing in the aisle of my local card store, I flashed back to all the years when buying Mother’s Day cards felt like an arduous task. How could I possibly buy a card that said, “Thank You Mom for your soft and caring ways” or “Your words of encouragement and praise gave me the confidence to pursue my dreams”? Having had a love/hate relationship with my mother for as long as I could remember and resenting her for being mean, self-centered, negative and judgmental, there was no way I could be in integrity and give her cards full of such niceties and accolades.
Then I went to a Shadow Process workshop, a process created through the Debbie Ford Foundation, and learned about my shadow — the parts of myself that I disliked, disowned, felt ashamed of and tried to deny or hide from others. Debbie instructed us to make a “Negative Word List” and write down all of the traits we did not want to be. To support us in finding these traits, she told us to think of someone we did not want to be, identify the characteristics we disliked in them and add those words on to our list. Easy for me! I had sworn years ago that I would not be like my mother! Debbie went on to explain, “You possess every trait that you see in others and each trait comes bearing gifts.If you can find the gifts of every trait then you will be free to be the totality of who you are, free to be fully self-expressed, free to love all of you and all of what you see in others.”
I began to unwrap the gifts of the traits I rejected in my mother and by extension in myself. The gift of “mean” was that it allowed me to say “no” and set boundaries. The gift of “self-centered” was that it taught me to take care of myself and others. The gift of “negative” was that it challenged me to find the positive and keep looking for the happiness that I knew in my heart had to exist. The gift of “judgmental” was that it pushed me to always try to do or be better. By the end of my first Shadow Process, my heart had opened up to myself and my mother. I was grateful for being just like my mother.
This past November, my three daughters came to The Shadow Process workshop. I must admit that part of me cringed when I saw them writing down words on their “Negative Word List.” Yet another part of me was thrilled, knowing that by the end of the weekend, they would make peace with the “best” and “worst” parts of me, each other and ultimately themselves.
So often, it is not the ones around you who cause you pain. Your pain comes from the meanings you assign to their every word, gesture or glance. Yes, it’s true! When you make peace with those parts of yourself that you judge, then not only can your mother and all of those close to you show up in a new way, but you can also give birth to a bigger and brighter you!
Transformational Action Steps
1. Make your own “Negative Word List.” Sit down with a piece of paper and pen and make a list of the traits and characteristics of your mother that annoy, upset or frustrate you. (If you need any help go read some Mother’s Day cards and pick out all of the words or phrases that make you roll your eyes!)
2. See if you can identify times in your life when you have demonstrated these traits. If you cannot think of a time, ask yourself in what circumstances might it be conceivable for you to demonstrate these traits. Would anyone else in your life say you’ve demonstrated these traits? Write down your notes next to each word on your list.
3. Now knowing that every part of you comes bearing gifts, take a few slow deep breaths and then for each item on your list, ask this part of yourself (your Angry self, your Judgmental self, your Selfish self, for example), “What is your gift to me?” Write down the gifts.
4. Sign up for The Shadow Process to make peace with yourself at the deepest level. And bring your mother and/or your daughter to cause a revolution in evolution!
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Kelley Kosow, Chief Creative Officer:
Kelley Kosow joined The Ford Institute faculty in 2007. Lawyer turned Certified Master Integrative Coach Kelley Kosow was hand-picked and personally trained by Debbie Ford to lead The Ford Institute and continue the legacy of this life-changing work. Truly gifted in supporting people to realize their limiting patterns, self-sabotaging behaviors and shift their lives and relationships, Kelley has been a staff member at The Ford Institute since 2008. She is a leader and teacher of emotional education, shadow work, personal mastery and guides participants to transform their own lives or to become certified coaches and transform the lives of others. She founded the company, Go Goddess! Inc., which created games, books and seminars to empower, inspire, and entertain women and girls. Featured in Oprah Magazine as someone who could “Dream it, Do it,”as well as In Style, People, Working Mother, Latina, NY Times, LA Times, Kelley has also appeared on “The Balancing Act” and Better.tv. Kelley received her bachelor’s degree from Brown University and her Juris Doctor degree from the University Of Miami School Of Law.