I’d like to introduce you to little Danny. Little Danny is a shadow part of me. He came into being when I was a child somewhere between the ages of 5-12. His modus operandi was/is to act out, be sarcastic, feel angry, lie and joke around at the expense of others.
Little Danny was borne out of a symbiotic relationship with my father. Dad was very neurotic, angry, an alcoholic and filled with anxiety. He wasn’t comfortable in his own skin and needed me to be with him as much as was possible. He owned a mom and pop dry cleaning store and I worked there every day after school and on Saturdays which prevented me from being with my peers and from learning the social skills necessary to make friends and learn how to have fun.
When dad drank, he was unpredictable. Out of nowhere he would go into a rage at me or my mother. This was usually in response to something that I said or did that he didn’t approve of. His two favorite names for me were stupid and irresponsible. I learned quickly that there were things I shouldn’t do or say in his presence and those parts of me were pushed away into hiding. Even when he wasn’t drinking or raging, he had little behaviors that I interpreted as being evaluative and evidence of his disapproval of me. He would shake his head back and forth while pursing his lips and he would roll his eyes. Seeing these behaviors was almost as bad as being yelled at and certainly the sum total of his behavior towards me kept me locked away and on guard and, remember, I had to be with him a lot, so there was little peace from the judgment or my swallowing away my feelings.
I don’t want to give the impression that he was all bad and I acknowledge that life couldn’t have been fun for him at that point in his life but we’re talking here about the birth of Little Danny.
So, Little Danny was very much a part of me and in order to deal with his emotional struggles he ate a lot, in order to keep hidden the parts of him that had been pushed aside he developed the behaviors I mentioned earlier. The sarcasm, lying to make himself more than he felt he was and a very low sense of himself that kept him from engaging with his peers became his persona. Little Danny’s problematic behaviors would show up when he was with others that seemed to have it all together and that intimidated him. They came out when he felt alone or was filled with anger towards others that he saw as perfect. He had no way of expressing in a healthy way only in a protective and reactive way.
These behaviors have been there for most of my life but my relationship with Little Danny has evolved dramatically over time. As I got deeper into my work and came to better understand why he showed up in the way that he did I began to develop a relationship with him. He is no longer a part of me to keep hidden but rather a part of who I am as a whole human being. I can embrace him because he is a part of me and the more that I can embrace, understand and have compassion for that part of me the less necessity there is for him to act out. And, in those few times when he does, I can own him and share him with others. And, lastly, that part of me has been a gift in that my relationship with him drove me to want to help others deal with their shadows or hidden parts.
When you notice a behavior that is out of character for you or you find yourself judging others for their behaviors or lifestyles stop and ask yourself, “is there a part of me locked away a long time ago that needs me attention, that needs to brought into the light.