The inspiration for this blog came from the Netflix documentary “Stutz” directed by Jonah Hill.
The film is essentially a compilation of the sessions Hill had with his therapist and a demonstration of the tools he was taught.
Phil Stutz, the therapist, taught him how to use these tools to deal with his anxiety and self-esteem issues.
Hill experienced so much improvement from the sessions, he wanted to share the tools with the world.
The tools were simple drawings on index cards to explain concepts from Stutz’ therapeutic model but the cards did more than teach.
They provided Hill with a way to start feeling better quickly, in real time, a departure from traditional therapy.
The tools are visualization exercises that can be done in the moment and can be used by anyone.
One of those tools is “The Shadow”.
Your shadow is the part of yourself that you’re ashamed of – the part of you that you wish you were not.
For Hill, it was his 14-year-old self who was overweight and had acne, which made him feel undesirable to the world.
Hill took out a life-size cutout of him at that age and it sat there, in the frame, during the scene.
He closed his eyes and Stutz took him through the exercise below. I’m revealing it here because it made me think of my own shadow and I hope it does the same for you.
Stutz: The first thing you have to do is find your shadow – you need to see it in order to work with it.
Stutz: Visualize a time in your life when you felt inferior, embarrassed or rejected.
Stutz: Despite your attempts to rid this part of you, you can’t. It will always be there.
Stutz: Talk to your shadow. Ask him how he feels about how you’ve dealt with him. See what he says.
Hill: You’ve denied my existence and been ashamed of me.
Stutz: Ask him how he feels about that.
Hill: Unbelievably hurt, angry and upset
Stutz: The shadow needs your attention, not from the world, but from you. Ask the shadow, what can I do to make up for not paying attention to you?
Hill: Include him in my life, celebrate him and share my life with him. Be proud of him. Acknowledge him in social, romantic and work settings. Not only acknowledging he exists but that he’s a beautiful part of me.
This was a powerful exercise. I encourage you to not only watch “Stutz” but to try “The Shadow” exercise for yourself.
We all have a shadow side – a part of ourselves we try to hide from the world.
But it’s a part of who we are.
And rather than rejecting it, we need to acknowledge it.
Stutz’ final remarks sum up the Shadow –
“If you don’t pay him respect or give him attention, he’ll actually make you do things that are destructive. It’s both a tool that will make you feel better in the moment and it’s also a philosophy about ‘where am I going as a human being?’ The idea of being in sync with the shadow is about wholeness and means ‘I don’t need anything else.’”
Hill responded, “I’m whole the way I am and that’s very freeing”.
The Shadow exercise is helpful for those suffering from shyness, making a public presentation, going on a date – anything that is high stakes or high pressure.