Monday, March 9

the shadow of Arrogance

Please read my brief introductory post, otherwise this might all sound too disjointed to be of interest/use.

When weaving a blanket, an Indian woman leaves a flaw in the weaving of that blanket to let the soul out.
Martha Graham

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
Scott Adams


The Shadow of Arrogance is formed in a certain environment. Those who own this Shadow usually had parents who somehow made them feel less than perfect or acceptable. This can stem from so many reasons. Perhaps you are female and your mother had preferred a boy. Or you were from an unwanted pregnancy. A little later it might be that you don't emulate your parents' idea of a perfect/good child.

The child might be compared to 'better' siblings or other children. She might be compared to the parent as a child, or even to an imagined ideal.

Whatever the foundation, you sense that you are not good enough, or even more simply, you are not enough.

If the parent feels that the child is wrong/imperfect, they are compelled to set things right. This leads to criticism of the child. But unlike another Shadow that I will write about later, this criticism is not total rejection. The message is, 'I love you but you must...', or, 'I'll love you if...'.

Conditional love.

This is a crucial point because from this the child begins to learn that gaining love and acceptance is possible, if they improve.

The criticism might be very harsh with explicit messages such as, 'Why can't you be more like your brother?!', or more insidious ones such as, 'Mummy loves a clever/clean/good girl'.

A very small child cannot intellectualise any of this of course. But a child senses it all. They will sense your own fear of not measuring up. They will sense your anxiety at meeting strangers and wanting to appear perfect. They will sense that you view them as a nuisance or an inconvenience.

We understand now how important it is to separate the behaviour from the child. Children cannot do this so they take criticism or anger as a personal attack and subconsciously question your love for them.

As with all Shadows, you are most likely to develop a Shadow that was owned by your parents. A parent with the Arrogance Shadow is a slave to the judgements of others. So they will want you to behave or excel so that they can show you off. If you are misbehaved or too ordinary or imperfect in their eyes, you are a reflection of their own imperfections - and this they can't allow. So more criticisms follow, or resentment.

So the criticised child learns that they are loved but with conditions. To survive, the child's psyche decides that these conditions must be learnt and met. As you can see, this creates a person who learns to wear a mask. A mask of whatever makes them stand-out, or special in other people's eyes. I am not enough just being me, I must fake it and pretend to be something else. Many actors have this Shadow, it is possibly the ultimate mask.

In trying to be someone else's idea of perfect, the child will internalise the criticisms so that she becomes her own worst critic. She is after all, not good enough. And the only way to be good enough is to fix herself, to improve, to perfect herself.

It becomes an Arrogance issue because as mentioned, the child is loved. So the belief becomes, I'll do whatever is considered perfect so that I'm loved, because I am worth that love, I am special, they just don't realise it yet.

There exists an internal conflict of feeling not good enough and feeling special.

This is compounded by any improvements. The child with this Shadow becomes an expert in people behaviour so that she can learn what works and what doesn't work in the game of gaining love. She makes improvements and thus feels proud about herself. She can then judge those who are not improved in that area as inferior.

Thus, the internal personal criticisms evolve into criticisms of others.

The person that criticises other people constantly, is the person who fears most of not being good enough.

However, in more mature persons, the criticisms re-internalise. So much so, that their friends and family would never see that person as arrogant at all. Yet criticism of others never ends. They've simply learnt the art of keeping it to themselves, and worse, to convince themselves that deep down they are accepting.

So the first step is Shadow recognition. The second is acceptance. Recognising that we might own this paticular Shadow, and recognising how it was formed. Knowing this helps us see it for what it is. Not some horrible thing to cast off, to hate, or to be ashamed of, but to appreciate that without it we would not have survived emotionally and psychologically.

Accepting the Shadow might seem easy at first, but it can be a long process. If there is any shame or guilt or such, it can take time to learn to love it as a part of us, A part that helped us cope with what life threw at us.

Part ii of the Arrogance Shadow will come.


  1. Mon, I feel that it's no accident I read your post just at the moment when all of this is coming to a crisis point for me. Right now, this minute. Crossroads stuff again.

    Anyway, I have identified this shadow in myself some time ago, (so recognition of it, yes), but I find it very difficult to accept it in myself, or rather, not continue to buy into it.

    I realise that this may be giving too much away, and I tend to be the commenter most likely to make a fool of herself, but what the hell, here I am, showing off my warts. Indeedy, I have the Shadow of Arrogance.

  2. Another thought provoking, psychological onion-peeling post. thank you!

  3. Bingo. This hit home, and I am glad you added this...

    "However, in more mature persons, the criticisms re-internalise. So much so, that their friends and family would never see that person as arrogant at all. Yet criticism of others never ends. They've simply learnt the art of keeping it to themselves, and worse, to convince themselves that deep down they are accepting."

    ...because I know in myself this shadow has taken many subtler forms, not the least of which is my spirituality, which of course I originally came to as yet another route to 'perfection' and have had to work carefully to relate to it in another way...and this shadow has re-emerged in parenting, I am so saddened when I see it in my eldest as I thought I was 'unconditionally' loving her, but the 'conditional' messages creep in is an ongoing process, and as you covered in your prior post on failure/success in parenting - a tough nut to crack...

  4. Guilty as charged I'm afraid...and the closer someone is to me the more they are "in for it". Have recognised and worked on it for quite a few years now, but (like mommymystic said) it has re-emerged in parenthood. Acceptance of this is one of my life lessons I guess.

  5. Me too! Beautifully expressed, and lots of points of recognition there. This comes at a perfect time for me as well, as I'm working through a lot of father crap on this very issue.

    Conditional love is so damaging, and judgement was dispensed in the guise of 'I'm just saying this to protect you/make you happier and more successful in the world'. Lots of anger and rebellion resulted, always woven with that hunger for his love and approval.

    All this has manifested as a lot of creative blocks, and barriers to self nourishment/acceptance, but I've started embracing the idea of my father's wounded child shadows too. It's becoming a lot easier to be more gentle and loving with all the shades of me (and him).
    thanks xx

  6. Thank you Mon. I could write an essay on this shadow. I have known and lived this shadow for so long and never more so than since I became a parent. I wrestle this demon daily in order to prevent my daughter from becoming it's (and my) unknowing victim. It's such a slippery, sneaky little shadow too, always changing disguises - like Mystic Momma, I see it in my spirituality and my desire to be perfect and do 'well' in everything. I have a real unwillingness to deal with any inner child stuff too - particularly when it comes to nourishing and caring for her (or myself). Wonderful stuff and timely. Thank you again.

  7. Count me in. I'm just recently discovering how this shadow has creeeped in my whole love life until now.
    I feel that I have to accept ther people's shadows and be accomodating because i'm "holier" than them and at the same time resenting why they don't recognize me as special! As a consequence i receive conditional love and the cycle begins anew. I recognize my shadow but i'd like to get rid of it, hard time at gently accepting it.

    thank you for your wonderful post

  8. Ooh, judging others is a tricksy thing. Just when I think I've conquered it, someone does something while I'm driving, and suddenly they're an "idiot" or worse. Funny how these things will out themselves when you're not paying attention.

  9. i was sure that this shadow would have nothing to do with me as the very idea of arrogance repulses me. but then i thought, oh ding! - i should probably look at that, because that's the surest sign of a shadow, right? it was especially illuminating when you pointed out that parents often pass on their shadows. especially this part resonated:

    "A parent with the Arrogance Shadow is a slave to the judgements of others. So they will want you to behave or excel so that they can show you off."

    i often felt like my parents were incomplete and filled with holes that they tried desperately to use my brother and me to fill. and my dad especially, i thought of him as a tree that had grown all crooked, and as i grew up, the little sprout "in his shadow", the taller i grew, the more i felt the weight of his burdens. had i stayed planted next to him, i would have surely grown crooked myself. but instead, my adult life has been a struggle to replant myself in healthier soil. still with the same roots, and memories, but hopefully in a place where i can grow tall and bloom. thank you so much again for these shadow posts! i need them so it appears~

  10. This post speaks to me so much.
    I have been reading a lot of Robert Bly's books recently and he talks about the human shadow quite a bit.
    It is something I want to explore further.


No comment is too long or short around here.

Comment moderation on posts older than 7 days.