Darth Vader, come on down!-River City Counseling

I am a high-end people person and a professional listener. And sometimes I don’t want to be either. Sometimes I just want to be left alone. The gym is one of those places. I walk in, put on my “gym face;” which is a serious face with “don’t talk to me” written on it, head to treadmill and run, hit the showers, and get out the door ASAP. I don’t want to chat. I don’t want to joke. I don’t want to talk mindlessly and endlessly about boxing.

Part of what helps preserve this for me is a treadmill in the corner, a bit isolated from the other machines, where I can run and generally be left alone. Unfortunately, there’s a second treadmill next to it, and today a woman approached to walk/run. She made eye contact and smiled. I half-grinned and grunted a hello, then looked away.

Then I smelled her. Granted, I have a strong sense of smell, but her perfume was overwhelming. I think anyone would be bothered. Since I’ve had years of therapy and practice speaking-up and asserting my needs, I said very pleasantly (I think), “Excuse me, your perfume is very strong. Would you mind moving to another treadmill?” She told me she wasn’t wearing any perfume and smelled her clothes. She then told me it was her fabric softener and got on the treadmill to start her walk.

Somewhat flabbergasted and annoyed, I started thinking about her in those negative, toxic, one-word adjectives I spoke of in my last blog, “The trash goes out on Wednesday night.” (For reference, the link is: http://rivercitycounseling.com/auto-draft-11/trackback/) It’s not how I want to think.

I sweat profusely, and I then found myself swinging my hands in concert with my stride, secretly hoping I’d spray her. What? How mean is that! She was just trying to work out! Just because Downey smells like cow dung to me, she didn’t deserve that! I stopped. Fortunately, my run was finished, and I moved along.

As I stretched out afterward, I wondered what was going on. This kind of hostile, passive-aggressive crap isn’t my norm. Fortunately, before beating myself up too much, I made some sense of it. It was a reflection of my dark side (which we therapists call our “shadow side.”) In simple terms, it refers to the parts of us that we don’t like and try our best not to think about or act on. For me, part of my shadow side is that I want what I want, when I want it. And when I don’t get it, I throw a temper tantrum. And my trying to spray her was just that. This is something I don’t like about myself and will work on.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how we look at it,) we are all gifted with our shadow sides. As much as we want everyone to see the bright, positive sides of us, our shadows are there, too. As you read this, think about the parts of yourself that you don’t like or want others not to see. Think about why you want to conceal them and what would happen if others found out about them.  Would they scream, point, and run away to get the police?  Or would they just notice and move on with their days?  Probably the latter.  Once you’ve got them out of your shadow and in the open, it’ll be easier to make changes, if you want. May the force be with you..

One Response to Darth Vader, come on down!-River City Counseling
  1. elizabeth
    May 5, 2015 | 3:25 pm

    Found the shadow side an interesting concept and good to examine.

    I think people all the time make judgments about every body they see or encounter. There is a man at my gym while on the bike makes giant noises
    of heavy breathing. It is very annoying, but I just do my thing and then have a funny conversation with some of my friends at the gym about the heavy breather. Or if someone is using obscene language or has a really offensive tee shirt I report it to the gym attendant.

    My thought is that you could have moved to another treadmill…Might have missed the privacy, but you have to decide which is worse……talking people or smelly people…..

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