Day 70: Yule, Banishing Winter Shadows

Yule, as we’ve already noted, is about welcoming back the light after the time of darkness.  But in addition to noting the seasonal changes, we can also use this time to actively dispell our own shadows.  Roderick calls these shadows “aspects of your life experience that you have not fully explored or that you might even overtly deny.”

Having shadows is a normal part of being human–it’s not good or bad, it just is.  We make them when we don’t work through our emotional burdens or when we supress them.  This can cause them to fester and release in unhealthy ways.

Roderick notes that many shadows can “emerge from our cultural standards or rules that regulate behavior by social agreement on what is acceptable and unacceptable.”  He gives the example of a person neglecting to say please after asking for something.  What that person did wasn’t good or bad–it just didn’t follow a cultural agreement.  Someone else might have been offended, that is, they felt some emotion based upon the made-up rule.  Roderick calls this emotional state “illusory,” or based on illusion.  The real emotion is predicated on something that is not real.  If we take the time to examine the roots of our emotions and responses, perhaps we can reconstruct how we might react in the future.


Make a list of at least 10 socially enforced rules that you have learned from living in your culture of origin.  Next, make a similar list of 5-10 rules you are supposed to follow as a member of your gender.  Finally, make a list of rules that you are supposed to follow as a member of your family.  After you have compiled a set of rules, take time to journal about how each one has affected you–both positively and negatively.

Ten Socially Enforced Rules

1.  When someone you are walking with opens a door, you walk through the door first.

  • Okay, so this is a bit of a throw-away.  My friend Angela always holds doors open for me, and we always fight for a few seconds on who will go through first.  She wins.  I go.

2.  Engaging in sexual (or pre-sexual) activity while you are young is shameful.  Especially if children or marriage ensue.

  • I get so angry about this one.  Teenagers are not supposed to have sex–it will ruin their future.  But if they don’t engage in these behaviors, they don’t learn how to prepare for future relationships.  Catch-22!  And I get so mad about the stigma over marrying “early,” as in late teens through mid to late twenties.  What, are you supposed to wait for someone better?  You’re always changing as a person–even if you waited until 40 to get married, you (and your spouse) could very well be completely different people by the time you hit 60.  There’s no guarantees.  Maybe I get so mad about these thing because I’ve been the good girl all my life…and now I’m completely maladapted to dating.  I’m on the path to dying alone and being eaten by my dozens of cats, people!  And it’s all because of this stupid rule.

3.  You are expected to work hard and fully.

  • In America, if you don’t work hard, you don’t deserve any rewards.  If you get them, people despise you.  If you don’t get them, people despise you.  Unfortunately, if you try to practice rest or take breaks, you’re perceived as being weak or giving up.  So much guilt can build up!  But if you don’t take breaks, then you become a workaholic.  You burn out.  And then what do you do?  What would happen if you couldn’t do that work anymore?  What would happen to your identity if the single thing that defined you disappeared?

4.  You’re even expected to construct your leisure time with purposeful activities–like hobbies.  But when you go on vacation, you’re not supposed to do much of anything at all.

  • Work when you’re not working.  But when you pay to go away, throw yourself in a cloister?  Argh!  I *like* vacations where I do stuff–go to museums, visit dance clubs, learn new parts of culture, meet new people.  And I like to take time to do nothing.  But it’s all so cockamamie.  I feel guilty later because I should have been doing reading, exercise, or any of a dozen other things.

5.  Those in power will do anything they can to keep it to themselves.

  • Gender, Race, Class, Sexuality, Religion–if you’re not part of the ones with power, then you’re disinfranchized.  The whole world is constructed to cater to the opinions of the majority, especially in these groups.  Even if you’re a minority member, you think of yourself in terms of the majority view.  And so the empowered get more powerful.

6.  Everyone who is anything is supposed to have a life, a family, and a house just like the ones on “Wisteria Lane.”

  • Yup.  Because no one is poor.  Haven’t you heard?

7.  Ignore the man behind the curtain.

  • I think the biggest cultural rule is to ignore the fact that there are cultural rules and that they are all so empty.  I guess this is really what I’m studying in my ‘real’ work.

8.  Nobody fails.

  • Yup.  Everyone works really hard to be successful.  Problem is, we can’t define success without having the unsuccessful.  But we don’t talk about them.

9.  Fitting in is the most important thing you can do.

  • Life is like high school.  Figure out the unspoken rules, then adhere to them.  Try not to be unpopular.  This will bring you success and happiness.

10.  Knowing and practicing proper etiquette means you are a courteous person.

  • Another throw away, I know.  Still, just because you know and follow the rules does not mean you don’t know the world outside of their artificiality.

Five Rules Women are Supposed to Follow

1.  Your children come first.

  • I don’t have children, but I know that if I did, I would feel massively guilty for pursuing a career–especially one that requires so much “extra” time.  They would be my babies.  My responsibility.  How could I put them in day care?  How could I have anything just for myself?  I brought them into the world:  I need to make sure they are equipped to handle it.  They would be my ultimate focus.

2.  Your man needs to feel like he comes first.

  • Men aren’t tied down by kids near as much as women are.  If I want him to stay, I need to make sure he feels like he comes first.  There’s catering involved.  But between catering to my children and catering to my husband, what is left for me?

3.  You need both children and a man.

  • Society says I need a husband before I can have children…maybe its just because children are sort of a handicap.  Maybe to hold it altogether we need someone who can walk away…hopefully to come home again with some bacon.  But what does that do to my authority?

4.  You will always be less desireable in society, especially in important positions.

  • Because other people will always have to come before those social inventions…like jobs.

5.  You need to be a whiz in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom.

  • Because no one else is capable of taking care of themselves…and you’ve got to keep that man.

Rules I Follow as Part of My Family

1.  If there is strife, I will mediate.  I will comfort.

  • I’m the one who listens and who gets told every side to every story.  I have to give the advice.  I have to help with the aftermath.  I have to fix things.  I have to be a parent.  I even have to parent my parents.  I don’t know if I’ve ever relied on them.  I was a responsible child because I didn’t want to upset them.  I guess I was even caring for them then.

2.  I am always fine.

  • Because I’m the fixer, no one can fix me. Therefore, I cannot fail. Ever.

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