I Think This Belongs To You

Advice. It’s something we all appreciate from time to time. Particularly when it’s invited. But what happens when the advice you are proffered has nothing to do with you… and everything to do with the other person? When you walk away from a conversation with a colleague or collaborator (or family or friend) and feel the weight of their world on your shoulders?

As with all interactions, advice may be influenced by unconscious factors, and it offers an opportunity for the shadow (aspects of the self that are hidden or repressed) to emerge. Once the shadow has a voice, your adviser’s hopes, fears, doubts, and desires – of which they are unaware – can be projected onto you. This means that they unwittingly hand over their baggage, which they fail to recognise, and then base their advice on these perceived attributes or deficiencies.

To confound matters, the power dynamics of advice, both the giving and receiving, are complex, and it can be challenging to maintain a trusting, adult-adult relationship particularly where advice is unsolicited.

So, next time you are receiving advice you might ask yourself: is what you are saying really about me, or is it about you? Do you have my interests at heart, or are you giving voice to your own unconscious interests? Because once you have asked this question, you can then choose whether to shoulder that baggage, return it to its rightful owner, or dispose of it quietly and safely.

Black & white baggage

In return, you can remain alert to the behaviour or choices of others which resonate with aspects of your own shadow. As you recognise, and take ownership of, these hidden aspects of your self, you are less likely to project these aspects on to another. Or in other words, you recognise and take responsibility for your own baggage, and thus strengthen your emotional intelligence through enhanced self-awareness and relationship management.

Unconscious factors will always permeate interpersonal relationships, and it is ultimately your own self-knowledge which helps you to distinguish between what truly belongs to you, what belongs to someone else, and what you have co-created. Name-tags would be so much simpler.

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