Shadow Conflict


I waited eagerly outside the meeting room for my name to be called. The first two chapters of my book were printed, and the pages were still in pristine condition.

They hadn’t been tainted by any of my usual incidents: spilt coffee, a marmalade smear, or an accidental creasing. The meeting room door swung open, there was an exchange of words; apologies, excuses—money was needed for the parking meter and assurance from the staff that parking was free on Saturdays didn’t appease her— like a whirlwind she dashed outside.

On her return, her assistant popped around the doorway and beckoned me. As I took my place opposite her the realisation that this absolute moment could well be pivotal in my life gave me an excited charge. Somewhat dishevelled from her recent car park dash, I found her to be warm and soon I felt relaxed.

Within moments of my pitch she halted me. Was my work non-fiction? “Yes.” There had been a choice of four editors to pitch my manuscript to at the writers’ forum. I had painstakingly sieved through the submission guidelines of each publishing company and selected the one that I felt most suited to. I was surprised not only to discover that this company I had chosen didn’t publish non-fiction, but also by her emotional response. The words that tumbled out of her mouth were filled with remorse and guilt, she was flustered and effusively sorry; quite unnecessary for the situation. I found myself more intrigued by her response than the disappointment that my only pitch choice had just gone pear-shaped. I left the room.

I felt singled out, humiliated and reprimanded.
Half an hour later the seminar resumed. We were at a writers’ seminar, hearing from those who worked in the industry across a variety of platforms. The morning had been informative and there was expectation that the afternoon would deliver equal interest to the budding authors. Ready with my pen poised for notetaking, I noticed coming on to the stage were the publishers, all who had spent their lunch break listening to the pitches. They were here to discuss the nuts and bolts of how a manuscript was chosen.

She was asked if there were any final tips for the audience. She implored, “Please be sure to fully read the submission guidelines” and went on to say that if the guidelines explain that the publisher does not take non-fiction then you should adhere to that. Immediately I felt embarrassed, quickly followed by hot and flustered. My agitation impacted my cognitive ability to realise that I had been triggered.

I felt singled out, humiliated, and reprimanded, just as I had been at school. I felt small and stupid. My “intellect complex” had been poked. When the panel left the stage I made my way, with haste, to see her. I wanted to make my point. Standing tall with my shoulders back I approached, edgy and eager to justify my position. I waited for questions from other audience members to subside. I needed her to know that I had read her guidelines and there was no mention of her company only taking fiction. I needed to rectify the slur that I had perceived of my intelligence. She, too, was indignant, saying I had misread the clear guidelines; she wasn’t budging and neither was I.

As I drove home and returned to a stable and grounded state I realised the clash of shadows that had occurred between us. Like bucks butting antlers our wounds and insecurities shone through both of our behaviours.

I wrote this post to show how our shadow can reveal itself, how we respond physiologically and behaviourally. What is important is to recognise the symptoms of your shadow raising its profile. Take those three deep breaths, and know that you have created this situation before you specifically to shine a light on your wound, your hidden trauma.

It’s our hidden trauma, our shadow, which so desperately wants to be seen and healed.