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  • Writer's pictureBryan Owens

How Therapy Helps You Develop a 'Sixth Sense' for Your Purpose in Life

If you have not seen the movie The Sixth Sense, spoiler alert, you’ve had 25 years to see it, so I don’t feel bad revealing the surprise ending.

As I describe the movie, I want you to think about your shadow parts: these are the parts of yourself you’re not proud of; your insecurities; your tendency to judge others; your fears; your anger; your self-sabotage; your self-hatred; your addictions, etc.

In the movie, child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) begins work with 9-year-old Cole (Haley Joel Osment) who has a disturbing secret: he can see dead people.

At first, Dr. Crowe suspects Cole suffers from delusions, until he comes to believe the boy is telling the truth. Through the bond they form, Cole learns from Dr. Crowe that he has a gift, and therefore he has something to offer the ghosts who disturb him.

Initially terrified when he comes in contact with a ghost, Cole learns it is his potential to befriend the ghosts and learn what they need. Once he meets their needs in communicating with the living, the ghosts are set free.

The surprise twist is that Dr. Crowe has been dead all along. Just as he helps Cole discover his gift, Cole is able to help Dr. Crowe resolve his issues with the living and move on.

What does this have to do with therapy?

Your shadows are like your ghosts. You keep them hidden and buried, but they haunt you and ruin your relationships with others because they disturb the relationship you have with yourself.

I recently spoke with someone who occasionally says cruel things to his significant other, and he did not know why this happens. We regarded this as one of his ‘ghosts’ or, as I like to call it, a shadow part. I encouraged him to befriend this part of himself, to listen to his reasons for the cruelty, and to be curious what this part of himself may be trying to accomplish.

We discovered that beneath this shadow cruelty is a story — the story that he will never be truly loved and that he is better off alone. If he were to invest fully in this relationship and expect love in return, the possibility of being rejected was too much to bear. So he sabotaged himself by saying cruel things to his partner. If he was going to lose this romantic partner, then at least it wouldn’t happen to him without his knowledge…at least he could have some control over it.

What we learned about his past is that he was rejected by his caregivers as a boy — an experience he had no control over. This developed a belief in him that anyone who loves him will always leave, so he developed a cruelty, a kind of guardian to protect him from being hurt in this way ever again. But the price to be paid is an internal betrayal of his true desire to be loved for who he is.

Once he learned the source of his shadow part and gained compassion for its origin story, he was soon able to set this cruelty free. He was able to confide in his partner and share the vulnerability of his painful childhood. This resulted in a strengthened bond between them and deepened their intimacy.

By confronting our shadows, we develop a bond with the self that is like the bond between Dr. Crowe and Cole. The deadened parts of ourselves can help the inner child find one’s true potential to heal the self from within.

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